When you’re getting ready to graduate it can be daunting to consider your new job responsibilities—let alone your new wardrobe! What are workplace staples? What should you leave behind at college? We spoke with fashion guru Pamela Watson for tips on how to build your professional wardrobe.
Research the dress code
Today, whether you’re going into a creative environment or a conservative company, it’s always good to know the guidelines. Ideally, you can either ask HR or investigate your organization online. Look at what others are wearing for clues. For example, your coworkers may wear all black; while it might not be a written rule, it’s expected. Adapt and be flexible.
When you aren’t 100% sure what to wear, don’t overdo it. You can’t go wrong with a simple sheath dress, and you can dress it up or down. Neutral colors are best, so try brown, beige, or black. Stay away from anything too brash—never go red. Keeping it simple gives you the opportunity to make your first impression without waves. Once you feel more comfortable, you can customize your look.
Get the staples
In addition to a sheath dress, always make sure you have a great pantsuit. You can’t go wrong with black. Go to a tailor or drycleaner to alter your clothing so it looks customized for your body. Never let yourself look like a hanger.
Experiment with color
Black and white is a great foundation, it reads power. But try changing your white blouse to a blue or burgundy one. Here’s where you can have some fun, however keep the main pieces basic.
Accessorize for the event
It’s good to have a great set of (faux or real) pearls. They look lovely whether you’re wearing jeans and a t-shirt or you’re in a full black pantsuit. If you have an event like a cocktail reception, your sheath dress can easily translate from day to night. With just a few accessory changes you have a whole new outfit.
One of your staples may have been flip-flops. Many people switch out to flat foot wear at the end of the day to commute home, but my rule of thumb is never do that. I don’t care if your feet hurt. You should look professional until you leave the building—you could run into the president in the elevator.
Try new styles
Nowadays both high and low-end designers are creating the same styles, so whether you’re shopping at H&M or Neiman Marcus, it doesn’t matter. You can still make the same style statements regardless of budget. This is the best time for you to experiment and be the executive you want to be, at any price.