Dressing for work can be tough, because it’s sometimes difficult to balance looking professional with having character. Here are super-easy ways to look more professional at work without losing your sense of self—or breaking the bank for itchy wool suits and turtlenecks. (Yuck!)
1. Keep a black blazer handy. A basic black blazer is a style staple—you may want to invest in one at home and another to keep at the office in case of an unexpected meeting. These can dress up anything, from jeans to a pencil skirt, and make you look immediately polished and chic.
2. Get cozy versions of chic items—and vice versa. I get that the office is cold. I’m always freezing! I understand that you just want to throw on a hoodie and be done with it, but what if the CEO pops in? Opt for belted cardigans and heavier blazers (look for sweatshirt material—comfy!) and layer tops underneath.
3. Get a tailor. Everything you own will look 100 percent more professional and just straight up better if it’s precisely tailored to fit well. This includes hemming your jeans, shortening straps on dresses, taking in waistlines, adding darts on button-down shirts. If you’re tough to fit (trust me, I know—I’m Lollipop Guild height but an extreme hourglass), always size up and tailor down.
4. Choose footwear wisely. I love wedges and flats for work because I like to actually walk around. Pointy-toe flats give a more put-together, professional vibe than rounder toes, and heels are always somehow just more impressive than anything else. Keep a basic pair of black pumps for the office, and don’t be afraid to change in and out of sneakers or flats if you have a long stroll to work from the subway.
5. Opt for a bigger bag. Tiny, trendy purses are cute, but larger, more structured totes scream “I’m a working woman, pay me!” It doesn’t have to be expensive or leather, but it should be a versatile neutral that can fit all your essentials, plus a book or a tablet as needed.
6. Opt for solids. You don’t need to wear solids every single day, but for days you have to make a presentation, conduct an interview, or have a big meeting, patterns and prints can be distracting. If you need prints, stick with stripes, polka dots, houndstooth, and other classics if you’re not in a creative environment.
7. Keep accessories mostly simple. If you want a statement item, that’s fine, but limit it to one piece—an awesome bib necklace over a solid-colored top or dress, or dangly earrings, or a sparkly brooch, or a cocktail ring. Never pair all of those together!
8. Invest in at least one power suit. Get it tailored and rock it for interviews. You should feel like a high-power badass when you put this on!
9. Don’t fear color. Keep your essentials like blazers and bags in neutrals, then play up everything else with color. True reds, cobalt blue, deep purple, and emerald green all are universally flattering without being overly loud.
10. When in doubt, opt for classic. When it comes to the office, it’s better to be a basic bitch than a tacky one. If you’re unsure of what to wear, go for the more conservative option. You can always add a bold lip later if you need to!