In college, fashion is as easy as slipping into your favorite jeans and hoodie. But once you join the working world, things get a little more complicated. Some working environments demand that you suit up, and some dress codes simply state that you must “wear clothes to work.”
So what’s a confused recent grad to do? Talk with a stylist, of course! If you can’t afford your own personal stylist, don’t sweat it—we’ve got one for you! Brianne Binder is a Personal Stylist and Owner of BB Style. She shares her advice on looking polished and professional at your first job. Let’s start with a quick note from Brianne:
“I started BB Style to work directly with women on all aspects of personal style, offering services to help inspire, create, and update their perfect style to reflect their most authentic identity! [Editor's note: Guys, we haven't forgotten about you—we've got a post in the works to help you make sense of office style for men. Watch this space!]
Together we clear the clutter, simplify, and focus on looking and feeling their best. I’m always on top of fashion trends and seeking style inspiration from so many areas of life for my clients and me, writing about personal style on my blog. My approach to styling is to simplify and use your existing wardrobe as a working closet. I offer services ranging from closet detoxes, personal shopping, styling within your closet, special event styling (including wedding styling), wardrobe styling, and local shopping tours. I am continually inspired by my clients and rewarded by seeing them look and feel their best. Style should be fun and fit your lifestyle!”
How do you assess the dress code in a new office?
Don’t be shy about asking what the office dress code is after accepting your new position and getting signed on with the company. Asking up-front is showing that you want to be prepared to start your job and are taking initiative since they haven’t specified. It’s easy for companies to forget small details that may seem insignificant, but making sure you dress for the environment and culture is very important.
A good time to ask is when you are coordinating what time you should expect to start on your first day. Casually ask if there is a certain dress code around the office you should expect.
Also read any dress code rules that might come in your new hire company information to make sure you know all the rules around dress code to make sure you avoid standing out and going against dress code. You will get a really good idea after your first day, so I would tend to overdress for your first day rather than be underdressed, since that is your very first impression.
If you are working in a really casual office where a lot of the guys wear jeans and a T-shirt, I would still wear cute tops, blazers, and nice shoes with your jeans to always elevate your casual look and not look sloppy. Have fun with it and use the many resources out there to build cute outfits and show your personal style yet look professional so you are taken seriously but shine at the same time!
What are a few essential items that every young professional should have in his/her wardrobe? What are your go-to stores for office-appropriate wear?
Some essentials that are great to have in your wardrobe should include:
- Tailored blazer—black or navy are great to start and if you wear blazers a lot, opt for gray, white, or a stripe
- Pencil skirt—again a basic black or gray are easy to wear with everything, but a color, textured, or printed style mixes it up
- Slim trousers—have a great pair of black pants that fit you and are flattering
- Pumps and flats—black and beige will cover you with almost any outfit you wear to work, dressy or casual
- Blouses—the new alternative to the traditional button-up, blouses in every color or pattern are easy to wear, always look professional, and are feminine
- Great everyday tote bag that you can fit your laptop and notebook if you end up having to take work home
- Jeans that are dressier than your weekend wear jeans, preferably in a dark wash
- Dress in either a sheath or wrap silhouette
- Not essential but are great additions to add to your wardrobe: statement necklace, thin belt, cardigan, seamless basic camisole, and printed scarf
Office style ideas from BB Style
It’s great to have basic staples to mix and match and choose versatile pieces that you can wear for work, happy hour, or drinks after and mix into your casually chic weekend wear.
My go-to stores for finding office appropriate wear at all price ranges:
What are some general fashion rules for young professionals who are new to the office environment?
I think my number one piece of advice that works with any personal style is put your best foot forward. Present your best self every day! Being new to an office, in an entry-level position, you should dress for the job that you want to move into. Look the part; your enthusiasm will show in your work and your personal image! If you are coming in late and barely getting dressed in the morning, that will not only show a lack of motivation professionally, but also personally. Some other more detailed office appropriate fashion tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t mask your own style with a stuffy boring look; let your personal style show through but make sure it’s professional. If you love animal print, wear cute animal print flats. Incorporating bold aspects in small details shows your personality without going overboard or being inappropriate.
- Avoid wearing anything too trendy that is just too much to wear to the office—an example is a romper. Unless you are working in fashion, save this trend for outside of the office.
- It’s always best to err on the side of caution when getting dressed for work. If you feel like something is too tight or too short, it probably is and you shouldn’t wear it for work.
- Avoid leggings, although they can be great to wear with tunics and longer tops. Most often those tops are shorter than you think.
- Be careful of low-cut and extremely revealing tops and dresses.
- Invest in a good pair of pumps that are not super high. Right now your nice shoes might be for going out, which are much higher than you should be wearing to work. Save your going out shoes for exactly that.
- Don’t over accessorize! It’s great to wear fun jewelry to add interest to your outfit, but over accessorizing can be distracting.
- No crop tops, short skirts/dresses, distressed jeans, sheer tops without a cami, sheer dresses, skimpy straps that show your bra, bare legs, and visible pant lines! Seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised!
What advice do you have about hair and makeup?
I would say that as hard as it is to be getting up earlier than you normally do and always wanting more time to sleep in, never go to work with wet hair unless you have curly hair that you don’t dry.
There are some exceptions, like if you’re pulling it back or have styling product in that you partially air dry, but for the most part, dry your hair! You definitely don’t want to be really done up as if you’re going out, but getting dressed, including makeup is important.
With most offices being more casual now, it’s even more important to wear makeup, so that you don’t look like you just got out of bed. If you really don’t wear any makeup at all, try adding some lip-gloss and doing your hair. It really comes back to always putting your best self out there. Having a fresh-faced look can be easy and goes far with first and lasting impressions.
What are some of your favorite products or items to ensure you look good all day?
I did a blog post (here) on my day-to-day makeup routine as well as some other products I love to take your look up a notch (here). I like having a simple, natural, yet defined daily makeup routine and adding a bright lip color, eyeliner, or a golden shadow to step it up.
Taking care of your skin allows you to not wear a ton of face makeup and have a fresh-faced glow. Using multi-tasking products (there’s a great blog post on my favorites here) that last and can be used for multiple functions is great to save time and money.
To make my makeup last throughout a long busy day I always use a primer, setting powder, brow gel, and lip stain. My favorite products are natural, effective, and have legs to last through the end of the day. I also feature products I love and the splurge version so you can shop great beauty products at all prices.
How do you choose the best footwear to go with an outfit?
My personal motto on footwear is to keep it simple! Invest in a few cute pairs that go with everything so you can easily complete your outfit with footwear and not stress over not having the right shoes to wear. A great pump (patent in black and nude), basic flat, patterned, color or metallic flat, low ankle bootie, tall boot, and a strappy dressy sandal will cover you in almost any situation. In general black goes with everything, nude or camel wears great with navy, warm colors, denim, and black. Metallic dresses things up a bit but also is a good change up to wearing black or brown all the time.
Do you have any other resources for style ideas and inspiration?