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Assess to Impress: A Guide for Professional Dress

professional dress
Anna Durkin
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Published on July 22, 2014

In the wake of the stressful job application process and interview preparation, many students and college graduates overlook the importance of personal presentation. While the content of the interview is of the most importance, many employers are greatly influenced by the professionalism and appropriateness of the interviewee’s wardrobe. This aspect is true not only throughout the interview process, but in the office environment, after obtaining that dream internship.

As an aspiring member of the fashion industry, I feel an extra pressure in the professional world. While I feel obligated to fulfill the invisible standards of industry professionals and stay at the top of my style game, it’s also important to consider what is truly considered professional dress in the eyes of your employer for the given environment.

First and foremost, it is crucial to remember that in order to impress in an office environment, you should not be dressing like you would for a day of college.Vogue Senior Market Editor Meredith Melling Burke includes “flip-flops, Crocs, ripped jeans, denim shorts, chipped nails, exposed lingerie, and makeup experiments” among her list of “Don’ts”.  Another PR agency takes fashion guidelines a bit further. “No tank tops, no strapless, no stretch pants, no leggings, no flip flops,” said James LaForce, partner at LaForce & Stevens. “We use the term ‘business appropriate,’ but we don’t want them to feel like they’re dressing like a robot”.

Comfort and functionality are two key components of a professional wardrobe, especially within the unpredictable days of a fashion employee. “Dress according to the reality of what your day will consist of,” advises Teen Vogue fashion director Gloria Baume. “Packing up for shoots and running around to showrooms means comfortable, easy clothes. ” Even the most fashionable and powerful of fashion execs agree that an intern spending the day backstage at a runway show should not be wearing a pair of pumps; no style points earned there. A worthy compromise would be to pack a spare pair of shoes for fashion (or foot ache) emergencies, like a sleek pair of sensible flats.

“College-aged kids only know extremes — it’s either a suit or what they’d wear to a club. What you wear in a club at night is not appropriate for working in an office,” said Alison Brod, founder of the public relations agency of the same name that specializes in fashion, food and lifestyle products from Boden and Godiva to Sugarfina and Kmart. “They just don’t know what’s appropriate for a client meeting. In their day-to-day, they think flip-flops and a skirt are okay”.

Wardrobe appropriateness is especially under fire during the summer months. It’s important to stay cognizant of what is deemed appropriate in your particular office. “I’d like to say no to shorts, but in the end, if someone looks terrific, I’m not going to stop them,” said Brod, “But shorts can be hard — not everybody looks good in shorts… and I don’t know about spike heels and leather shorts with a silk blouse.”

Anna Durkin

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