We live in an age of what I like to call fashion libration. For the most part, everyone can wear whatever they want. Where there once used to be rules for fashion (like don’t wear white after labor day), there now seem to be none. Which is great! Everyone should be allowed to wear whatever they want and how they want it, but there are still certain areas in which societal standards and rules that have been around since who knows when still reign supreme. For better or for worse, at some point we all have to learn about professional dress. Here are my tips for blending personal style and professional style.
1.Classic Silhouettes/Shapes - Focus on classic silhouettes and shapes in more modern or trendy cuts and colors. We all know what “classic” professional wear includes. Things like dress pants, buttons- ups, pencil skirts, etc (the list goes on and on). The trick here is to find these pieces and shapes and buy them in the colors you like. These days these pieces come in every color and in multiple patterns. Therefore it's about figuring out the colors and patterns you like, while knowing your job environment well enough to know how far you can take it. Some environments you can do more wild and color prints like neon, where others the furthest you can go is a stripe, polka dot, or cheetah print.
1.5 . If you are in one of those places where you have to stick to the basics (black, blue, white). It is important to take a look at texture and shape. A slight sheen, and oversized ness to a blazer can bring some added flair in a more restricted environment or when you are trying to play it safe.
2. Freedom of the Shoe - Typically this is the one area of professional dress where you have the most freedom. No one is really looking at your feet and if there is a rule usually involves no open toed shoes or heel heights more than 2-3inches. Which I think it actually pretty standard across the board and even in non-professional jobs. When I was working retail, these were the shoe rules we had to follow as well. That being said, outside of these simple restrictions, shoe it up. Be as loud or as quiet as you wanna be in the shoes. These days shoes are just as much of a statement as the outfit itself. Feel free to play around a little.
3. Dress like the mannequins or shop the collections online - So if all else fails and you can’t figure out a way to keep your personal fashion identity while dressing professional, take a look at the way mannequins are styled in store. On the other end of things, if you shop online, look for what they are putting out as examples. For example, Express has a whole section dedicated to inspo, and one of them is an example of a capsule wardrobe that showcases 9 of their pieces for the season and shows you 33 ways to wear them. One of the things I like to do each season is check out this collection and see what pieces and looks I like. While I don’t necessarily dress exactly in the example, it gives me a way to find the professional pieces that match my fashion identity, and if I don't like the color that something is in, chances are they have the same piece on their website in a different color that I would prefer to wear. By doing this it helps me to create good mix and match pieces for professional and casual wear. Therefore, helping me to dress professional while keeping my fashion identity.
4. Keep two wardrobes - Ultimately if you can’t find a happy marriage between your fashion identity and dressing professional, and you have the means and desire to do so, consider keeping two wardrobes. One with those professional pieces that you have to wear to work, and one with the things that make you happy. This separation can be useful to those of us who work in the types of careers were strict boundaries have to be kept, and as a form of self care and not taking the work home with you. This separation can help you to destress and relax after a day of perhaps giving you all to something or to other people.
So these are my tips for dressing professionally while keeping your fashion identity!
And here is an example of me in one of my favorite professional styled outfits.
Based on the image you can see that I have chosen a classic shape with a trench coat. Looking closer at my shirt you can see the collar on my button down has eyelashes on it. Therefore keeping my fashion identity, while looking like professional.