Dress for the job you want
The musts have changed. Writer Lauren Chan tells what to wear to nail it now.
there were many parts of my former life as a plus-size model I found difficult: dealing with rejection on a daily basis and posing for 12 hours straight in too-small shoes, to name just two. But getting dressed was never an issue. With skinny jeans and a scoop-neck T-shirt, I could consider myself dressed for work – a feeling that ended abruptly when I left the modelling world and became a fashion writer. I wanted to be taken seriously and I knew my usual distressed denim wouldn’t do it.
When I landed an interview at GLAMOUR US, I was so stumped that I spent hours combing street-style galleries to see what fashion editors were wearing to work. I got the job – thank you, black jumpsuit, menswear blazer, pointy-toe pumps and bucket bag! – but then I faced an even bigger hurdle: how to build an entire closet of editor-level looks.
I’m sure you can relate to the challenge – because dressing for work
has always been tough. You have to find clothes that feel good, flatter and fit into your office culture. But these days they have to push your personal brand, too. What’s more, in an age when CEOS wear hoodies and lawyers sport tattoos, it’s hard to know what ‘work-appropriate’ means.
“Because of diminishing boundaries and an individuality-embracing culture taking over, the idea of what success looks like is becoming less clear-cut,” says Caroline Ghosn, founder and CEO of Levo, a leading career website for millennials. In other words, the struggle is real! So I set out to decode 9-to-5 fashion in the age of Zuckerberg.
Step 1 Hone your work style
First things first, get to know your workplace’s culture, say all the experts I spoke to. Do jeans get the go-ahead or are jackets required? Then identify your own style. Are you a trouser suit person? A sheath dress devotee? You don’t need
to wear the same thing every day, but you do want to be consistent. I stick to menswear-inspired silhouettes and always try to wear a heel.
“Ask yourself what you love to wear on your downtime and translate that into the pieces you buy for the office,” says luxury consultant Roopal Patel. “If you like colourful patterns, they should be part of your work wardrobe, too.”
There are, however, limits to showing your individuality, so don’t be duped by the Instagram-approved message of ‘doing you’ 24/7 – especially if ‘you’ is a micro-mini or mesh crop top.
“Show your personality without being distracting,” advises Sophia Amoruso, founder of online store Nastygal.com and author of the memoir #Girlboss (Penguin Books; R236). “You don’t want fake eyelashes, boobs pushed up to your chin or too-high heels. A sense of subtlety is required at work.”
Sophia’s own style evolved as her company grew. “There was a time when, because I have tattoos and wore boots to