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Young Money Blog: Looking sharp on the job

Dress right for work, young folks.

blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty  • 

After talking to Lauren Byrd, the founder of Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo Fashion Week, for my last Young Money blog, I started thinking about fashion a little bit—more specifically, navigating the world of workplace fashion. Gone are the days when I could roll out of bed, throw on some black pants and a white shirt and head off to my shift as a waitress. Now, I think about whether I need to wear a suit, or if I can get away with just a sweater and a pair of nice pants.

Navigating the world of professional dress codes can be tricky for a those of us who are early in our careers. You haven’t been in the business long enough to build a huge work wardrobe, but you are still expected to have the right look at the right time. Ditch the stereotypes, because this isn’t an issue that just females run into, either—guys can have just as much trouble looking work-ready as women do.

Walking the fine line between professionalism and personality is a tricky one. There is no course for seniors in college that talks about how to transition from the jeans and hoodies you wore to class to more work-appropriate outfits. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to wear jeans to work, but how do you look young and trendy while still being professional? (Hint Number One: short shorts, flip flops and exposed midriffs are not O.K.)

Ladies: start with a few key pieces. There’s a reason everyone needs an LBD (little black dress). They are versatile, can be worn dressed up or down, and are perfect for almost any occasion.

Little black dress


This dress takes the LBD and puts a fun twist on it with polka dots and red accessories. You can wear it to work and transition perfectly to drinks at happy hour.

Pencil skirt and sweater

Don’t be afraid of color. A simple pencil skirt paired with a bright sweater keeps this outfit looking fresh and young but will still have you fitting in the corporate profile.

Guys – I haven’t forgotten about you. Your wardrobe says a lot about who you are. Leave the rope belts and boat shoes for the weekend and upgrade your look with a few key pieces.

Pullover sweater

Dress pants, a button down and a pullover sweater is one of my favorite casual office looks for a guy. The dress pants and button down keep things preppy and professional while the sweater pulls the whole look together. Throw on a tie under the sweater for an even more polished look if you have client meetings throughout the day.

Gray suit for men

Suits like this one from Banana Republic never go out of style. Simple, sleek and grey is timeless. You can update the look each season with different shirt-and-tie combos to keep things interesting and new.

Black suit

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am a sucker for a guy in a three piece suit. There is nothing like the sharp lines of a matching pant, jacket and vest combo. Keep it classic in black and wear a bright shirt and tie to inject some personality into the look.

See, friends? Workwear can absolutely still be fashionable, trendy and fun—just keep it appropriate. By looking professional and mature, older colleagues and employers will consciously or unconsciously treat you like a peer, not a kid. It’s not about having a ton of options and outfits right away. Start with the basics and build.

Now that you have the right wardrobe, you’ll be moving up the corporate ladder in no time…but once you do, don’t start wearing carpenter pants. In fact, never do that.

Photo from Flickr / Laineys Repertoire.

TAGGED: business, caitlin campbell mcnulty, style tips, workplace fashion, young money, young professionals

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