Getting your workwear right every day can be a challenge. When you’re starting a new job, it can be tricky to navigate what you should wear to make a good first impression. Even long-term employees can find themselves in fashion ruts at work. Whether you’re switching up your wardrobe for the office or want to start off on the right foot, this guide will help you in those times of doubt.
1. Before you land the job
If you’re unsure of how people dress at the office you haven’t visited yet, think about dressing for that company’s industry. Leave jeans out of the mix if you’re going for a job in finance or at a traditional ad agency. Dark denim is a safe bet if you’re heading over to a production company or startup. If you aren’t sure either way, imagine you have to go out to an upscale lunch or dinner afterward and dress for that. If you can wear your outfit to a nice restaurant, it’s a good option for the office. Dressing to impress never means you’re obligated to show everybody how expensive your wardrobe is. I always suggest wearing a power suit. It means leaving the impression that you are polished, professional and confident.
2. Dress to fit the office culture
Make your weekly wardrobe choices based on how casually or formally others dress around the office. This doesn’t mean you have to lose your personal style and definitely doesn’t mean you should become a copycat. You should want to look like a representative of your team and the company where you work. If your CEO is in jeans and a hoodie every day, wearing a suit can look like an overcompensation and isn’t necessary.
3. Find subtle and inexpensive ways to change up your look
If you aren’t sure how much is too much, go for less. Keep your jewelry classic and simple. If you’re wearing a statement necklace, skip any other pieces or wear solids. If you love earrings, save the dangly chandelier pair for a fun party and opt for studs instead. The same goes for makeup. Your look should always be suited for daytime. A smoky eye can be jarring when you’re pouring coffee in the office kitchen at 9 a.m. Companies like Rent the Runway, GlassesUSA and Tradesy all offer affordable ways to stay stylish with jewelry, glasses, shoes and clothes for important events or for when you just want to try something new without breaking the bank.
4. Avoid casual Friday debacles
When you’re dressing down on a Friday or have an offsite, after-work hangout planned, be mindful of how casual to be at the office. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are not at an executive-level position and the founder of the company dresses in jeans and T-shirts, that does not always mean it’s OK for you to do the same. Flip flops are never OK in any office unless that office has sand and an ocean. Additionally, you will never seem overdressed for skipping sweatpants or ripped up jeans. Sometimes ripped jeans can look great, but in a multi-generational office, the higher-level and older staff may not appreciate the trend as much, so you will want to use caution there.
5. Remember to groom
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many polished looks at work can be set back by a terribly chipped manicure or a 5 o’clock shadow. These things are easy to disregard when jobs get stressful or if you woke up too late because your alarm didn’t go off. However, you should never go to work with dirty hands, without brushing your teeth and with hair that looks like you’ve been through a windstorm. You want to smell good and not be “that guy” with the terrible breath at work.