Dressing the Part & Building a Professional Wardrobe

outfit details: J Crew Martie pants, Old Navy shirt, Ray-Ban aviators, Everlane Petra bag, Nasty Gal heels (on sale!), Target metal necklace (on sale! $5!), vintage watch.

In the past few weeks I've started an exciting new (old?) adventure... going back to school! I initially went to Uni for Economics, but stopped two semesters short of graduation because I felt no more ready for that career than when I started. I would be happy to write a longer post if anyone is curious, but essentially I spent those years denying the fact that I needed to work in a creative field. Now I'm finishing up my Bachelor's Degree with a major in Advertising/Mass Comm, with an understanding that it doesn't matter how impressive your degree sounds to other people, it only matters if it can make you happy and lead to your career.

Since all these lovely realizations, I've been looking into professional and networking organizations to join. I've also been thinking about my upcoming Advertising internship, and that "dress for the job you want, not the job you have" mentality. Being a "young woman" in this field involves being judged on your appearance, your communications skills, your posture, your social connections, basically every and anything. It's important to convey yourself the way you want people to see you.

I'm working on the rest of it, but starting with my professional wardrobe, I want to a) not spend a lot of money and b) have a few key pieces that can be worn over and over in different ways. I put together a guide to my few first investments. These are pieces that can be used casually or dressed up... no need to invest in a power suit right away!

Cropped Slacks
Or regular slacks, whatever floats your boat. Opt for black, light weight material and you will will get away with wearing these all the time. Pair with any other pieces in this list, or instantly class up a tee and sneakers (I'm actually loving slacks with lace up Vans and a pocket tee). I bought a pair of Martie slacks from J. Crew, and I am very impressed with the quality and style.

Crisp Button Down

Perfect for all occasions. I wore this Old Navy button down with cut off jean shorts and ballet flats to a pool party last week, then later in the week with loafers and slacks. White is classic and has a very effortless Hepburn vibe, but you can also pick up some other patterns and colors down the road. Chambray can also look great when dressed up with slacks and heels.

Sharp Blazer

This is the "no doyyy" of the list, but a good blazer will literally change your life (do I sound like an extra on The Hills yet?). Throw a blazer over a tee and jeans, or pair with your trusty slacks to kick some serious ass. Again, for this piece I went to J. Crew. Their fit and quality is miles above the high street brands, even if they're a little pricier.

Pumps

Avoid fancy patterns, straps, bows, and sparkles. A simple pair of leather or suede pumps will match with everything and last for years if properly taken care of. I love the pair I have from Nasty Gal. They're surprisingly comfy and durable!

Loafers

Just like with heels, you want to choose a classic, tailored pair of flats to wear everyday. I'm currently favoring a structured loafer over ballet flats because they feel more grown up. I haven't made this purchase yet, but I know I'll be buying the Everlane Modern Loafer. Everlane is one of my favorite brands... I love everything they come out with!

Don’t Bother With:


Skirts

If you’re on a budget, a pair of slacks will get you more mileage than a skirt. Pencil skirts don’t do double duty in your day to day wardrobe, and a pleated or flared skirt gives a youthful appearance. The point is to look like a powerful girl boss who is ready to take over the world with nothing but her brain and a great blazer!

Silk Shirts


In an ideal world, I have an unlimited wardrobe budget and get all my clothes dry cleaned every week. In reality, silk wrinkles and stains pretty easily, and no one has time for high maintenance fabrics.

Statement Jewelry

Save your money for investment pieces rather than elaborate jewelry. Simple pieces are great, but you want people to see your talent, not your giant flower necklace or chandelier earrings. If you're looking to spend on something, go for a nice watch or bag. My Petra bag (from Everlane, of course) looks chic in any situation, and is perfectly minimal with buttery leather and suede. The strap even comes off to wear it as a clutch!

The point is, don't worry about chasing trends or buying things you'll wear once a year. Invest in the person you want to be in the future, it starts with looking the part.