When I was in high school, we were required to take a course called Home and Careers. This was a more “girl power” version of Home Economics, and it involved how to “get ahead in the workplace while managing a family.” Blech. There was also an entire class on how to shake hands during a job interview; then there was the dressing for your workplace class. We were required to come in dressed how we thought we were supposed to dress at work. Everyone showed up in black polyester flared pants, black chunky-heeled shoes, and a stretch button-down in some random color like baby blue. Think everything Pam Beasley wore in season one of The Office...not attractive.
Hopefully, times since then have changed, and you don’t have to banish yourself to a lifetime of boring separates; there are alternatives that are both appropriate for your individual job, but make you stand out in a positive way. Just do us a favor and throw those flared pants away forever.
Stick to: Your outfit should be somewhat on trend if you work in fashion, to show you understand the relevance of what you do. Pencil skirts, heels, and blouses in nice fabrics are good, but feel free to pile on jewelry and a colorful statement necklace, or wear a nice pair of dark denim jeans. You can get away with a lot in this field…go with it.
Throw away: Even if your natural style is on the crazy side (I worked with someone who once wore a red velour jumpsuit, purple bra, and motorcycle boots), try to save it for after work. You’re still representing a company…even if it’s an artistic one, you need to give off a sense of professionalism.
Job: Public Relations
Stick to: Your job in public relations is to be approachable while still looking professional. A tailored suit or skirt with fashionable heels is appropriate. You can keep your top more on the casual side as long as you’re also wearing a nice pair of trousers or stockings. To make it interesting, wear textured tights.
Throw Away: The plain black suit you wear every day. Have fun with it, since you’re out meeting people. It’s important to be memorable.
Stick to: Unfortunately, when you’re working with other people’s money, it’s important to keep a very polished appearance and rarely stray from that; you have to look trustworthy. Make sure everything you wear is very tailored, and invest in a good suit skirt or a smart blazer you will have for years.
Throw Away: Anything the least bit unflattering. Even though you don’t work in fashion, your appearance says a lot to the outside world, and to your clients. If they think you don’t care about yourself, they might think you don’t care about them.
Job: Graphic Design
Stick to: Most graphic designers, being stuck in front of a computer all day, wear jeans and tee shirts, or basically whatever they wear in everyday life. Stick to a dark denim in a slimming fit, and add a shot of color with low heels or flats with a surprising finish.
Throw Away: Anything that looks like you slept in it, unless you work from home. They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so try to not wear your old boyfriend’s hoodie to the office.
Stick to: You’re setting an example for young minds, plus, you’re on your feet all day. Choose some stylish yet comfortable dresses to get you through math problems and student drama. Try not to be too distracting as well…we know how hot you are.
Throw Away: Anything you wore in high school. If you’re only a few years older than your students, try to make an effort not to dress like them. If they see you at Hot Topic…that might just be the end of your teaching career.