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Diana Vilic

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to dress professional when you're still making it

  • 12:22:00 PM
  • by

Let's admit it, the advice of how teenagers and young adults should dress in a professional setting sucks. We're fed this lie that professionalism is a black suit and we have to work in small details of color if we want to look creative. I'm sure that was the case at some point, but it's not anymore. Now, let me just add this:

Disclaimer: I have not ever worked in an HR position. I can't say these are proven ideas. But, they're modern ways to dress that have helped me tremendously make a great first impression. Long story short, they've worked for me and in my exposure to office/professional environments, these outfits and tricks are considered appropriate.

Let's first break down the idea of professional. It's representing yourself and the company you are associated with, in a respectable manner. What's professional in each company, industry and job changes. Even the environment I'm in changes what is classified as professional.

When you want to do this

My first ever marketing teacher used to teach professional dress like this. She originally worked in the marketing department of a local large chain bookstore. This bookstore itself, is not like your Barns and Nobles of the world, to this day it still is not. It takes pride in being the artsy local bookstore that looks more like a Hogwarts Library, than a bookstore. They have an extensive collection of art, music, and books in almost every topic and language. When she went to work everyday, she did dress professional. But on days in the office, she approached it as a casual friday/still wearing a pencil skirt/dress/or dress pants vibe. When she had to go to other companies and pitch, she wore a suit, but instead of a button up, she'd wear a blouse with an eye catching necklace or earnings, to show the companies creativity it took pride in. She used to tell us, "Dressing professional is like flirting, you dress for the other person. But, you still have to be yourself in all aspects."

Define professional in your setting

Like my teacher said, it's dressing for someone else. What is professional at a business brunch isn't always whats professional for going golf with clients or going to get coffee with a client (whatever your company does). What's appropriate for one workplaces interview, may not be appropriate for another. You have to ask yourself, what works for the industry and situation you are in.
Work outfit

(Warning: Some companies/clients are a lot more old fashioned than others, a dress suit may be appropriate attire for meeting with them.)

Black Jeans

My favorite staple. They're the safest. Not to mention, they're cheap, you can wear them everyday anyways, and they're the most versatile. Here's the trick with black jeans.

  • They can be skinny, but not too skinny.
  • They are only professional if they're well fitting.
  • And tragically, they don't work in every industry. If you're in a creative industry, you can get away with dressing up black jeans for a networking event or some other casual affair. 


Love, Love, Own about 40 of them. Okay that may be a exaggerating (I only own about 38..). Another article you can wear when you don't have to dress up. They're not always as cheap as jeans, but they're just as versatile. The only situation where I can think of where a blouse would not be appropriate is if it's cut too short or if it has too low of a neckline.

Invest in a designer bag

Work outfit

When I say invest, I mean find one you like. I have a closet full of Coach purses, Guess satchels, and Calvin Klein hobos. I'm not telling you to be a brand whore, but having one or two to pick from isn't a bad thing. In fact, they add some class to a dressed down outfit. (Aka if you wear black jeans, heels, a white shirt and a designer bag, you look prepared for most casual business affairs.)

You don't have to pay a lot of money for a good bag. Most of the bags in my closet set me back $25-$40. Which I understand, can still be a lot for most people. Hell, it's a lot for me. But I saved and decided to spoil myself with them.

Now, I say designer bag, because they're typically higher quality and don't need to be replaced that often, and they go with almost every outfit. You can purchase whatever brand or no brand purse you want. But, a cheap purse, take it from me, will break at the most inconvenient time. Also designer bags are made to be cleaned and maintained, cheaper bags are not. They're made to fall apart.


Work Wear

Okay this may be cliche, but invest in a blazer. At least have one well fitting blazer in your closet. They dress up jeans, dresses, skirts...ect.

Never ever ever have chipped nails

It's better to have no nail polish than it is to have chipped nails. The unfortunate truth. Always have your nails maintained. Yes, hiring managers and HR people do look at little details like that. They say more about you than you think.

Learn to walk in heels

It's no secret that heels are professional. They're power dressing. But, nothing looks worse than not being able to walk in them. A good rule of thumb, if you can't walk in them, don't wear them. There are whole beliefs that open toed shoes aren't professional, shoes that aren't black, nude and silver aren't professional and  if they're over 4 inches avoid them. I'm not going to tell you any of that, mostly because I don't know how true that is for every work place. But, a definite first impression killer is wearing shoes that you can't walk in. Power dressing is no good, if you twist your ankle or fall.

Now days, flats, wedges and boots are made to be professional. There's plenty of non-heeled shoes one can wear. And there are heels that come in various heights that are considered professional. As harsh as this may sound, pick one you can walk in.

Color isn't the enemy

One of the lies we're told is color is the enemy in a professional setting. Once again, this might have been true at some point in time. But, it's not now. Color can be worked into outfits, outfits can be worked around colors. That being said, must you wear color? Absolutely not. Now, it may make you look more approachable. But, you can make black and white look just as chic as a blue wrap dress.

Dress your age

Work outfits
This one was the hardest for me to grasp. I was told for so long that I had to wear dress pants to an interview. The first time I was told that was a bad idea, was when I took a college duel enrollment class and my professor was talking about why coaches wear sweatpants. When you're 18-21, yes, you need to dress professional especially. You have less work experience and you're still in/fresh out of college. But, that doesn't mean you need to wear a full suit every time. Guys have it easier, suits are universally recognized as professional. In most cases, it isn't over dressing. For girls, if we wore a full pants suit or dress suit, in most cases, that's overdressed. 

That being said, you can't walk into an interview wearing jeans in most cases. But, you can ditch looking completely formal. Dress pants, a blank shirt, and colorful necklaces, may work in your situation. Or wearing a colorful dress with a blazer or cardigan and heels. When you're young, especially in creative industries, you are expected to not only be professional, but to look creative. That's different in every industry. Keep that in mind when dressing.


Work outfit

I don't understand how people say these are uncomfortable. To me, they're much better than wearing jeans. It's key to have at least one pair of pants you can count on.

Industry standard

Work outfit

When I was taught what's appropriate in different industries. My teacher explained it like this.
In some industries, wearing scrubs is appropriate, but if I walked in a board room in them, I'd be escorted out. In some industries, you have to wear a uniform, but if I walked on stage in a McDonald's uniform, I'd be dragged out. That being said, I can't be a chef in a suit and tie, and I can't run a board meeting in scuba gear.
Now, I can run a meeting in jeans and a sweater. I can cook in jeans. I can be a general manager in a suit. I can be a doctor in a suit. I can wear jeans to teach. What works for one industry, doesn't always work in another. And what works at one company, may not work at another. 
When you dress for work, the most important thing is dressing to get the job done. But, there are rules to follow. Everything in between is your personality.

Be confident

If you hate wearing dresses, no matter how professional they are don't wear them. I've sat in lectures where I was told the key to success was dressing for it. I completely agree. But, in this day and age, professional isn't just a suit. In fact, in some companies today, a suit is considered unprofessional. Maybe, it's the Internets fault, or the growing job market, or whatever. When you dress, you need to dress as much for you, as you do for anyone else. The definition of professional is wide. To convince people you made it, when you didn't, you need to dress like you made it. You have to let people be able to picture you at your goals.

Sometimes, the key is to be confident. I mean it's called power dressing afterall. Dress to feel powerful, successful, follow your logic. Of course, you need to take into account where you are, and the situation you're in, but nothing is wrong with being creative with your outfit. As long as you follow your companies policy.

More outfit ideas here

Marketing student with a focus in visual marketing with a addiction to coffee.


  1. Great selection!

    Please click on the link on my post

  2. Great collection, and tips as well. Nice post, dressing up isn't just for style, it for the people to acknowledge who and where you are <3

    Follow for follow on Instagram, GFC, Bloglovin and Google+? :)
    Capturing Life Memoirs | http://aimeebustillo.blogspot.com

  3. These are such great tips!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

  4. All the tips you gave are really good, and eve if your teacher didn't work for Hogwarts, she was very well dressed, I am sure :) I think that a bag is very important, a blazer as well and depending on the job back jeans will do. I worked for international banks, so black jeans was a no-no. I had to wear blazers, for sure, but later as a teacher myself black jeans and more relaxed, but still well-put outfits were good!

  5. I definitely dress for my age for my office job. I wear black jeans a lot, but also compensate with a nice blazer and colourful blouse :)

    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

    1. Me too! Nevertheless I love to wear a masculine black suit too! It looks always very professional! ;)
      Thanks a lot for your nice comment on my blog, Diana!


  6. So unique~~!! Thank you for this!
    I believe it all comes down to the shoes and the bag. You can always dress in a simple white button down and fitted pants but the accessories make it pop and profesional!


  7. There are some brilliant tips in here for dressing in a professional environment! Although I chose to walk in a different direction to follow my dreams, I once used to work at an investment bank and this post would have really helped me out had I read it at the time haha! :)

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice


  8. Happy Wednesday, lovely! Great post! Love!
    I truly hope this day is as beautiful as you are, stunning lady!
    Sending you much love!!!
    xoxo, Vanessa

  9. This is awesome life style, nice fashion model. You are beautiful. I like what your style. Regards: Blog Tutorial Supporter


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