Dress codes. When young people think of the words dress code, they usually think about their high school dress code. It was most likely long and included a lot of things you could not wear (especially as a girl). When you head off to college, there's no collegiate dress code, you can honestly wear whatever you want. This may have something to do with why most college students show up to class in leggings and sweats. Then there comes a point where you have to get an internship or you know, a real job, and you don't have any idea what to wear.
Most workplaces have dress codes. They are not as specific as your high school dress code in many cases. Some employers may just give you a verbal dress code and most will talk through their written dress code with you as well. They will use terms like business professional, (just) professional, business casual, casual Fridays and so on. These catchphrases mean different things to different people so it's all about observation and interpretation.
College students usually don't have a large professional wardrobe to pull from when they start a new job so that means shopping (YAY!), but shopping can be hard if you don't know what to buy. It can be even worse if you go to all this trouble and then your office isn't as casual as you thought. So here are some tips and tricks to being prepared when it comes to growing up and getting professional.
1. Buy the basics now and the fun pieces later
I cannot stress this point enough!! If you are starting a new job go ahead and shop, but only get the basics. Black slacks, a white blouse, a black blouse, navy slacks, khaki slacks, a black blazer and maybe a pencil skirt in any of the aforementioned colors. These are all great basics that you can mix and match not only with each other but fun pieces as well. If you focus on buying good quality basics then you won't feel as though you spend your money in the wrong way if the dress code isn't what you thought it would be when you actually start work. Basics also don't have to be boring, just because the skirt is black doesn't mean it has to be simple. Buy things with fun zippers, cool wraps or buttons. It's very common for employers to say their office is business professional but then most employees dress a little more casual. It's also not unheard of for employers to try and sell the job to you as business casual but then it's really extremely professional all the time. You won't really know until you start work, and focusing on basics will help you avoid spending money in the wrong places.
2. Splurge on your shoes
This is something that I personally learned the hard way. If there is any place you want to spend a lot of money in your professional wardrobe it's your shoes. You might be walking to work or just simply walking a lot at work, and there is nothing worse that blisters on your feet. It's important to have a really good pair of heels even if you aren't the biggest fan of them. Heels dress up any outfit and can make you look put together in a split second. If you are a little scared of stilettos, block heels are in right now and the perfect alternative.
3. Figure out what you are most comfortable in
If you are someone who doesn't wear skirts or dresses in their personal life, why would you wear them to work? Don't make yourself wear things that you hate because it's commonly a key in the professional wardrobe. I am a huge fan of flowy pants for professionals. They are the perfect way to be comfortable and stylish. Figure out what works for you and then run with it.
4. After you start work, spice up your wardrobe.
This is the fun part. After you have been at your new job for a couple of weeks and can see what the office culture is really like, feel free to spice up your wardrobe. Instead of focusing on neutrals and simplicity this is the time to add some color and fun. Buy that printed skirt or put on your dangly earrings. There are loads of fun colored pumps, flowy blouses and printed dresses to keep your style fresh.
If you need some more inspiration, I would suggest this article by the Wall Street Journal and following Two Corporate Girls on Instagram. Style is a personal thing, it says so much about you. As a young professional, find ways to express yourself while still being professional. Start with the basics (because you can NEVER go wrong with basics) and move on up from there. Lastly, don't ever be embarrassed that you don't know what to wear for any given situation, just ask someone. People are usually willing to help.
Look good, feel good, right?