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Talk to me about work clothes

I need a more professional wardrobe. 

I'm a designer, recently graduated from college, and with the wedding coming up, the job search kind of slowed down...well, until someone found my resume online and contacted me. It turned out that he is a representative for a big designer company and I got an interview! I did well; well enough in fact that I'm going in for a 2nd interview and may be meeting someone famous in the design world. I guess that's when it hit me that my closet is still thrifty college kid clothes with only 1 professional-looking outfit for interviews. They say "dress for the job you want" and I feel like even if I don't get this job and end up getting a job with a small firm with no dress code, I should still dress like a professional.

So, I need some advice from you fashion-forward knotties and career women. What articles of clothing are must-haves for a professional wardrobe? Do you have any advice for a work-friendly wardrobe on a budget?

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Re: Talk to me about work clothes

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    work clothes depend on where you work. If you work in fashion, you should (probably, imo) look fashionable. Either classic or trend setting. I am NOT fashionable whatsoever, so I cant give much more help than that, but as a designer, you should trust your instincts when picking out your outfits.

     

    Also, more casual environments will lend better to a more fashion forward/trend setting wardrobe. More conservative environments you'd probably want to go more classic.

     

    My office is 'business casual', but jeans are ok/encouraged lol. So I just wear jeans and a dressier top most days. Occasionaly a skirt.

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    My first thought: depends on what type of work.
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    But seriously, what type of design? That'll help. If it's like... graphic design at an ad agency, you can get by with a lot more color/pattern/flair than, say, coffin design.

    Generally - I like to layer when I'm trying to look like a grown-up. Helps have more variety when you can mix and match layers, too, so you get more bang for your fashion buck. Ruffled blouses, striped oxfords, prints etc underneath solid cardigans and blazers. Old Navy has awesome stretchy pencil skirts that look nice but are really comfy and affordable for a "business casual" workplace.

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    I totally took 'designer' to mean fashion design, so I apologize if you are one of the (probably thousands) of other types haha.
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    In your field, you probably have a bit more room to get fashionable office wear than I do (super traditional white-collar kinda profession) but if you're on a tight budget, factory outlets are your friend (as long as you avoid the stuff designed specifically for the outlet, as the quality often suffers). Buy cheap (as long as the fabric is decent, not too synthetic/stretchy...get wool and silk, not polyester or viscose or whatever) and spend the extra on a tailor if you really want to look polished.

    My staples are dress pants somewhere between a straight and skinny leg (on my shape...anything wider and I look like a 70s time-traveller), pencil skirts, and interesting blazers. I have a couple very traditional blazers but I think ones with unconventional detailing really make you look more fashionable and less stuffy. Long ones, ones with belts or weird collars or whatever, depending on your shape and style.

    I used to buy silk shell blouses in bright colours all the time, but my office is too cold and I now wear sweaters under all my blazers. I like the thin merino ones.

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    My first thought: depends on what type of work.
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    But seriously, what type of design? That'll help. If it's like... graphic design at an ad agency, you can get by with a lot more color/pattern/flair than, say, coffin design.

    Generally - I like to layer when I'm trying to look like a grown-up. Helps have more variety when you can mix and match layers, too, so you get more bang for your fashion buck. Ruffled blouses, striped oxfords, prints etc underneath solid cardigans and blazers. Old Navy has awesome stretchy pencil skirts that look nice but are really comfy and affordable for a "business casual" workplace.
    You gif made me laugh, lol. I'm in product design but the company does luxury jewelry and I'd most likely be doing graphic design work. Most of the places I've interviewed for had been luxury or trend-setting brands so all of their employees wore the typical businessy professional apparel. I guess I'm aiming for a more "business casual" kind of wardrobe. I'll definitely take a look in Old Navy! Thanks! :)

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    Jeans, knit tops, sweaters.  Sometimes even sweatshirts and yoga pants.

     I work from home and NEVER seen clients.    Maybe I'm not the best person to answer this question. 






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    If there is a New York & Company near you, you should check them out too. Some of their stuff can be a little pricey for what it is, but they have nice pants, skirts and dresses.
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    I would have to say that I love mixing different stores together. For instance, I get all my funky colorful stuff from Francesca's, Modcloth, and Anthropologie. I usually get sweaters, printed blouses, and jewelry from those stores. Then I go to places like the Gap for jeans, the Limited and the Loft for blazers for blazers and trousers.

    So what I think you should wear is a blouse with a print, a sleek blazer with some cool detail in a neutral color. For jewelry I would say stud earrings and a funky necklace. Then trousers with a very faint print to give it some movement. Then shoes that are in a color that is similar to your blouse to pull it all together. Then have a purse that has some texture to it.

    Pattern, texture, and shine! 

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    Check out this chick. Lots of awesome outfits that are sort of "classic taken up a notch." Good balance of trendy and professional, and she says where she bought everything.

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    Obviously a suit for interviews, plus at least two tops that go well under it (one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter).

    Sign up for the email lists of The Limited, Loft, Ann Taylor, NY&C, and buy things when there's a sale. Always look through clearance racks. Don't pay full price. Invest in several nice pairs of slacks, pencil skirts, and black shoes, then buy some nice tops to mix and match. Then start building out from there - add more colors, accessories, statement pieces, etc.

    My other secret is the Goodwill store in the upscale part of town. It has lots of really nice, almost new, name brand stuff for a fraction of the price.
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    Like PPs said, I think it depends on your field. For an interview, I always wear a suit but that's because I'm a lawyer. If I was in a creative field, I might not dress as conservatively.

    Day-to-day, our office is business casual. For work clothes, I like Ann Taylor, Loft, Gap, and Banana. A lot of places also offer student discounts of 15% on full price items, so keep your student ID!
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    I would get a skirt suit - skirt and jacket. If you want to get something that will last forever and you have a sizeable budget, Brooks Brothers is nice. If not, The Limited, Macy's and other department stores are good options. 

    Under it, I'd wear a button down in any color you think looks good. Some basic stud earrings and that's it. Add some close toed, medium height heels.

    I'm boring, I guess. At interviews, I want my outfit to look professional, but not distracting. I want the interviewer to focus on my resume and what I'm saying versus my clothes and accessory choices.
    *********************************************************************************

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    Heh I interviewed for a senior position at a major automotive HQ the week before last and didn't wear a suit. :-p Grey mini houndstooth blazer, black ruffled blouse and black pants. All from Express. 

    The rule for interviews is to dress one step nicer than your interviewer. Unless you know for certain that everyone in the office wears a full suit, you don't need to go buy one. If you want one and have the money for it, by all means go for it. But if you don't see yourself wearing it again for a regular workday it's really not necessary. You can absolutely mix and match a blazer and nice pants or a skirt.

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    Same thing happened to me.. straight out of University into the tech world. 
    My department is business casual leaning on the casual side. My advice on clothes to get you started and where to spend your money:
    1. Gray slacks and Black slacks (I spent my money here because I'm small and they are hard to find)
    2. Black blazer
    3. Black pencil skirt
    4. A couple of nice button up shirts
    5. A pair of nice dark jeans

    These are easy to mix/match and put with other things to make them look more professional.

    Then look through your wardrobe! Do you have dresses you think are too casual but you throw a sweater/blazer over and it will work in the summer? T-shirt with a fun pattern you can put with dark jeans and a sweater on a Friday? After getting comfortable in my work place I found there was a lot of creative things I could do with existing clothes in my closet and ditch just the slacks/blazers.. Personally I wear my dresses/skirts all year, just add tights, boots, jacket in the winter months so a lot of my wardrobe that I never thought would work did.


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    @lolo883 coffin design bahahahah

                                                                     

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    What is the professional outfit you currently have? I'd just see if I could repurpose it for the 2nd interview - different shirt, jacket or whatever. No need to buy a bunch of stuff til you know where you will land. Mix and match for interviews or even borrow from a friend to get through the interviews.
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    I second NY&Company.  They have some really good sales and their clothes make some good, quality staples that are also not too boring.  Some people have better luck than I do with Banana Republic.  I also have a few pieces from JC Penney actually.  My workplace is a little more casual, but with collared shirts.  So most days I'm in jeans and a collared shirt.  I have a couple of pairs of slacks with some texture and/or color to them and I layer with cardigans depending on how nice I want to look.
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    Most of my non-suit work clothes are from Banana Republic, NY&C, Loft, Anne Taylor, H&M (they have cute skirts and dresses), and The Limited. I get cute, trendy tops from places like Old Navy, Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Express to mix in. We're mostly business casual with a few occasions for suits every month, and jeans every Friday so I get a lot of wear out of my wardrobe.
    ~*~*~*~*~

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    The Limited is my favorite place for work clothes. I love their pants. And they ALWAYS have sales. If you buy something there for full price, you're doing it wrong, haha. You can also find really good stuff at a place like Marshalls or TJ Maxx - those are really hit or miss, but sometimes you strike gold!

    Staples you should consider investing in are definitely nice pants in a few colors, khaki, gray, black, etc. (or nice dark jeans, if those are appropriate in your office. My office is very casual so dark jeans & a blazer is my go-to), button-downs, cute but comfy flats, and a couple good blazers. Get basics and then you can accessorize with cheaper items that you might get less use out of. You can pair the nicer "investment" pieces with cheaper stuff, like shirts you already own to go under the blazers. 
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    I work at home, so I don't really have work clothes (although I think you're way above me if you put real pants on - or get dressed at all - @lyndausvi ).

    However, I have to go to a work thing in a couple weeks so yesterday I found a bunch of work clothes in JC Penney.  I was surprised how many they had, actually!  I got 2 pairs of trousers and a shirt.  They had blazers too, but I don't think I need them now and hopefully I will be a different size if I ever do!

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    I work in a more conservative field, but I also just had to build a work wardrobe from almost nothing, so I feel you.

    Interview wear is tricky: I'd say wear a suit, but put a more funky shirt under it/ interesting jewelry for a creative job.  If it's a very casual office, you probably don't need the suit-- one step above what others are wearing is a good rule of thumb.

    I built my work wardrobe around a central palette of neutrals with a few jewel toned pieces thrown in.  I have a lot of black and gray, which are easy to pair with other colors.

    To build a basic business casual wardrobe, I think you'd want to start with:
    -- One or two neutral blazers (if you have a suit, you can recycle the jacket with other outfits)
    -- One or two pairs of lightweight wool or cotton pants, in black and another neutral (ex. suit pants)
    -- If you're a skirt person, at least one neutral pencil skirt
    -- Three or four simple dresses that go with your blazer(s) if you need to dress it up
    -- Three or four work blouses or shells to go under the blazer.  I like silk or polyester silky fabrics; I think they look a little more dressed up than knits.  You could also do a sweater or button-down, and add color here.
    -- One basic necklace and one statement necklace, and some simple earrings

    The idea is that if your blazers, pants, and skirts are neutral, you can add color and fun in the dresses and tops.  If all your neutrals go together (like black and gray, or navy and gray, or navy and camel... just pick a combo that works), you don't have to think so much about what goes together.

    PPs have all suggested good stores to try out.  I also really like J. Crew and their "Factory" stores, but only on a good sale.  
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    luckya23 said:

    I work at home, so I don't really have work clothes (although I think you're way above me if you put real pants on - or get dressed at all - @lyndausvi ).

    However, I have to go to a work thing in a couple weeks so yesterday I found a bunch of work clothes in JC Penney.  I was surprised how many they had, actually!  I got 2 pairs of trousers and a shirt.  They had blazers too, but I don't think I need them now and hopefully I will be a different size if I ever do!

    I just feel more "professional" if I'm dressed.   I make sure I put on pants (mostly jeans) and a clean top.  I do not put make up on.  I only wash my hair every other day, so one day it's sort-of styled (it's cold out so I dry my hair, in the summer I let it air dry).  The next day it's pulled back.






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    Wow! Thank all of you for your awesome advice, links, and recommendations! Currently, I only have 1 professional-looking outfit (blazer and pencil skirt) for interviews. I'm going shopping this week before the 2nd interview so I'll definitely check out stores like Old Navy and The Limited if I can find one around me.

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    Just texted my Old Navy employee sister to make with the purchasing for me. Thanks @Lolo883!
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    I say nipple tassles are the perfect top to wear with any nice pair of slacks.  Okay, I have nothing to add because I am not a real trendy person, so I added BS... hope you don't mind ;)
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    The only thing I would add to the already good advice is that for blazers/suit jackets, make sure you pick blouses that you would also wear alone should you need to take the jacket off (for instance, my office last week was 81 degrees).  I have seen many young women come in for interviews wearing basically a thin sleeveless shell or camisole underneath and it's just really hard to not see "inappropriate lingerie" rather than "blouse," even when they leave the jacket on.
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    I think it also depends on where you're working, as in location. If it's a design job in a major city then it's likely to be more professional than a small town. 

    Don't go nuts yet, though. I'm a designer too and even though I wore professional clothes to my interview and my first day of work, I quickly discovered that my boss and contemporaries wear jean shorts and flip flops. So, now I look like a scumbag on a daily basis and it's awesome. 

    Get a few things, maybe enough for one week. If you get the job then get a sense of the dress code when you start working. 

    What kind of design is it? (if you answered and I missed it I'm sorry)
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    I'm teach high school so I have to leave the house around 5:45 so I don't like to think too much about what I'm wearing (ideally I would pick an outfit the night before but netflix calls ya know?). I pretty much stick with short sleeve/sleeveless dresses from tj maxx or marshalls and just rotate.

    Add a few neutral cardigans or sweaters and go from there. It won't take more than a few weeks to get the unofficial "dress code" of your office and then you won't be spending money on clothes you don't need.


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    I work for a jewelry designer but, uh... we're kind of casual? Like, wore jeans in the retail store and now that that part is closed everyone's in, like, workout clothes unless there's a meeting with an actual customer. Ha.

    I do like to dress up though and I'm in love with New York and Company for my 'grown-up' clothes.
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