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Career World Fashion for the Twentysomething Female

Updated on June 16, 2008

Congratulations! You've landed your first out of school job and your new supervisor expects to see your bright smiley face at 8AM sharp Monday morning. The only problem is, unless you were employed as a librarian while you worked your way through the undergrad process, your wardrobe could probably use a corporate makeover. If you don't have tons of green to drop on big name designer threads, consider these tips for diversifying your wardrobe to keep you looking fresh while you're working hard and playing harder.

Let's start with bottoms. As ladies, we're lucky that we have more to choose from than just the plain old work pant. However, don't short change slacks as they can be a valuable staple for any wardrobe. Slacks are comfortable and come in a variety of cuts from relaxed to wide leg to certain signature cuts that vary from retailer to retailer. When shopping for pants, always make sure to try them on first to make sure that they fit properly. No, I'm not talking about your waist; I'm talking about your legs. Pants can be especially tricky for tall women because a pant that fits when standing barefoot in front of the fitting room mirror will look very different when worn with a pair of heels. Likewise, shorter women should be conscious of overly long pants so as to avoid dragging and catching under shoes. A good practice is to bring a pair of heel shoes along when shopping to get an accurate idea of just exactly how your pant will fit.

Shirts and blouses and cardigans, oh my! Ladies, again we have it made in having so much to choose from when buying tops. Button down collared tops with a feminine cut for the torso and bust always make a nice professional statement, but don't forget to explore other options too. Blouses with long, 3/4, short and cap sleeves are options that can be mixed and matched with a variety of bottoms. Also, stock up on a wide variety of camisoles or baby tanks to be layered under sweaters or button downs. They're affordable, and add dimension to an ensemble with colors or patterns. Blouses also pair well with jeans and can be worn as casual options when you're not working. Stretch your dollar by picking items you can wear with other clothes you have.

Don't forget to do some solid sole searching. What would fashion be without shoes? But before you go nuts over cute patterns and strappy styles, consider what role your feet will be playing in your work. If you'll constantly be standing to send faxes, copy papers, give presentations, or set up rooms you'll want to make extra sure that your shoes won't fail you. Heeled shoes are nice, but beware of narrow stiletto types. Wider, thicker type heels provide your feet with more support, especially in walking up stairs or standing. You may also want to check your office's policy on open toed shoes, as some workplaces prohibit these. If you have the green light to show your little piggies at work, you might also consider wedge sandals which pair nicely with skirts during the summer. Of the three categories on this list, I'd say that a good pair of shoes is most worthy of you dropping some dough. You get what you pay for and if you aren't willing to pay money up front for a nice pair of reliable work shoes, you'll pay the price later in sore toes, corns, and calluses.

Lastly, some things to stay away from...

Make sure your wardrobe reflects that of someone going to meetings, not hitting up the club. Avoid loud sequin tops, haulter tops, shorts, short skirts, and flashy accessories.

You also don't want to look like you're heading off for a day at the beach or a run in the park, so leave your flip-flops and sneakers at home.

Make sure you visit the proper stores! I like Hot Topic and Claire's just as much as the next girl, but shopping for business clothes should be done at retailers that offer sections for women (not Junior sizes, but women sizes) like Ross, Express, New York & Co. or Macys.

Be sure to keep your clothes wrinkle free by using a wrinkle eliminating laundry agent, hanging clothes immediately after pulling them from the dryer, or...good old fashioned ironing!

Unless it's casual day, shy away from t-shirts or clothing with large brand names and logos. Some offices offer Sports Team Fridays for employees and on those days it's okay to brandish your 49ers jersey, Celtics hoodie, or Diamondbacks tee.

Remember, you're a twentysomething professional. A mature and well put together wardrobe will impress your boss and colleagues and even change whatever preconceived notion the professional world has about young talent. Put your best foot forward by representing yourself properly. Happy shopping!


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