Traditional work wear often falls short when it comes to being stylish. A basic suit and blouse leaves much to be desired, like meetings I’ve attended. I’m sure I am not the only one who has struggled with what to wear to work.
Looking back, way back, I remember my first interview. It was for a corporate consulting company. Not just any corporate consulting firm, it was the second largest firm raking in 1.1 BILLION dollars in revenue that year. Naturally the first thing that crossed my mind was, “What am I going to wear”?
Knowing the reputation of the firm and what was at stake (being able to rent my own apartment, have a 401K and purchase my first designer handbag – not in that order obviously) I knew a suit was required however suits weren’t and still aren’t really my thing. As luck would have it my interview was the next day and I was suit-less.
Wear what works for you
I called my father as I did when I found myself in a bind. Luckily he knew people at Nordstrom San Francisco Centre who could help me (thank you daddy). So off I went on my lunch break. I was greeted by a stylish woman who showed me to my dressing room. Hanging before me was a wide array of black pant suits. Apparently she succumbed to the convention that the only black pant suits were appropriate for corporate interviews.
I wanted to cry. I knew that in order for me to present the best version of myself in my interview, I would have to feel comfortable and confident in what I chose to wear. In no way was I trying to be something nor someone I was not. After trying on some of her suggestions, I mentioned to the woman helping me that I just didn’t feel myself in black. We walked the department together and looked for something professional that had color. Needless to say, the options were limited.
The next day, I walked into my interview, nervous as I always am for important meetings, yet confident. My cream patterned skirt suit by Diane Von Furstenberg was the right choice. The compliments I received by the interview panel and landing the job offer confirmed it. Of course this created the daily dilemma of what to wear to work.
Unsuited for Work
I think that was the last time I wore a traditional suit and for good reason. Not all jobs require a suit. Working in creative services, I have a bit more freedom with what I wear to work. I like to choose things that express my personality and push the envelop. Like head to toe leopard print, tie dye tees and yes even purple patent knee high boots. In fact MOST, of what you see on my Instagram feed I have worn to work. No, not the bikini’s. Swimwear is Out of Office only.
Yet somewhere between formal corporate wear and casual office attire, lies the imagination to combine both into something appropriate yet stylish. I purchased the classic Burberry check shirt you see here, a traditional plaid that became the foundation and heritage of the Burberry line, for a more tailored, office look. It effortlessly creates a chic look when paired with elegant trousers or a skirt which is great in a more formal office setting. I realized after doing the CBA (Cost Benefit Analysis, something a consulting friend taught me) I would have to get creative to achieve a more tolerable price per wear, so I also style it with denim or even sweatpants for a more modern off duty look.
Dressing for Success
You can still look polished and put together in texture, various colors and yes even prints. The key to a successful outfit is knowing your audience and creating balance. So if you work in a law office and want to express the more playful side of your personality, don’t be afraid to add a little color or pattern. Try a printed blouse under that black suit or wear a pair of colorful heels. If your corporate culture is more relaxed, give a pair of structured patterned pants (no joggers) a try. You can anchor the look with a white blazer over a solid color blouse. Or feel free to test out a trend and wear a neon heel with your jeans and a white button down.
Whether you are walking into your next meeting or your next interview, be sure to wear something that makes you feel confident and most importantly like you.