Senior Files: Creating the Perfect Work Wardrobe

Graduation is fast approaching and soon we college girls will have to swap our flip flops and sweats for pumps and two-piece suits.

Unless you have an amazing job where you can work in your PJs, you’re going to need to update your wardrobe with some real people clothes (that don’t permanently smell of pizza and beer, no matter how many times you wash them).

I, for example, currently own one pair of nice slacks and two dress shirts. And because of all that pizza and beer, they don’t exactly fit as well as they used to. Looks like it’s time to update my closest. But like most college students, I’m not exactly rolling in the dough and can’t exactly afford to buy an entire new wardrobe.

So as per usual when I need some real life advice, I sought out my go-to career hero, president of Hearst Magazine’s Cathie Black. With her work wardrobe guidelines, I’ve compiled a no-nonsense guide to work fashion, complete with tips to help you (and me!) navigate the world of appropriate work wear.

1. Dress for the occasion: Dressing well isn’t about having the most expensive outfit. It’s about knowing what the appropriate clothes are for your place of work, and wearing them with confidence. Obviously you’ll need to dress differently if you’re working in a law firm then if you’re working at a chic indie magazine. But no matter where you work, dress with confidence.

2. Cleavage: Save it for the nightclubs. Nobody at work needs to see your funbags. You can still feel sexy at work, without over-sexing yourself. Pair a form-fitting pencil skirt with a long-sleeve blouse. An outfit like this will still show off your curves, but is still work appropriate!

3. Perfume: Don’t overload potential employers or fellow employees with the Britney Spears Fantasy you bought on sale at Marshall’s. It smells like a baby prostitute. Instead, keep your fragrance simple and fresh or just use a lightly scented lotion.

4. Makeup: Like perfume, keep it fresh and simple. Unless you’re working in an industry that allows a work wardrobe to be a little more creative and free, keep your makeup to neutral colors. Go for the “You think I’m wearing no makeup but I really am” look. Don’t cake on the foundation or try to look like Avril with your eyeliner.

5. Don’t be afraid to use color: Neutrals are great and perfect for a work environment, but don’t be afraid to accessorize your work outfit with a pop of color. Find your power color, aka your color that makes you feel powerful and in charge. For me, it’s coral or an orange-red.

6. Shower. Seriously, shower. You don’t want to show up to work smelling of last night’s festivities or looking like Ke$ha on any given day.

When to splurge: There are certain work pieces every gal needs that should be of good quality, so they can last forever.

A nice blazer: This can be in basic black, grey, or any neutral color. The best part about this piece is you can wear the blazer both day or night. Wear it with slacks and a nice blouse for work, and then switch into a pair of skinny jeans and heels after work and you’re ready for happy hour!

Slacks: At some point or another, you will need to wear a nice pair of slacks. Having a few pairs in neutral colors and the perfect fit can last a long time.

Classic button down: The classic white button down is a work attire staple. Worn with slacks or a pencil skirt, this will make you look refined and professional. But work with skinny jeans and some chunky jewelry, you’ll be ready for some after work festivities.

Black pumps: I don’t know about you, but I’m not the most graceful girl when it comes to heels. I can typically wear a pair for about an hour before I have to take them off. There is no way I could last 9-5 in heels if they weren’t a 100% comfortable fit. So make sure you get a nice pair that is of good quality. Also, Dr. Scholl’s Heel Inserts For Her are a gift from the heavens.

When to save: There are certain closet pieces that you can spend the extra buck on and pieces where you can still shop for at the typical college girl’s favorite store, aka Forever 21.

Basic tees: American Apparel is one of my best friends. Despite its often awkward and super slutty advertisements, they have still mastered the construction of the most comfortable basic t-shirt ever in existence. There is no reason you should be stocking up on C&C basic t-shirts or camisoles for over $50 a pop.

For an even better price but still solid quality, stock up on tons of basic color tees and cardigans at Old Navy.

Work Skirts: H&M will be my homie once I finally get a job. At most of their stores they have a large career-conscious clothes section filled with tons of work skirts, suits, fancy camisoles and blouses. And you don’t have to sacrifice color or high-fashion just because you’re a working woman, as H&M has tons of bright colors in work appropriate cuts and styles.

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