I work in an American business process outsourcing company and we do have a dress code. Does everyone follow it? Clearly not. Will that woman wearing the loud floral blouse and the hoochie skirt be viewed as competent? Nope. Does she look like she can be promoted - like she can be a good leader? No. Was her look professional? Not even close.
It's not that difficult to dress appropriately for work, girls. When you work in a corporate office, it's important to dress the part. The people I supervise at work tell me, "Oh Kiss, it's easy for you to say that because you have plenty of clothes and a lot of shoes", but I always tell them that I started out with only a few. I advise them that a wardrobe isn't built overnight. Besides, your wardrobe need not be extensive. Nor expensive. You can start with a few basic pieces that can take you farther than you expect. You always have to start somewhere, right?
I've put together a short compilation of key pieces to kick start your assembly of a good corporate attire arsenal:
1. crisp button-down shirts in dark, solid colors
When I graduated from university, I started applying for a job. My mom first took me shopping and we bought just four dress shirts for me in varying colors: black, white, navy blue and pink. Okay, I know I said 'dark colors' but I couldn't resist the pastel hue. They were inexpensive and were on sale at Kamiseta.
Crisp button-downs are classic, can be paired with anything and very versatile. They instantly make you look polished and presentable. You can buy the long-sleeved variety, the short-sleeved, the mid-length ones (y'know, the ones that end just below your elbow) and there are even cap-sleeved ones. (I would stay away from the sleeveless ones because, on their own, they don't really look as sharp as they would if paired with a blazer, but we'll get to blazers in just a bit) As your wardrobe expands, you can go ahead and buy ones in pinstripes and other great colors.
photo from mydochub.com
2. pencil skirts
My mom bought me two when I first started working: a black one and an ash gray one. They were also on sale at Ensembles.
photo from wkdesigner.wordpress.com
Make sure to choose something that fits well. Mine were maybe half an inch to an inch loose in the waist because I wanted to be able to tuck my dress shirts in without creasing them too much.
photo from ustrendy.com
3. tailored slacks/office pants
If you don't really like skirts, then slacks are for you. I like mine very slightly flared at the bottom. My friend, Arvy, looks good in tapered, straight-cut pairs. Our friend, Nicole, used to wear the skinny ones that ended at the ankles. Just get ones that suit your style and body. You can buy fabric that you like then have a tailor custom make a pair for you. Or you can buy off the rack and have it altered if the fit isn't right.
photo from coldwatercreek.com
4. corporate one-piece dresses
These are what I've been wearing for the past six or seven years at work. (People I work with, when was the last time you saw me wear pants?) I really cannot be bothered that much to think about mixing and matching tops and bottoms anymore so I've resorted to dresses. I have trench dresses, knit dresses and shifts. It's good to start with something that doesn't have loud prints, in a conservative cut and something that you can accessorize with a belt or a scarf or a jacket.
photo from all4women.co.za
I wear printed and colored dresses but I make sure they're not distracting, too frilly-looking and they fit well. I guess it's all right to wear something sleeveless, but nothing skimpy nor revealing, okay? The one below is a great example.
photo from workchic.com
5. a good blazer
Think of a good blazer as a Band-Aid. Throw one on an outfit that may not necessarily be classified as corporate and see how it instantly transforms the look. Really, girls, a good blazer rights a lot of wrongs. Obviously, start with a black one. It's a good investment.
photo from travelingfashionista.com
What's great about blazers is that you can wear them outside of work. I usually wear mine with shorts and heels. You can try other colors too, if you want, as you go along. Here's me in my pink Ensembles blazer which I paired with Topshop pinstriped high-waist shorts, a Mango lace cami, gray studded gladiator Charles and Keith flats and my sister's Accessorize pearl, multiple-strand necklace.
photo taken by The Husband
See? Don't be afraid to buy a blazer because you can wear it outside of the office too. It's value for your money.
6. sensible shoes
Office pumps and corporate heels, I'm afraid, are simply things you shouldn't scrimp on. You can never be well-dressed with bad shoes, ladies. Again, start with a black pair. You can't go wrong.
photo from intheircloset.com
Choose something well-made, with a good heel height, with a classic design and shape and nothing with too many bells and whistles. The one above is a good example.
Remember when Janylin's pointy stilletoes were all the rage? I had those in, I think, six colors. Yep, I used to overdo things. I gave them away or sold them and all that remains now is a black one with a purple snakeskin accent. It's classic but with an edgy twist. I still wear them until today. I love them.
I also wear boots to work and before anyone in the training team wore them, I wore them first. Let me just make that clear and my friends, Arvy, Graeco and Nicole can attest to that. The others just followed. I also wore them with my Mango turtlenecks and slouchy Topshop sweaters and I wore them over my dark skinny jeans on Dress Down Fridays.
7. opaque tights
Dark stockings are a godsend. It was also me and my friends who wore them first. Our office can get really cold and these helped keep us warm. We train in front of a class of twenty and I don't think goose pimples on our legs were a pleasant sight, hence the tights. They make you look thinner, too. Plus, when you feel that your skirt length is more than two inches above your knees - the prescribed length -, then stockings are your friend because they keep you from showing too much skin and you can pass off your look as professional. And for the love of God and all things good, ditch the fishnets and those that come in colors.
photos from stylevitalevd.blogspot.com
8. a good bag
You can get a tote, a boxy bag or a messenger bag. It's up to you. Just make sure the material is sturdy and the design is classic. I use a Longchamp Le Pliage for work but I switch it up with this boxy tote I bought from Rustan's U. The one below is from Mango and it's in a beautiful office-appropriate color.
photo from fashionandbeauty.cafeversatil.com
9. the extras to put the power in power dressing
- a good watch
photo from polyvore.com
- pearl or diamond studs
If they're real, then good. If your pearls are those that cost Php 50 a pair, then go big to let them pop. They won't have the beautiful luster of real pearls so draw classy attention to your face with their size, instead. As for diamond studs, it's better if they're real, of course, but you can go for cubic zirconia pieces, too. You can also wear silver, gold, white gold or rose gold studs in classic designs. My friends, Arvy and Aziel, wear beautiful, understated jewelry to work.
photo from plusshe.com
- a good scarf
A silk one would be nice. Or get a pashmina. Something cream or red or in a great subdued pattern would be awesome. You can wear this to wrap around your shoulders when it gets chilly or as a belt. Style it in such a way that you won't look like your grandma. I mean no offense, of course, but I hope you get what I mean.
photo from vibrantcollection.com
Well, there you have it. I guess I'll end this entry by telling you a story about how one of my mentors talked about corporate dressing. She said that investing in these pieces won't come cheap but they don't have come with hefty price tags either. Be practical, and if you see something you know that will become a great addition to your wardrobe, then go for it. After all, she said, "You have to spend money to make money."
See you in the boardroom, ladies.