It's official: Your days of visors and aprons are over. On Monday, you slip on the tights, tie back the hair and get started at your first office job.
Looks like it's time to start planting the seeds of a large and illustrious work wardrobe. Your work clothes are your office allies, so when you hit the shops, keep a keen eye toward sculpting your professional image. Read on to discover the basics of stylish, adaptable work attire.
Dress pants are the workhorses of your office wardrobe. From formal pantsuits to casual bottoms, you'll be seeing these things almost as often as the nearby Starbucks barista. Of all the pants in your wardrobe, this the one pair which you can't afford to go low rider -- at the office, anywhere between the bust and the knees is a skin-free zone.
You'll be logging a lot of miles in your work pants, so try to pick up something that's both tough and tasteful. A durable wool blend should work, for example. Also, do yourself a favor and skip the pleats -- you'll save countless hours over the ironing board.
This is your badge of honor. The dress jacket is the official uniform of the working woman, and you'll want to keep one very close during your first days in the office. Until you've established a rapport with your coworkers, blending in is your best office fashion strategy -- and there's no better camouflage than a dress jacket.
Brown works, and beige is possible, but a black jacket is perfect for something simple and elegant. In case of emergencies, keeps a spare black jacket hanging from the back of your chair. If an impromptu meeting with the boss comes up, you'll be able to stride in confidently under a good pair of shoulder pads.
From Mary Tyler Moore to Carla Bruni-Sarkozi, pencil skirts are the must-have skirt of the modern, professional woman. Minimalist and unassuming, they're a blank canvas to your fashion imagination. Tucked or untucked, belt or no belt, your pencil skirt is the ultimate in stylish versatility.
Paired with a white blouse and jacket, it's a below-the-radar bottom. Mix that same skirt with a red silk blouse, on the other hand, and it becomes a sleek, sexy accessory. Windy day? Not to worry -- even with blustery breezes, this skirt will keep your tush covered.
Simple, light and elegant -- a collection of white shirts is the never-fail staple of any successful office wardrobe. But that's not to say you can't have fun with it. While men are stuck with the collared, button-up variety, you can pick up anything from a fitted dress shirt to a silk blouse.
Even then, there are dozens of tiny alterations you can make to keep your shirts looking fresh from week to week. Slap on an accessory, roll up the sleeves, loosen the top few buttons -- last week's button-down chemise has become this week's breezy top. Feeling pirate-y? The puffy sleeved white shirt remains astonishingly chic.
Practical, Closed-toed Pumps
Until you've gotten a feel for your office's footwear policy, keep the boots and sandals in the closet. Instead, go for a pair of dark pumps. Heels are a great way to give yourself a bit of extra height, but make sure to keep them on the short side -- nothing slows you down like a pair of aching feet. Leather shoes are a sure bet, but microfiber will help your feet breathe. If you do go with leather, be sure to break out the polishing cloth at least once a week. Gleaming footwear will be the perfect compliment to your already springy step.
Simple, Printed Dress
You slept through your alarm. It's laundry day. You accidentally spilled your breakfast shake down the front of your best pantsuit. Whenever these fashion emergencies occur, you'll be glad you stashed a floral printed dress in your closet. They slip on in a minute, they don't require accessories, and they're a great way to flash some personality around the workspace. To meet office dress code, though, you may want to match your dress with a pair of dark tights.
Stealthily Functional Bag
Laptop, cell phone, portable coffee mug -- office workers have a lot to cart around. That's why, when you're looking for a stylish bag, you'll want to pick up something with some storage space.
Your bag is a sidekick, not the main event, so pick something that's complementary without being too flashy. After a few years in the workforce, your bag collection may one day blossom into a proud lineup of greens, beiges and reds. But for now, get yourself started with something in black, grey or navy blue. These time-honored colors will match your dark outfits and keep your brighter ones in check.
It's a common predicament: You've put together a jaw-dropping work ensemble only to keep it covered by a faded ski parka during your morning commute. Don't be afraid to share your style with the subway. Pick up a properly styled coat to accentuate, rather than hide, your workwear.
A stylish coat is an easy way to highlight your figure, too. A belt around the waist can do wonders for your curves, and if you want to feel taller, go for a hemline just above the knees. A trench or pea coat is your most trend-proof option -- and it'll keep you warm and dry at the same time.
The cardigan is the only entry on this list to be both sophisticated and cozy. Over a dress, under a suit jacket, buttoned, unbuttoned -- the multipurpose cardigan is both an outfit-changing accessory and a shirt for chilly days. In a pinch, a cardigan is also a great casual Friday replacement for the suit jacket. Go green or red to provide your outfit with an instant splash of color. While saggy cardigans have pretty much cornered the market on weekend comfort, a tight, fitted cardigan helps you project a confident workplace demeanor.
Little Black Dress
The flagship of your evening wardrobe, it turns out, can also be put to good use during working hours. The trick is to make it appropriate for the office with the right trimmings. A black suit jacket and black tights give you a sleek, polished look. Too dark? Take the edge off with a cardigan. Or how about a string of pearls and a leather belt? Either way, when the clock strikes five, your outfit transforms back into evening finery -- and none of your coworkers are the wiser!
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