Most of us remember our first jobs of working part-time gigs after school and on weekends at pizza shops, supermarkets, coffee houses, and the like. It’s difficult to completely repress those itchy cotton uniform shirts, bulky name tags, grease-coated hats, and high pony tails to keep our hair from dipping into the deep fryer and hot ovens. If you can relate, you likely recall the feeling of dread when forced to wear a uniform that was a far cry from fashionable and good fitting.

With your branded, corporate-approved uniforms now a thing of the past just like that minimum wage gig you once had, you—like the rest of us twenty-somethings—have probably moved on to a career that allows you to dress more freely. 

Office jobs, freelance work, and the business sector as a whole introduce adults into a workplace where daily attire is a personal choice and reflection of who you are. While most organizations are required to post a company-wide dress code, this list of standard appropriate dress often leaves room for interpretation. 

Looking the Part: Dressing For the Job You Want

Be warned, though: autonomy in dress is not always a good thing. Not every piece of clothing in your personal wardrobe is going to be proper for the workplace. While the temptation to wear leggings, a baggy sweater, and flats may appeal to you, it’s critical to remember to look the part.

In order to make the best impression at work, it’s wise to follow these basic points while assembling your wardrobe:

Presentation counts.

New employees often make the mistake of under dressing. Company-wide mantras like “Dress Down Friday” or “Casual Friday” often give twenty-somethings the wrong idea of what type of dress is deemed appropriate for the workplace.

Employees—especially women (sorry ladies)—are inclined to try and get away with tight black pants, boots, low-cut blouses, and leggings. While these items are perfect for everyday dress, they are not suitable for you average workday. Dressing too casually may lead others to believe you don’t care and/or are content in your entry level role. Those who want to excel and climb the ladder to success are far more likely to dress in suits, ties, and dress slacks. 

Now, this may depend on where you work, but when in doubt, the best presentation lies with those who dress on the more traditional side. Check out Wantable to add beautiful accessories and jewelry to your work wardrobe.

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Casual dress shouldn’t look sloppy.

You probably won’t wear a blazer everyday to work, especially as you settle into your typical daily routine (but you can if you want to!). Some days it may be appropriate to dress on the more casual side, such as a day when there aren’t meetings scheduled or face-to-face contact with clients.

On these days—especially if your office does implement a “Dress Down Friday”—be sure you are still following dress code. We caution against strolling into work in jeans and a graphic t-shirt with disheveled bedhead. Consider a plain blouse and black pants, or something to that effect. It’s not your standard suit jacket, heels, and dress slacks, but it’s an option that still looks presentably casual without appearing sloppy.

Dress as you want to be seen.

This is critical advice for twenty-somethings looking to advance in the workplace. For some, basic entry level work is comfortable and earns a weekly paycheck. Not everyone is working toward earning six figures and becoming a CEO—and that’s okay! If you do, however, strive to occupy a managerial or superior role of some sort down the road, always dress seriously and professionally to demonstrate you are on the upward-bound track.

Even if others stroll into the office in plain dress, don’t be tempted to mimic their informal behavior. On average, statistics show that impressions are determined by the way you dress and act 55 percent of the time. That’s more than half! As you might guess, following a professional and proper dress code is a very big part of your role. How you dress will show your boss how you see yourself and how you want to approach your work.

On a parting note, don’t forget to take your particular workplace into account. When starting out, it’s better to over-dress. However, not every office has strict dress code standards, and in some cases you may stand out rather than blend in with the crew. When assembling your wardrobe, size up your office to see what your coworkers and superiors wear to work every day.

Examples of traditional attire include:

For men: Button-down shirts, polished shoes, suit jacket, dress slacks, ties, sweaters, and a wristwatch.

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For women: Pencil skirts, dress slacks, pantsuits, simple jewelry, polished flats or moderate heels, pantyhose, sweaters, and blazers.

Remember, appearance can create credibility. Dress to impress. Look the part.