Work appropriate? How dull! How droll! How utterly boring!

While working on your PhD, you can’t help but think a lot about what you will do when you are finished. You start setting up job alerts. You start stalking your favourite companies on Linkedin.  But you know deep down that you haven’t done enough networking (you’re in New Zealand for christsake!).

Then you realize with even greater horror that you haven’t ever had to have a professional wardrobe. You’ve been 10 years out of college and you’ve never once worked for a corporation with any sort of dress code. You’re 30 years old, about to be a Dr. and you want people to take you seriously but you own no serious clothes (because c’mon, lets face it, serious clothes are so boring!).

Maybe you (or rather I) will luck out and never ever ever need a professional wardrobe.  But this is the real world we’re talking about.  And surely, these days there are so many clothing options, that ‘work appropriate’ no longer means dull.

So I have scoured the internet for some cute work appropriate/professional items, along with tips and anything else I think might be useful.

First off, here is a blog post with some useful “rules”.  However, I’m not sure that I agree entirely with the first sentiment: Thou shalt never let your outfit outshine your work.  For those of us in the fashion/apparel industry, looking good/trendy/put together is very important.  But if you’re an accountant…  I’d probably have to agree.

Wondering where to shop?  This post suggests some good retailers (if you’re based in the US, of course).  And if you’re in MN, I would probably substitute Target with Maurices.

A few examples of some great looks:

This is such a great work appropriate look!

I shall endeavor not to inundate you with examples from Modcloth, but couldn’t resist this dress. How cute would it be with a black blazer over top? And so versatile (think after work drinks or other nights out)!

Great wavelengths dress $52.99 (modcloth)

Zara had a ton of cute, work appropriate stuff. Literally, dozens of blazers.  However, I can’t get past the oddness of their website.  Does it look to anyone else like the models have had their heads photoshopped around or something?  It was disconcerting to the point of distraction and I found it hard to focus on the clothes.  In my humble opinion – skip the website (I know I generally prefer online shopping too!) and just visit the store.

Zara Dress $59.90

Extremely cute Zara Dress $69.90 (just make sure it isn’t TOO tight)

The perfect chic and feminine black blazer? Zara $99.90

Don’t forget the shoes!

These are a great colour – super professional looking and way cute! $59.95 at DSW

Nice basic wedges. $59.95 DSW

Patent leather flats $129 DSW

Cute, super versatile, comfortable looking ankle boot $229 DSW

The classic peep toe – but so much cuter! $54.95 DSW

A great way to insert your personality into your outfit is with the shoes! These oxford beauties are $153 from Urban Outfitters

A few finds from ASOS:

How I love this funky blazer from ASOS! Just don’t pair it with shorts… $147 NZD

ASOS shirt $70 NZD

ASOS Baroque print skirt $75 NZD

Nordstrom had a seemingly limitless number of cute professional dresses. Too bad most of them cost an arm, a leg, and the your firstborn child.

This cute, colourful Anne Klein shirt dress is on sale at Nordstrom for $84 NZD

And even an ethical work appropriate choice:

Fair trade blouse $54.99 (Mata Traders or Modcloth)

To sum up:

  • Add colour
  • Invest in a few blazers – some plain ones to go over printed dresses, and maybe a fun printed one or two to go with plain dresses and skirts
  • Invest in a number of dresses.  Summer/sleeveless dresses can instantly be winterized by adding tights, blazers, cardigans, etc.
  • Collared tops, particularly the pussy bow style.  Chiffon tops are great because there should be no need to iron them!
  • Pencil skirts, full skirts, printed skirts, plain skirts, wool skirts.  Skirts.  Skirts.  Skirts.  (I know some women don’t “do” skirts – I have only 1 thing to say and that is to get over it.  Almost nothing says put together like a skirt).
  • Some great shoes will really bring your outfit together.  If you want to make them a focal point – pair with tailored cropped trousers.

I think it’s safe to say that there are heaps of other great ideas out there, but this was just to get the ball rolling.  What are some of your favourite cute work clothing ideas?  Where do you get your work clothing inspiration?


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