By Jennifer Pollock
The office is not the place for bold and risqué fashion statements. So unless you work at American Apparel, leave the fuchsia leggings at home and abide by these rules: look polished, look clean, and look professional
The First Day
Arming yourself with outfits for the first few days of work will save you the stress of having to mad-dash-it to Banana Republic during your lunch break. However, it may be worth getting a lay of the land during your first week before you go on an all-out shopping spree. Different industries and offices have different standards, and everyone's got a different definition of business casual . While you're settling in, size up what other people in your office (namely, your peers) are wearing. If you’re still at a loss, there’s no harm in asking a coworker what flies and what is off limits. Note that summer-wear is typically more casual than year-round attire, so don’t rush out and buy an armload of Bermuda shirts (actually, don’t do this even if it is summer) because fall fashions will likely be a bit more formal.
Women (men, skip to second page)
Dress codes for women are often very difficult to decipher, so it’s a good idea to start off with the basics. This includes a skirt that hits just above the knee, slacks, flats or moderate heels, sweaters, blouses, collared shirts, and maybe some simple jewelry to spice things up a bit. Buy this stuff in basic colors (blacks, whites, neutrals) so that you can mix and match to maximize your wardrobe once you start adding other pieces. For casual days, pair your dressy items with more casual stuff (dark jeans, bright skirts).
Before you leave in the morning, measure yourself up against this checklist:
Women’s Clothing Stores
Luckily, there’s no shortage of go-to stores for women’s office attire. Banana Republic , J.Crew , and The Gap are always safe bets for basic dresses, collared shirts, slacks and blouses. Slightly pricier, Ann Taylor is a solid option for nice suit sets that work great in a more formal work environment.
Suggestions From the Field
“I love editor pants from Express and collared shirts from Club Monaco,” says Stephanie Johnson, 25, who works an at investment management firm. “ Target also has some really great sweaters and work clothes at great prices. Most people don’t think of Target as a place to buy work attire, but I definitely have a few things from there.”
Kate Hughes, 25, wh...