Congrats, you’ve graduated! Looking for jobs has been your priority for months, and it’s starting to pay off. You perfected your resumé, you nailed your interview – you got the job!
Now… what do you wear?
Disclaimer: The fashion industry has a lot to answer for in terms of labor conditions, environmental impact, and the way it promotes negative body image to young people. Buying new clothes is expensive, and really difficult depending on what your body looks like and where you live. And, second-hand shops are not always an option. I. Get. It.
However, you can still get yourself a work wardrobe without trading your soul for it. Here are ten rules to get you going:
1. Comfort comes first
This goes for everything – pants, shirts, shoes. You’ll be wearing this stuff for 8 hours a day. If you have the slightest doubt about it fitting well, do not buy it. There is nothing more irritating than shoes that blister your feet, or a seam that rubs in the wrong places.
2. Know your body shape
The first few months of your new job are not the time for fashion experiments. By now you should know what doesn’t make you want to scream when you wear it for a long time. Go for styles that are tried and tested, not what is trendy and fresh… at least for now while you’re still a newbie.
3. See what you can reuse
You probably have some clothes in your wardrobe that can be used. Plenty of offices allow jeans at work and more and more places have made it illegal to require women to wear high heels in the office. If you already own clothes that can double as workwear, use them.
4. Nobody will raise a fuss if you wear the same pair of pants for three days straight
No, really. Switch up the shirts and/or ties, and you’ll be grand. Men have been doing this forever, so why shouldn’t women and non-binary people not be able to do the same?
5. When in doubt, Google it
Not sure what the dress code is at your new office? If there have been any corporate events, there will be pictures floating on their website. Still not sure? Err on the side of formal until you have had a chance to look around and observe your colleagues in their natural habitat. If people are cool with jeans, wear jeans. If it’s ties and button-downs all day, every day for 48 weeks, then you will know what to budget for.
6. There will be at least one formal event in your work life
These days, we expect to work more than one job, so you might want to be prepared to do it more than once. You can’t get away with borrowing a formal attire from your friends every time. At the very least, you’ll need a blazer for this.
7. Formal means having one good suit.
Don’t go buying up Marshall’s just because you have an interview lined up. One good suit that fits your shoulders and chest (blazer) and your waist (pants). Or, a dress if you prefer. One outfit to take to interviews or company functions is enough to start with. You can reuse the various components (pants and a good sweater, or the blazer with jeans if you can get away with it) and you can bring them together as one for when you have people to impress.
8. Splurge on shoes
Sorry to bang on about this, but shoes are extremely important. Most offices won’t let you run around in your socks, or barefoot, so make sure to have a pair that you can live in. Think boring, comfortable, and indestructible. Your work shoes will not get babied, so make sure they can hold their own.
9. If you’re a woman, your office will always feel cold to you
No, you’re not imagining the chill – most workplaces are designed for dudes, all the way to the thermostat. Since you are unlikely to lead a workplace revolution just yet (wait for your second week!), remember to bring something to throw on when the temperatures drop – scarf, cardigan, your ex’s sweater, whatever you fancy. As long as it doesn’t have anything offensive written on it (You’re still testing the waters, remember?).
10. Nobody’s going to judge you if you spill anything on yourself
But just in case, it’s harder to see coffee stains on dark clothes. Just sayin’… as someone who wears her lunch about once a week…
If all of this sounds terribly unappealing, I’m sorry. Most traditional workplaces have some form of dress code or another. Having said that, plenty of offices also allow for people to express their individuality in some form. Wear your camouflage until you feel more comfortable to come out like the beautiful, business-casual butterfly that you are. I know you can do it!
Image credit by Becca McHaffie