Design Fashion

Dressing Fashionably and Affordably for a Creative Office Environment

November 12, 2014

I know that this post title makes it seem like I am about to bestow upon everybody a Holy Grail of sorts. After all, I think that most of us 20-somethings have Googled something similar when we started new corporate and office jobs. If my search history could speak it would (among other things) look like the pleading questions of a person who has lived under a rock, communicated with no person, and all of a sudden wants to know how clothes work in an office for a job that they presumedly phone interviewed for. Things get especially confusing when you, like me, end up working in “creative” environments like start-ups, agencies, and other semi-casual work environments.

So let me bestow some simple wisdom to the other young professionals out there who want to balance looking professional, looking fashionable, and feeling comfortable. I promise that this is doable. It is a brave new world, but fashionable women have been doing it for forever. I have personally followed all of these rules by thrifting, but I will also leave some links for you, my lovefaces, to affordable retailers in case you want something easy. Just know that I completely believe in you and your ability to make this happen for even less.

Pop That Color

via Veronika’s Blushing

The way that I begin to feel every office out is by using this as the first step. The way to figure out what is appropriate for your specific environment–besides watching the other people in the office–is start off with the “normal” office attire and branch out slowly. The best trick in my opinion is to stick to neutrals and monochrome pieces for all of your clothes but then sneak in a little color with a bright accessory. If this seems okay, then maybe wear a brighter color for either a shirt, blazer, pant, or skirt.

Suggested Shopping (if you refuse to thrift):

Forever 21 – Chiffon-Paneled Georgette Top – $19.90

H&M – Oversized Top in Mustard Yellow – $12.95

Target – Sterling Silver Twisted Seed Bead Necklace – Green  – $14.99


Accessories Are Your Friends

I cannot emphasize the power of accessories enough. We all have had that day where we feel too lazy to do more than jeans and a tee, but then discover that with the addition of just one statement necklace you can suddenly look SoCal chic with your crazy hair and sunglasses. Accessories are little power houses of fashion, for real. The same absolutely applies for the office.

Even if you work in an environment where you have to keep to the more strict side of semi-casual you can still explore fashion via great accessories. Necklaces are usually the easiest, as long earrings and bracelets make a lot of unnecessary noises. Don’t forget to find great, skinny belts that can stand out and define your rockin’ waist.

I haven’t even started on shoes and purses…

Suggested Shopping (if you refuse to thrift):

Forever 21 – Triangle Statement Necklace – $16.90

H&M – Short Beaded Necklace – $17.95

Target – Merona Skinny Belt – $12



Blazers Are Your Besties

I seriously cannot even emphasize how important blazers are. The reason why I am so hardcore about this is because this is the wardrobe staple that can most easily translate into everyday-wear (and I am all about making work pieces work at night and for the weekends). I personally have blazers in neutrals (black, tan, and white) but also in bright green, bright blue, grey and white stripes, and I once fell in love with a yellow blazer that did not fit. I’m still not over it.

One of the best ways to explore the versatility of blazers is on “casual Friday.” If your office allows jeans then try out a normal jeans-and-tee pair (a nice tee!) and add a blazer on top of it. Bam, you’re an office superhero in an amazing outfit to match your personality. As a bonus, you get to feel comfortable for once.

Suggested Shopping (if you refuse to thrift):

Forever21 – Sequined Open-Front Blazer – $32.90

H&M – Jacket with Puff Sleeves – $34.95

Target – Women’s Ponte Blazer in Cranberry – $34.99


Patterns Love You

Source: Curves & Confidence

via Curves & Confidence

Okay, let’s be real. I know that many people are completely afraid of patterns because they can seem difficult to pair up with other things. (As a person who loves mixing patterns this seems like blasphemy to me, but I understand that we all can’t be Mindy Lahiri.) However, especially when dressing for a semi-casual or creative office, they can be the key to your new favorite outfit. Like with the previous rules this is something that can be integrated as a simple piece of your outfit puzzle, snugly nestled among more tried and true office pieces. There is nothing better than a polka dot, floral, stripe, or other unexpected visual pop in the mirror (or, more likely, computer screen reflection) to remind you that you are so wonderful and so chic (which you absolutely are).

Suggested Shopping (if you refuse to thrift):

Forever21 – Cheetah Print High-Neck Blouse – $22.90

H&M – Floral Slacks – $24.95

Target – Women’s Midi Pencil Skirt – $22.99


Nice Flats Are The New Heels

Via Mrs Lilien

There are few things that can make me start sobbing and making grabby hands as much as some good flats. My love affair began back in high school when everybody was obsessed with ballet flats. I quickly moved on to pointed-toe flats and have never stopped being obsessed.

“But Elle, don’t you sit down most of the day? Why can’t you just wear heels?”

Shhh. I do, and I can, but there are also days where you don’t want to be afraid of getting carpet burn when you fall on your knees on the way back from the bathroom which I did three times this year shut up.

So for those of you who, like me, are behind a desk, or for those who have to stand up and want to rest their feet without sacrificing fashion–please! Explore the world of great flats.

Suggested Shopping (if you refuse to thrift):

Forever21 – Quilted Ballet Flat – $17.80

H&M – Loafers – $14.95

Target – Roana Pointed-Toe Flats – $23.99


And The Cardinal Rules:

Fit In To the Corporate Culture

This is extremely important. As much as we may want to still be screaming “I’m young! I’m hip! I’m free!” we do have to accept when we have to give a little for the sake of, you know, getting and keeping a job. Some offices will completely let you fly your freak flag (hence an outfit of mine earlier in the year that included an orange blazer and a shirt with Biggie Smalls) and then there are others that would prefer a more conservative look.  Curtailing our crazier fashion sense can be an okay sacrifice in the long run.

Remember, even if it feels like your workplace is a jail of monotonous clothes:

  • Black-and-white is absolutely chic! If you need to, bring a bright red purse to live out your style for you…under your desk…where your extra snacks are safe…
  • Navy is always fun to experiment with, especially in pairing with greys and white. I bet you already have some great outfit ideas in your head, right?
  • You can still have a little fun with accessories! If you sit down, make sure you wear shoes that will make you smile when you see them.
  • You are still you, no matter what you wear at work.


Keep Your Head Up & Do You

I know that we are all tired of “confidence is sexy,” “confidence is key,” “confidence is the only thing between you and imminent death,” and other similar platitudes. I won’t sit here and tell you that all you need to feel successful at work is feel confident–though for those of us who deal with anxiety at work, faking it can certainly help sometimes. But I will say instead that owning your shit is the first and last rule of fashion. No matter what, the fact that you have a job means that you are a badass motherfucker. You convinced somebody of your skills, and you get to show that off every single day. So wear what makes you feel the best. You hate everything I just said? Do your own thing! You would rather keep with pants suits? Do your own thing! No matter what I’m nodding my head, high-fiving you and talking you up.

I believe in you!

Follow my personal inspiration for work fashion @Pinterest: You Betta (Look Good At) Work

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