There are a couple of phrases your parents probably told you when you first started an office job that pertains to dressing professionally, clichés like “dress for success”  or “dressing for the job you want and not the job you have.” Although many professions do require certain clothing for utility, the office environment has a strange sense of ambiguity. Do you wear heels? Do you wear a blazer? Hair up or down? There is no singular answer, as it truly depends on company and culture, however, through my experience working in a corporate setting for the past few summers and having an invested interest in fashion, I’ve learned a few pieces of advice I can share with you.

  1. Be Bold

A good leader leads with a strong sense of self-efficacy and conviction. Even if you don’t manage people, you still have the opportunity to be a leader in any organization. Displaying self-efficacy and conviction through personality can sometimes be difficult when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, so I suggest using your clothing to showcase who you are. I work for an organization of over 40,000 employees, on a team of over 40 people, in a building of several thousand – I truly am a guppy – one of 617 (the number of summer students), might I add. While I’m confident in my work, I want to stand out. Fashion is a universal language, and I’ve received compliments on bright red dresses and pattern blazers from senior leaders, both male and female. It has helped me strike up conversations with SVP’s, and we now do “Floral Blazer Friday’s” on my floor with some of the most senior people I’ve ever worked with. I got noticed and developed a reputation for myself that I am confident enough to stand out and people have come to respect that confidence.

  1. Be Authentic

Don’t ever pretend to be something you’re not.  That’s cliché advice as well, but it has served me well in my career thus far. I wear feminine patterns and structures because that’s the way I identify and the way I feel comfortable. But there is no right answer to authenticity.  Keeping in mind the environment you work in,  structure, pattern, and fit are all up to you and can vary by day.  Some days, I am able to wear flats, trousers, and a cotton blouse. Others, I’m in heels, a dress, and a blazer. On Friday’s, a nice pair of jeans or linen pants will suffice. Dressing to be comfortable, confident, and authentic will help you convey a relaxed and open personality. If you constantly look uncomfortable, others around you might make assumptions about your fit with the role and fit with the company.

  1. Invest wisely

I’m not just saying this because I work at a bank. Investing in good staple wardrobe pieces that are flattering and good quality makes ALL the difference in a summer of 9-5. These are pieces like your classic navy pantsuit, a good knee-length black skirt and a white blouse or two. Staple items can be dressed up or dressed down for any professional setting and are always a good fall back when you’re running late in the morning. Since we likely stopped growing significantly, now is the time to invest in the pieces that will last you not only the summer but into the beginning of your career as well.

  1. Don’t have to break the bank

Although it’s tempting to spend your entire paycheque at Artizia, it’s very doable to look presentable whilst staying on budget. Take the time to explore alternative options to mainstream workwear for more student-budget-friendly items. I’m a firm believer that staples never go out of style, but I am also a big trend-follower. Yes, statement jewelry might go out of style, and yes, so might gingham pants.  My alternative is always to purchase budget friendly “in-style” pieces as opposed to investing in them. You might not wear that corduroy skirt ever again, so don’t spend a lot of money on it. Take the time to assess which pieces are truly worth the time to hunt down and money to purchase.

  1. Have fun

Make sure you enjoy what you wear. The summer goes by so quickly, so whether this is your first summer internship or your first summer in full-time employment, try new things and don’t be afraid to stand out. You should have fun putting together options for workwear and feel confident in each of them. At the end of the day, the work you produce will speaker higher volumes about you as an employee than your style, but if it has any impact on your confidence or attitude, it’s worth attending to.


Avery Johnstone is a fourth-year Health Studies student and guest contributor to MUSE Online.
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