Going from a sheltered college environment into the workforce is a big shock for a lot of young people. Whether it’s your first job or an internship, the first contact with the corporate world, going to an office every day can seem daunting and you might not know where to start. The first thing you should think about is fitting into the environment, and it starts with the way you look. The corporate fashion has gone through a lot of changes in the past decade, but some things just don’t change – so here are all the rules you need to know about corporate fashion.
There really isn’t something that can ruin your first day as much as coming in decked out in a very professional outfit only to find out that everyone else in the office is in jeans. So if the only thing you know about the company is what you heard about their work, try to search up photos from corporate events and look up employees on LinkedIn and Facebook to see how they dress for work. Then, it’s time to match. And no, “match” doesn’t mean copy their style – just match the level of corporate versus casual.
We all have a unique style and if you can rock it, well then there’s no reason for you to get rid of it. That being said, if you have only been wearing jeans and hoodies for your whole, you might not have been able to develop a corporate style. In that case, this is a very exciting period because you get to reinvent your style from scratch. Look at inspiration you like online, in magazines and on the streets and choose a style you’re comfortable with. But keep parts of yourself you like – if you love wearing colorful clothing, stick with it and if you love accessorizing – make it work for corporate environments as well.
As mentioned, the corporate attire has changed a lot in the past decade, mostly in the way that it is now a lot more casual, especially in young start-up culture. So, you can still use a lot of the clothing you have in your closet and just pair it up differently, thereby both saving money and slowly transitioning to a new style. Something casual like a classy denim jumpsuit is a perfect base for a cas-corp look if you pair it with a button-down shirt and blazer. Or go with a graphic T-shirt but throw on a blazer to make it look more professional.
You can wear court shoes or you can wear Converse – no matter what you choose, they have to be clean, polished and whole. Your shoes say a lot about you and no matter how casual the culture, no office space is appropriate for shoes that are muddy or have holes in them. And if you’re a fan of sneakers – by all means, keep them, just make sure that they are appropriate for the office. Think more Oxford and less playground. Whether or not you want to wear heels is your choice, just make sure that you are fully functional in your footwear.
Sometimes all you need to do to bring an outfit from teenager to working woman is make a few swaps. Like swapping out your hoodies for cardigans, ripped jeans for whole ones and school backpacks for a professional one. Be careful with your bags – they literally make or break an outfit. The exact same outfit with a backpack or with an over-the-hand bag will look completely different. And of course, get professional-looking jackets. There’s nothing sadder than a perfect corporate-casual outfit hidden underneath a back-to-school jacket. Get a proper coat or fashionable jacket.
Never ever under any circumstances wear a piece of see-through clothing. Not just accidentally see-through, when your bra shows through your white shirt, but also things like see-through sleeves, mid-riffs, legs or anything else. You might think it looks young and edgy – I promise you, it doesn’t. Just wear a normal, solid fabric, and then play with different silhouettes if you want to show some skin.
This should get you ready for your first office job, but remember that we all learn through experience, so don’t be afraid of trying out new things – all of us have been through it.