I’m 25, I work for a commercial art school in downtown Chicago in a sales position. In a recent review with my boss, my boss coolly remarked, “you really should consider not looking so much… like our students.” She went on to remark that while my wardrobe was cute, I didn’t represent $90K education and prestige. And I ought to invest in some pant suits. I shuddered at the thought so how can I maintain my individuality while playing the part of the professional?
I too shudder at the thought of a “pant suit”, but the good news is there are a lot of ways to dress professionally that will have you looking like one of the women on Lip Stick Jungle and not Pam from The Office…but the key is to find looks that are well-tailored, colorful and uniquely you.
My favorite trick is to mix classic pieces with more modern pieces. Take for example this traditional pencil skirt. If you wear it with a plain white button-down shirt you’d probably end up feeling pretty dowdy and unoriginal, but by pairing it with a pattern in a bold color, in this case florals, you instantly add visual interest and an element of surprise.
Since I chose a camisole, I added the cardigan to make it more work appropriate, but just take off the cardi when you’re leaving the office and voila…you have a great dinner/drinks outfit without ever having to change. I also threw in those amazing pair of violet pumps just to keep you feeling young (you’re only 25!) and sexy.
My next outfit is a take on the dreaded “pant suit”. If you think about it, a pant suit really just means a jacket and a pair of pants…no one ever said they had to match! I like the idea of taking a basic pair of black trousers-try men’s wear inspired and wide legged- and adding a cropped tweed jacket instead of just a plain blazer. The pattern on the tweed breaks up the black and the cropped length makes it more youthful.
I chose this navy tank because it mimics the ruffle details on the jacket and it also adds a pop of color. For accessories, since you mentioned being a little “urban-punkish”, I added a great pair of snake earings that will help you feel more like yourself… but I did throw in the most classic piece of jewelry, a pearl bracelet to balance it all out. Make sure you pair this outfit with a over-sized black bag-try something in mock croc or snake! Lastly, every career woman needs a fabulous pair of black peep toe pumps. These have interesting detail on the heel and I’m pretty sure they’ll work with almost everything in your closet!
You can find pieces like this everywhere, but I suggest you start at H&M becausee they have a fantastic “career” section, but they also have fashion forward styles that you can easily mix in. Old Navy, Forever 21, and Macy’s also have a nice selection of career clothes and don’t rule out any store just because it’s not Ann Taylor. I hope this helps you on your journey to navigating the corporate world while retaining your individual style!
Note: Every item in the pictures retails below $49.99! Email me if you would like more details.
Update: I had a lot of requests for the links so here they are!