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Dress for success in a post-cookie cutter world

December 17, 2009

Chances are, most of us already know how to dress professionally. If it wasn’t your mom helping you select clothes for your middle school band concert, career counselors inevitably have drilled it into your head. Dark suit, button up shirt, conservative heels, hair out of your face.

But most likely, unless you’re going for a job interview or meeting with clients, you won’t have to dress like this very often. (Thank goodness!)

Some people love dressing professionally and feeling important. And although I enjoy it every so often, it’s just not for me on a daily basis.

Dress: Derek Heart from Kohl's (thrifted at Plato's Closet). Boots and tights from Target.

Luckily, much of corporate America is now going casual – or at least business-casual. But in these terms there’s a whole other dilemma. How can we dress casual but still look like professionals?

For starters, it really depends on the company. If you’re starting a new job, it can’t hurt to overdress for a little while. If nothing else, your colleagues will respect you for your effort.

The most important thing you can do is pay attention to how your colleagues dress. Is Friday casual? Every day? Are jeans acceptable? Sandals? Shorts? Don’t be the first to test the waters, especially with shorts.

Whatever your company’s code (explicit or not), where do you find this attire?

Well, you probably have many options already in your closet that you can mix and match to create different looks. And what is cheaper than reviving old pieces you already own?

My personal favorite of the moment is a dress paired with tights and boots. Not the most original concept, but it has the effect of looking cute and dressed up. Plus I enjoy adding dangly earrings and scarves to personalize the outfit.

My point? Just because you may spend 40+ hours per week in an office doesn’t mean your wardrobe has to be dull. And just because you have a professional job doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your entire closet.

So be creative. It’s a good way to let your fashionable personality shine and bring life to what could otherwise be a run-of-the-mill week.

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