Friends, countrymen: As I mentioned in a post this summer, I have an office job! We’re all student employees, so, baby steps, but the department is cracking down on professional, “business casual” dress. It’s been a while since I’ve done a style post (and it’ll be a while before I do another (mama put on that post-wedding weight), but faithful followers know how I dress. I’m basically a spokeswoman for Madewell. Ripped jeans are my life. I own one blazer.
Luckily, my mom was game to take me shopping for a few office-appropriate dresses to tide me over. But I’m viewing this new dress code as an opportunity to overhaul my entire wardrobe. Since I’m officially going gray (more on that later), I should probably own more than slogan tees. Unfortunately, guidelines about women’s business casual are pretty vague, and range anywhere from “don’t be a slob” to “buy a bunch of skirt suits”. The only resource I’ve found so far that’s been remotely helpful is this list. Refinery 29 also put out a list, but it’s a bit high fashion for working in public schools. Like, I’m not getting away with a silk jumpsuit.
Here’s the thing: there is no such thing as a set business casual dress code for women. For men, it’s shockingly simple—a polo or button-down over khakis. Done. It’s industry standard. But women*, whose wardrobes tend to be more diverse (let’s change that, though #teamromphim), have a lot more at stake, both because of the uncertainty of what’s appropriate and because of the general lack of understanding of men*, colleagues and bosses. Additionally, every workplace is completely different, and some are far more conservative than others. Suddenly, skirt length and neckline depth come into play.
So, here are a few of my tried-and-true favorite pieces and combinations to help ease you into adulting!
The high-necked dress can’t fail. Conservative, stylish, and diverse, this is the #1 best option for women in the workplace, imo.
Tips: avoid strapless or spaghetti-strap looks, keep the hemline close to the knee
This Madewell sweater dress is #goals.
This JCrew stunner is on my wishlist.
Living for this cobalt blue number.
A casual/cool riff on the suit, this look is easy and super stylish. Make sure your jeans are a dark wash, and that the tank isn’t too revealing!
Bodysuit & Midi-Skirt
To tuck or not to tuck—that is the question. Tucking in shirts is a terrible curse. I honestly don’t know how guys do it every day. Inevitably, you get fabric-bunch and spend the entire day stealthily readjusting to avoid lumps and bumps. Plus, if your top’s not long enough, it falls out constantly. Enter, my great love, the bodysuit. Goodbye, lumps! The bodysuit’s design keeps your top looking sleek and in place all day. Pair it with a midi-skirt for maximum cuteness.
Tip: Tall girls—size up! Bodysuit proportions are definitely made for the vertically-challenged. I’m a size S/M and I always order a large for a flawless fit. #longtorsoproblems
Madewell’s body suits are bar none the best.
Classic Blouse (or sweater!) & Trousers
How can you possibly go wrong with this combo? Bonus points for high-waisted pants with tucked-in shirttails!
But what about SHOES?!
This is still an area I struggle with. I’ve spent years putting together a dope sneaker collection, and now all my sweet kicks are collecting dust. I tend to fall back on the same few pairs over and over again, but I’m trying to vary my shoe game.
These are perfect for summer! Avoid super-high heels, since comfort is the main objective. My tip is to invest in one super nice pair that you can wear to events and one everyday pair that looks nice but is secretly cheap enough to replace after a long summer. Get one black pair and one saddle—you’ll thank me.
Here’s your cheapo pair!
And here’s your splurge! Seychelles makes the best sandals ever.
Flats, or shoes with a small heel (less than 2″) are great for sedentary jobs. Opt for a leather/pleather or suede finish for ultimate polish.
These Madewell pumps are the comfiest heels ever. I’m wearing them in the pic above.
These are the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
These are absurdly cheap and very comfortable.
Loafers, oxfords, or (nice) moccasins are a super comfy way to class up an outfit.
These are snazzy and would go with everything.
These are the actual cutest (and they come in pink!)
I’m in Massachusetts where the weather has the potential to be terrible during any season, so boots are a wardrobe must. Make sure you have at least one black and one brown pair. Also, peep toes are awesome for the early fall!
This quilted look is adorbs!
I own boots similar to these (same brand), and they are comfy, chic, and go with everything.
Office environments vary, but I guarantee if you’re in a relatively chill field like higher ed, this will help you conquer the first-job what-the-hell-do-I-wear?! blues. Just don’t forget your BOSS necklace!
*It should be noted that when I write “men” or “women” I refer to all those who identify as such and am not trying to enforce an outdated gender-binary system. Biology ≠ gender.