It’s the season for career fairs, interviews and internship searches. You’ve created a LinkedIn profile, cleaned up your Facebook page, polished your resume to perfection and designed some oh-so-professional business cards to slip into important hands. You’re all set for the big career fair or that interview you landed. But wait… what are you going to wear?
You stare into your closet, looking for something worthy of your squeaky-clean online presence, perfect resume and pretty business cards. But nothing jumps out at you—not even a collared, button-down blouse. You’re short on time and cash. And “business casual” sounds expensive, boring and kinda daunting! But it doesn’t have to be. A career-minded wardrobe can be affordable, cute and reflective of your personality.
With these key pieces, a little mix-and-match magic from your closet and some strategically selected accessories… your first impression will be professional and fashionable.
If you value comfort, ease and versatility, begin your business casual ensemble with a great pair of dress pants. Avoid low-rise, which can cause the notorious “muffin-top.” And opt for straight or slightly flared legs, which are the most flattering. #1: Gray trousers look chic when worn with a black camisole, gold flyaway cardigan, pointed-toe flats and black glasses. #2: Pair camel-hued pants with jewel tones (like this rich purple) for sophisticated color. #3: Black pinstriped pants and a bold red sweater look simple and smart with a pair of black heels. #4: Beige pants worn with a vintage-inspired blouse makes an elegant statement. When selecting shoes, keep in mind the length of your pants so that you’re not walking on the hems all day or flashing your ankles. Alterations may be a necessary added cost, but definitely worth it!
Don’t let the pencil skirt intimidate you. With the right fit and a little confidence, you’ll be working the room in this form-fitting piece. Keep the skirt itself simple and streamlined. Pick a blouse that features pleating, ruffles or a loose bow to add femininity. #1: A silky green blouse with ruffles compliments a black skirt with a bow at the waist. #2: Steel gray and buttery yellow are a lovely match. #3: A blue skirt is a little bolder than black or gray, but a neutral blouse makes it work. In all three looks, the shoes are coordinated and understated. Extra word of advice: make sure your pencil skirt fits well—wear one too tight and you’ll be struggling to walk, sit or even breath!
If there’s one item of business casual clothing that makes you feel more professional just by putting it on, it’s the blazer. Blazers come in a wide variety of styles and can be worn over almost anything. #1: Pay tribute to Jackie O in a cute shift dress with a blazer and ballet flats that match. Top it off with simple strands of pearls. #2: Channel the 1940s with a ruffled blazer, shapely pencil skirt, suede mary-janes and a timeless watch. #3: Pick up one of this season’s trendy “boyfriend blazers.” It’ll go great over a silky blouse tucked into high-waisted trousers. Oxford heels complete the menswear-inspired ensemble.
The right dress can be ideal for the boardroom and beyond. #1: A mustard yellow shift dress looks lovely with a gray blazer and flats. #2 & #3: These simple, short-sleeved dresses are all ready for the office—liven up the gray one with shoes in a rich wine color or tone down the blue one with charcoal pumps. #4: This raspberry-hued dress is pretty under a cozy camel cardigan and worn with matching ladylike heels. When wearing a shoulder-baring dress, remember to cover up with a blazer or sweater to stay warm and workplace-appropriate.
So just to review… #1: Yeah, we heard. Watches are supposedly “out of date” since we can tell time on our technological devices. But realize that a career fair or interview is not the place to be checking your cell for the time. And a fashionable timepiece is, well, timeless. #2: Put your best foot forward with close-toed, ladylike pumps and flats in neutral or dark colors. #3: Need something on your legs? Go for opaque black tights or nude hosiery. #4: Keep jewelry simple, understated and minimal. #5: Conservative blouses are pretty, too. #6: Do your glasses make you feel extra smart? Wear ‘em! It’ll give you an extra boost of confidence.
Visual learner? Here are some great examples of what NOT to wear while job or internship hunting. #1: Unless you’re trying to give Jim Carey’s “Dumb and Dumber” character Lloyd a run for his money, steer clear of bright orange blazers—and purple, pink, yellow (…you get the idea.) #2: Lay off the bling bling. Extravagant jewelry is distracting to you and those around you. #3: Don’t even think about layering that sequin tank under your blazer, missy! Save the sparkles for the night clubs. #4: Hearts, stars, horseshoes… leave the lucky charm bracelet at home. It will not bring you fortune in the workplace. #5: “Mad Men” may be on trend, but get your retro on somewhere else and leave the cat-eye glasses behind. #6: Do not strut in wearing platform pumps (a.k.a. “stripper shoes”), animal prints, peep-toes, straps, sparkles and psychedelic colors. #7: Just say no to plunging necklines. You want your future employers to be impressed with your resume—not your push-up bra. #8: Big bows are for Lady Gaga and Minnie Mouse. #9: Lose the big, gaudy ring. Baubles interfere with handshakes. #10: Mini skirts will only cause you to come up short on making a good first impression. And lastly, #11: Business casual is not a “CEO’s and Office Hoes” party, so skip the fishnets. You’re fishing for a job, not a cute frat boy’s phone number.
Now go work it, girls!