Can I just say that adulting is hard? I mean, it’s really tough, people. If you’re in your twenties, just give yourself a round of applause right now if you got up this morning and had something besides leftover pizza for breakfast.
As if feeding yourself and waking up before 9 a.m. every.single.day. weren’t hard enough, now you’re expected to know how to dress for work around actual adults who have been adulting way longer than you have. Who am I, Lesley Knope?
So if you’re wondering what to wear to work in a setting where graphic tees aren’t considered “appropriate office attire,” let’s get a handle on this together, shall we?
7 steps to dressing for a corporate setting
- Stay covered. If the words “too much cleavage” even cross your mind, the answer is no. It’s a lie that 20-somethings tell ourselves that we have to show a certain amount of skin for clothes to be “fun” or “interesting.” Nope. Wrong. Try again.
- Keep hemlines long. Skirts and dresses should come to the knee or about three fingers’ width above. Real talk, this one was tough for me at my first job. It was a casual work environment, and I had a few too many but-it’s-so-cute dresses from college. If this is you, please let me be that honest friend who can tell you to save the skater skirts for the weekend.
- Use print, texture and shine to add visual interest. Rather than relying on open backs or short hemlines to grab attention, use eye-catchers like animal prints, corduroy or metallics to create a style that’s yours.
- Accessorize to make it your own. Show your personality with a chunky necklace, your grandpa’s vintage watch or a patterned scarf. It’s also a myth that professional equals boring. Think of what makes you you, then brainstorm how to incorporate that into a work setting.
- Keep shoes close-toed and heels manageable. If you’re not in a casual environment, toes are like cleavage: the less, the better. I’d also keep heels less than three inches, so you’re not that girl tromping around the office like a baby giraffe. Also, wear the best shoes you can possibly afford. Cheap shoes often look look just that, but polished shoes show your attention to detail.
- Find structure. Always incorporate one piece, like a button down, a blazer or a pencil skirt, that adds structure, and therefore polish, to your look.
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This is an old adage that I’m quite fond of. If you want to be a manager or director some day, stop dressing like it’s Friyay. Mimic those above you, not those around you.
If you’re lost as to just how conservative your dress should be, this Business Insider post has helpful visuals for the five levels of business attire.
A minor caveat, the tips above are definitely aimed at a more executive casual setting. I’d love to talk to you more about adjusting these babies for a casual or business casual setting, yeah? You can sign up below to get future blog posts sent straight to your inbox. Heck yes!