Help me dress myself for my new job

I know these types of threads are done a lot, with really helpful suggestions, so here I go…

I am starting a new job next month and I’m very, very excited about it. There is just one problem: I’m not sure what to wear.

My points of worry…

  1. This is my first supervisory position. My current job has a very casual dress code, so I don’t really have a “business dress” point of reference at all.
  2. I’m young and I look younger. I don’t want to look like a little girl playing dress up.
  3. It’s going to be excruciatingly hot for a month or two. Is there a way to look professional and still stay cool?

Some additional information:

  1. I’m a female.
  2. I have no problem with skirts or high heels.
  3. I’m working for a university, so I don’t need to wear power suits or anything like that.
  4. I’m about 5’5” and wear a size 8. I have as average a body type as it’s possible to get.
  5. My fashion statement of choice tends to be “librarian.”

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Black, grey pants/skirts, button down shirts?

Some pants

More pants

A skirt

A shirt

Another shirt

All those things are from New York and Company. I like to shop there because they have affordable dress pants in tall sizes, but it’s a “regular” store with plenty of average length stuff and petites too. And lots of great sales. Pants are often buy one get one half off, so you can get two pairs of dress pants for around $60 or so. I’ve gotten compliments on a grey striped pair I bought there last winter, I think they still had them in the store recently on sale.

So I’d say get some cute pants and skirts, and well-fitting shirts (good fit is important when you don’t want to look like you are playing dress-up!) Cute heels, maybe a piece or two of nice looking jewerly, and you look professional.

Lots of cute but not “junior-ish” separates–tops, slacks, skirts, a jacket or two. You can wear a professional-looking sleeveless or short-sleeve blouse and have a jacket or long-sleeve shirt over it for when you’re in air-conditioning. That’s how you survive in summer, in Florida–layers, just like winter up north! :smiley: Some low-heeled shoes for comfort (a nice mary-jane or ballet flat works) and some classy-looking jewelry to round it all out.

I also look fairly young for my age and I’ve found that keeping it simple is usually the best. Makeup in neutral colors and understated earrings, with my hair tied back. Also, in the summer it’s strictly skirts for me. Mostly A-line skirts. I get hot easily and any type of pants would be torture.

Blouses are nice, but sometimes I find them confining (and sometimes unbearable in the really hot months). In the summer I usually alternate between blouses and shirts. Places like Banana Republic usually have shirts that are more comfortable than blouses yet dressy enough for work. Something like this maybe.

Stick with understated, tailored clothing - nothing overly trendy - until you’ve established your authority. No hiphuggers and no cleavage. And definitely no strappy sandals or flipflop style footwear no matter how hot it is!

Skirts (and jackets, if jackets float yer boat), in neutral solid colors like navy blue, beige, gray, black. Not white, because it shows every ballpoint pen mark and dust smudge. Slacks ditto.

If you can find skirts that have pockets, they will rule. Every so often you just need to stick something in your pocket (keys, kleenex, item confiscated from subordinate), and if you have a pocket in your skirt to stash that employee ID card you just found on the floor while you walk past all of them until you can get back to your office and look it up to see who lost theirs, you will bow low and bless the skirt’s designer.

Hemline: here mileage will vary wildly. Personally I prefer a career woman’s hemline to be at, or just below, her knee (yes, I am your Mom :smiley: ). This is a flattering length, and it avoids you having to constantly be tugging your skirt down every time you sit down in a chair. It also sends a “I’m a serious person” signal in my opinion, because, let’s face it, male co-workers ARE going to be looking at your legs, and a businesslike, modest hemline will encourage their attention to remain on task. Higher hemlines tend to signal “I’m interested”, so do your purchasing and hemming accordingly.

Blouses, shirts, turtlenecks, can be white or in brighter colors, to jazz things up so you don’t look like Miss Navy Blue 2008. Also look for pretty prints.

No see-through. And also, in my very humble opinion, also no exposed bra straps, even athletic bras. My daughters and I have had to agree to disagree on this issue, but I’m old-fashioned, and exposed bra straps make me uncomfortable. So it’s a pretty sure bet that where you’re going, there will be other Fifty-somethings who will also be made uncomfortable by exposed bra straps.

And along those lines, personally I’d always wear a slip so the outline of the bra isn’t revealed. Again, I’ve had to disagree with Young People Nowadays on the idea of the colored bra as just another fashion accessory, meant to be seen through the blouse.

Conservative heels, by which I mean “librarian heels”. If it’s got a spike, it’s the wrong pair. Depending on how much walking you’re going to do during the day, you’ll want a lower heel for more walking, or even flats. IMHO good-quality leather shoes send a better message than Payless Plastic.

Ditto pocketbook: good quality, not too huge, businesslike. Personally I like zippered compartments and lots of 'em, because that way when you’re running for an elevator and you slip and fall on your ass, all your junque doesn’t go flying out all over the floor from your overloaded open bag.

Regarding shoes and purse, I always remember Hannibal Lecter’s scathing remark to Clarisse Starling about her “cheap shoes and good purse”, meaning she spent money on things people would see, like her purse, but skimped on the things she didn’t thing anybody would ever notice. But of course, he noticed; she should have spent the money on good shoes, because they’ll last a long time and you need them to be comfortable, but a purse is just a fashion accesory.

Minimal jewelry–small earrings, tasteful gold chain (one). Personally I’d eschew the huge dingle-dangle earrings. They may complement your jawline and look dynamite, but they send a Teen Wannabe message IMO, not commensurate with your supervisory position. Big earrings also make it difficult to hold a phone against your shoulder.

Sweater, in case your office keeps the thermostat at 70. Make it a simple cardigan in a neutral “goes with anything” color, like navy blue or black. Good luck finding one, you may have to shop online.

In my experience, Wal-Mart is useless for “career woman” type clothes; they tend to major in up-to-the-minute teen-oriented Fashion with a capital F. You’ll be better off at stores like Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and JC Penneys.

White pantyhose will make your legs look fat. Just sayin’. :smiley:

ETA: Your office doesn’t have A/C? To stay cool, you’ll have to wear cotton. Nothing but cotton, and linen, too. No polyester, if you can help it.

Ew. Colored bras should never be seen through the blouse, fashion accessory or no. :eek: I have to admit that I am guilty of sometimes wearing shirts where the outline of my bra is somewhat visible in the back, but never the bra itself. If people can tell what color your bra is, you definitely need to be wearing something else underneath.

Not that I’m suggesting anyone here would be guilty of this. :slight_smile: I just had to rant; I used to have a coworker that would wear electric blue bras under white shirts. :dubious:

Visible colored bras in the workplace? Please tell me you’re making that up.

Sorry, must dash and yell at the kids on my lawn… :stuck_out_tongue:

I always wear a matching tank top under dress shirts (white under white, black under black). The fitted cotton “cami” ones I get at Target for like $8. I still button the shirt but the tank gives me extra bra/cleavage hiding.

I love New York & Company. You can find professional-looking clothes there that don’t make you look 65 (or like a skanky ho). I’m 5’1, and they’re the only place I’ve found which stocks dress pants that fit me.

I also work for a university and look younger than I am. I’ve found it much better to dress up than dress down. If I dress casually, people (students, faculty, visitors) tend to assume I’m a student. I don’t wear hose and heels on a daily basis, but I never, ever come to work in jeans. And it’s worth investing in at least one good suit, for when the Board of Trustees comes to visit or you give a presentation at a conference.

More general advice: think mix and match. For bottoms, go for an assortment of pants and skirts in black, gray and tan. You can pair those with anything. I prefer red, burgundy. black and blue tops to white, because I can never keep white shirts clean enough! (If you’re a neater eater than I, YMMV.) I’d avoid pastels–they’ll make you look younger. **Duck Duck Goose **is right on about the cardigan; you’ll definitely want one to stash in your office.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good haircut! I’m not saying you need to spend $80 every time you go the hairdresser, but when I switched from El Cheapo Ten Dollar Cuttery to a nicer local place, I was amazed at what a difference it made.

I can’t find a picture of an actual teenage girl with her neon bra clearly visible, but I did find this blog, so I’m not having a Senior Moment, and it’s apparently not just a Decatur thing.

It doesn’t sound like she’s kidding…

Exhibit A: Eva Longoria. Is she making a fashion statement, or is she just clueless?

Exhibit B: Victoria Beckham.

Hollywood today, the workplace tomorrow. Sigh. Now excuse me, I have to go holler at some kids on my lawn.

And then there’s Accessorizing with bra straps. Makes me go, “Bwah?”

My office does have A/C, but I have an hour long commute in the morning and most subway platforms in NYC are stifling hot and humid. I really don’t want to walk into my office with a beet red face, sweat stains under my arms, and my hair plastered to my forehead.

I am a firm believer in the knee-length skirt. I am a firm non-believer in exposed bra straps at work.

These tips from everyone have been really helpful. I’m going shopping next weekend and I’m going to bring a copy of this thread. And I’m going to try everything on before I spend a dollar.

FWIW, if you’re not adverse to shopping on-line, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and Coldwater Creek (which has some really cute, professional blouses/tops) are all having massive on-line sales right now.

I wanted to add: tailored connotes authority. Loose and flowy does not. Think this, not this . I like the second dress, but not for a work situation where you want to project expertise and confidence.