This is an extreme oldie-but-goodie. I posted this blog originally in September 2012, rewrote it in February 2014, and now I'm doing another rewrite in August 2016. It's the post that will live on forever!
The transition from being a full-time student to being a full-time employee can be difficult. Even as a full-time student, you have downtime -- your weekends are always free, you have only 3-4 classes a day, and otherwise, your time is your own. There are no bills dogging you down and you know when December rolls around, you'll have a break. And then Summer comes along, and that's an even better break. But once you're working full-time, there are no extended breaks and sometimes, not even your weekends are free.
A huge part of that difficult transition is learning to dress professionally. In college, it's easy to think you have a professional wardrobe, especially if you have a collection of dresses. But out in the "real world," some things just might not fly. I've put together a handy-dandy guide with examples culled from my outfit photos to show you what works, and what might not.
One of the hardest things for me was adjusting the length of my dresses and skirts. Suddenly, my micro-mini dresses and bodycon skirts were not appropriate. My typical rule is if it's more than 2 inches above my knees, I should probably only wear it with tights. Of course, some work places might be a little more strict than mine on lengths, so watch what your female coworkers wear and react accordingly. The structure of a skirt also effects the length: a more structured skirt will ride up more, whereas something with a more flowing skirt won't. My look on the left is a little risky -- but the floral dress, either with or without tights, is perfect.
As you guys know, for several months, I was obsessed with bodycon skirts. They were, legitimately, all I wore. However, once I got an office job, my bodycon addiction had to stop. I wear them occasionally -- usually my two black skirts over black tights -- but otherwise, my bodycon collection waits for weekends. Instead, I invested in a black pencil skirt -- which is basically a longer bodycon skirt! It's a good way to continue working a style I love without risking offending anyone with a scandalous length. I wear my black pencil skirt in the exact same ways I would wear a bodycon skirt. Nowadays, the longer bodycon look is very in-style; you can find them for really affordable prices (like, $5!) at Forever 21.
For a long time, I lived in midi skirts. I'm looking to bring these looks back as I still find them so flattering and easy to wear! You can look put together and be comfortable all day. They won't ever be too short and they are perfect for dressing up or dressing down. So versatile and so trendy. I pair mine with a variety of tops, scarves, sweaters, cardigans, jackets, and shoe styles to create a ton of looks. (Just make sure to invest in a good slip to prevent clinging!)
Denim. Is it office appropriate? It can be and let me tell you why. The secret is to use denim pieces in a way that elevates them from being just denim. For example, the look on the left is one of my absolute favorites: my polka dot midi paired on top of a yellow shirt dress, with brown boots, topped with a tailed denim jacket. Since I work in a more casual environment, the denim jacket works -- but it won't work with every office. For a more strict office, the look on the right also still works -- a chambray top paired with a pencil skirt, black heels, and a cute cardigan is both casual and professional, while still cute and young.
Pattern mixing and adventurous color palettes can work in an office setting. Both of these looks are office appropriate. The look on the left utilizes a midi skirt and then a more playfully patterned shirt. For a more conservative office, you could always add a jacket or cardigan on top to tone down the prints, but otherwise, it's playful and young. The look on the right uses a playfully patterned tank top and a patriotic color palette. With red-white-and-blue, it's too easy to look like a big American flag - the secret is to pick pieces carefully when you're playing with color. For this look, I chose one of my favorite midi skirts, a playful top, and then brought it together with a very structured jacket and nude heels.
Casual Fridays. The trickiest days! Where I work now, it's casual Friday every day; I tend to wear jeans and a nice top every single day (but that's because I'm a mom now and a bit lazy.) The secret to casual fridays is not to treat them like a weekend -- you still want to look good, even if you're dressed up more than your coworkers. (Your boss will probably appreciate that you take looking professional seriously!) A nice pair of jeans, a good top (maybe even a nicer graphic top), and a jacket or cardigan can keep you looking professional, while being super comfy.
Dressing professionally is a hard lesson and it's often dependent entirely on the office environment. But picking a few basic pieces -- a midi skirt or two, a pencil skirt, a good pair of slacks, and a variety of tops -- can help you transition your wardrobe from college fun to fabulous employee.
Do you have any tips for dressing professionally?