Big Personality, Little Cash: Tips for Dressing the Unique Young Professional Woman

Hello, readers! It’s Bethany here on the blog-o-sphere today. Let’s play a quick game:

True or False?

Life after college is an enigma. True

Being in your mid twenties is tough. True

Landing a decent job is tough. True

Dressing yourself as a young professional WHILE maintaining your personal style once you have said decent job is also tough. True.

True, you say? Well what do ya know, it’s like I forced the answers to lead into my blog post or something. Heh, guilty. Allow me to connect the dots:

As a 20 something individual, I understand stumbling around in the abyss looking for a decent job. Jobs are not easy to find these days. So when you snag a good one,  use your style to celebrate yourself and  your professional achievements! When I first started working a professional job (or big girl job as it is so often referred), I had no clue what to wear. All I knew was this: I couldn’t wear my skinny jeans, vans, or my hats. I have always loved fashion, but I didn’t have much experience in how to create a business casual style that reflected my own personal style. Don’t get me wrong I had a few pieces for college presentations and interviews, but none of my pieces reflected the style I enjoy. Anybody else having flashbacks of over-sized flared black slacks and a plain blouse? There’s nothing wrong with this style; however, this is what I assumed to be my dead end fashion destiny. I wanted the yellow brick road, not the dead end.

A year into my first job I started slowly building a better professional wardrobe. Fast forward to now (two years later) and I have a better understanding of how to balance  professional life and  personal style. Why does this matter? It matters because I don’t want Monday through Friday Bethany to be a completely different person than Weekend Bethany. You feel me?

How do we achieve a balance?

Take the typical business casual rules (give or take a few minor changes depending on the institution):

  • Skirts/dresses must meet the knee
  • No tank tops (some companies may have an allowance for wide straps)
  • No sheer tops without something decent underneath
  • No shorts (some places may allow business knee length shorts)
  • No flip flops (at least everywhere I have worked)
  • Nothing low cut
  • No t-shirts/graphic tees (some places a plain fitted tee is acceptable)
  • No jeans (except for the beloved casual Fridays)

Anybody else feel like this leaves one option?

Those blasted baggy flared slacks and a plain blouse.

FALSE 

This is my perspective on how you take the dress code and blend it with your personal style, all while sticking with a small budget! The key is to get nice neutral basics, and to pair them with your style of clothing! Let’s take a look at the basics, and how to use them in multiple ways.

If you only remember two things about this post, REMEMBER THIS:

  • Get neutral, well fitted, modern, multi functional basic pieces.
  • Having these basic pieces will allow for fun additions. These fun additions should be used to bring your style into the mix.
  1. Black Blouse:

Getting a comfortable black blouse is imperative. I would suggest long sleeved, stream lined, and long enough to tuck in.  Having this classic piece  allows you to pair it with more fun/trendy bottom pieces. This would also pair well with a chunky necklace; however, my necklace collection is minuscule. A girl can imagine right? Below you will also find brands and estimated pricing. Check out how I paired my black blouse for some ideas:

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Black Blouse– Forever21 $12.90

From left to right:

  • Skinny ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00
  • Patterned pants–Forever21 $19.90
  •  Burgundy ankle slacks–JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $4.00…yeah that was some kind of genius Sale I hit. Genius I say.

2. Knee lenth black dress:

I would have preferred this dress just a few inches longer, but I believe over time it shrank in the wash (whoopsie). **Helpful tip: Wash on cold, tumble dry. I love spicing this one up with colored tights in the fall/winter. Here I have paired it with a few blazers, but it can also stand alone! This length of dress or skirt pairs best with a very small heel. On the right I paired it with a modest nude wedge. It is rare to spot me in a heel, but this is just my personal style. What can I say, flats win over everything else! I’m a touch biased.  Always say yes to a little (or in this case knee length) black dress. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Black dress–Old Navy $29.00

From left to right:

  • Cropped striped blazer– Forever21 garage sale (original price unknown)
  • Light beige blazer– Forever21 $32.00

3. Plain Button Down

I chose to show my light blue button down, although there are many neutral colors you can choose from! For example,  I have white, light blue, jean, and white with black polka dots. I can use this piece in countless ways. This is one piece you will want to make sure is tailored to your body. An ill fitting button down can cause problems. I would love to invest in a little bit better one, but this shows you an idea.  One shirt, so many options. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Blue button down– JCPenny’s $14.00

From left to right:

  • Black ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00
  • Blue patterned sweater–Forever21 Garage sale swag (original price unknown)
  • Black pencil skirt: JCPenny’s $20.00

4. Neutral Season Blazer (Modern fit)

This is my most recent (and favorite) basic piece. A neutral blazer can be worn with almost anything. This modern design would make it easy for me to transition my business outfits to a night out with my friends, simply by switching the slacks for a dark wash skinny jean. I chose this color specifically because it can be used across all the seasons. This light beige looks great with black and burgandy–making it a great addition for fall and winter. You can also pair it with light pieces to flow with spring and summer. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Neutral blazer (modern fit)–Forever21 $32.00

From left to right:

  • Black knee length dress–Old Navy $29.00
  • White dress– Charlotte Russe $29.00
  • Black ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00

5. Basics allow for FUN details:

You have seen me pair the above basics in many different ways. While these are great basics, I would also suggest these basics:

Additional Basics:

  • Modern black ankle slacks
  • White blouse
  • Pencil skirt
  • Black blazer
  • White button down
  • Black flats
  • Cream/neutral flats

Now that you understand how to pair your basics with modern style, let’s learn how to spice them up a little! I suggest these basic pieces so that your FUN pieces aren’t too overwhelming in the work place.  I suggest the following to light up your basics:

Fun Additions:

  • Colored slacks (seen above paired with black blouse)
  • Watch that matches your personality (seen below)
  • Trendy high-waisted slacks (seen below)
  • Fun hair (seen below)
  • Fun patterns (seen below)
  • Vintage pieces (seen below)
  • Colored/metallic shoes
  • Bold necklace
  • Fun belt
  • Colored tights in fall
  • Colored/patterned scarf in fall
  • Bold hand bag/briefcase
  • Fun nail polish

Let’s check it out for a few fun additions ranging from jewel details to high-waisted slacks to vintage pieces:

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While I don’t have all the answers or a heaping pile of money to spend on clothes, I do have this: A better understanding of my own style, and how to incorporate it into the workplace. I would love for you to try the same! Get your modern basic pieces, then find fun ways to incorporate your style! This allows you to have more confidence in yourself while you’re working! Always keep your company’s dress code in mind, and have fun with what you can wear.

Keep in touch with me on Instagram at Bethno13. While you’re there, check out a really easy way to keep up with our recent blog posts: #OakAndEarthBlog. We would love to hear from you. I also want to give my husband Denver a shout out for taking these pictures of me while I posed awkwardly next to our garage while the Landlord mowed our lawn. Instead of ending on awkwardness, I’ll close with this lovely quote:

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”- Coco Chanel

Unitl next time,

-Bethany <3

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