8 Ways to Elevate Your Professional Look

Feeling like a frump at work? Your professional wardrobe’s seen better days, and you need a new look. Thankfully, your closet may not be as hopeless as you feel.

With a few suggestions to switch up your style, you can shop your closet and not bust your budget buying a whole bunch of expensive work clothes you end up hating. Here are seven ways to level up your work style.

Consider Your Role

In the past, professionals aimed to create day and night looks, but dressing professionally isn’t black and white. Create functional looks that still allow you to stand out.

Dress for the role you want — within reason. Your style needs to be functional for the type of work you do each day, but an element of leadership or creativity doesn’t hurt.

Return to Colour

Navy and black are the office basics, but what if you showed up to work in a suit in blush or evergreen? Try out earthy tones or pastels. Take pink to the boardroom and mix with other pieces, such as a bold hot pink blazer over a basic, classic black dress.

Focus on Clothes That Fit

A boxy silhouette may look good in a blazer or trousers, and structure adds an element of sophistication and style to your look when included almost like an accessory. The same philosophy applies to buying clothes that truly fit you, not investing in a tent to hide a curvier form or extra rolls.

The sad fact is that stores stock by trends, and you may not always find the cut or fit for you. If you have an hourglass or pear shape, turn to the ‘50s and try on a stretchy pencil skirt that highlights your curves. If lankier, go back to the ‘20s where longer and leaner cuts were in style. Shop vintage fashions and pair them with modern trends for interest.

You may not have time to find such pieces, so invest in a personal shopping service. Matching a ring to the pattern of a vintage skirt may prove difficult, but a personal shopper can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. You can use a line of credit to try out items without investing a significant amount of money upfront, and you may find a new favourite brand.

When you find a piece you love but needs a few alterations, invest in a tailor that can upgrade the item to something more flattering and sustainable.

Follow the Leader

Don’t commit professional fashion fraud and directly copy your supervisor’s look. However, looking to the leaders in the company gives you an idea of the face they present as representatives of a brand, and you do want to reflect that. Do they err toward casual, strictly formal or somewhere between?

What do you see communicated, and how can you pull inspiration from that and the mission statement to level up your work style?

Build up Your Basics

Go back to your closet and pull out your regular work wear. What fits and what doesn’t? What’s lost your interest, and what stays?

Now, build up your basics to form the foundation of a professional capsule wardrobe. Remember that neutrals hold power to give your professional look structure instead of blandness. Foldup black flats travel easily with you for day-to-night looks. Invest in a high-quality black blazer that will last for years — kind of like investing in a leather jacket. Find a crisp white or cream button-down shirt, and pick up a variety of blouses.

Don’t discount a sheath dress that pairs well with a structured blazer and conservative red pumps for a pop. See — accessories can really make those bland basics stand out.

What Are Your Signatures?

You probably have a signature item of clothing you wear casually. Is it a leather jacket, cap or piece of jewellery? What are your signatures professionally?

Your signatures will make you stand out in a crowd, but they will also provide a sophisticated level of comfort that makes choosing your look of the day much easier.

Don’t Fear Leather

People often think of leather as something you wear to a bar, for a night out or if you work for a fashion magazine, but nearly any professional can rock leather in a sophisticated way.

Pastels and florals sweeten a hard look, but straightforward silhouettes may prove easier to work with when outfit planning.

Leather, whether real or vegan, adds a whole new texture into the mix while communicating both an eclectic and collected vibe.

Try on a leather pencil skirt or blazer. Wear leather tassel earrings or a necklace with your look.

Accessories Equal Pops of Personality

Even in a formal setting, traditional suits don’t have to be stuffy. Accessories give you the opportunity to add pops of your personality into the mix. Dare to wear suspenders, hair ribbons, scarves, jewellery, and colourful shoes and socks to add interest to your professional wardrobe. They should be eye-catching but not distracting.

Over the years, people tend to settle into certain styles, which can leave you feeling several decades behind in the office. That doesn’t mean you should set your entire closet on fire, but your wardrobe could do with an upgrade.

Shop your closet first, and then, build upon your basics. Settle on your signature pieces, and experiment with color, shapes and accessories. Soon, you’ll have a whole new professional look without breaking the bank.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum

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