by Erin Nadler

With so many young professionals entering the work force and developing their professional image it is hard to know where to begin.  We all know that starting off on the right foot is essential and continuing that professional image is key to future successes.  Any female senior executive will tell you that developing their own corporate style did not happen overnight, but as a young professional where should you begin?  And with your eye firmly locked on a budget what items are a must?

Let’s talk essentials.  If you are going to invest these are the items on which you want to spend a little more of your budget.  First, a good quality, nicely fitting and classic straight or wide leg black pant.  Look for a fabric that you can wear year round, as it will give you the biggest bang for your buck.  Second, a fitted black blazer.  If you have the ability to purchase the black pant and jacket as a suit, you should, then not only are you able to wear them together for any potential job interview but by separating the items it allows for infinite mixing and matching.  Third, a classic and crisp white blouse.  I would not recommend you spend too much on this item as white blouses should be replaced every so often to keep their crispness. Lastly, a sheath dress.  Look for a dark coloured sleeveless solid dress with a rounded neckline which allows for something to be worn underneath as well as overtop.

So now that you know the essentials, where should you start looking?  Many mid to higher priced stores have sales throughout the year so don’t be afraid to go in and splurge a little when those big savings come around.  Beware of the less expensive stores that are geared towards the junior market.  A lot of times the dress or skirt lengths or style of tops and blouses they show are inappropriate for the workforce.  Always keep the question of whether this is office appropriate in the back of your mind.  Appropriate lengths are determined by the type of job you are applying for.  Just above your knee is always a flattering and appropriate length but you need to be aware of how high your skirt or dress hikes up when sitting down.  Stay away from the minis and other “trendy” lengths being shown in stores. A great classic wardrobe is always in style and will always be something you can fall back on.  Remember that you want to be hired for the right reasons and when starting your career showing a level of professionalism is crucial.

So you have your staple garments and you got the job, how do you spice up your wardrobe in order to keep it fresh?  One of the easiest and most cost effective ways is by adding accessories.  Adding a fabulous necklace, belt or scarf can really take your outfit to the next level.  As well when you mix more pricy items, like a simple black blazer, with less expensive items like a pair of shoes, belt, or pants it can also give off a more polished and classy look.  Very often you see successful professional women as well as fashion insiders mixing high-end with low-end and they do it so effortlessly.

If you remember only one thing it is to just keep it simple.  If in doubt look to how your boss is dressing and emulate her.

Erin Nadler is president of Better Styled. For more information you can visit her website.


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