How students should style themselves outside of the classroom, in the office

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You’ve been watching your email inbox while sitting on pins and needles. You’re hoping and praying for the familiar ding alerting you of an incoming message. It finally comes, and you nervously read the first few words of the message. You got it. You got the internship! You start Monday.

Now onto the real problem: What in the world are you going to wear?

Transitioning from everyday clothes to professional wear can be a tricky maneuver for college-aged women. The fear of looking like Hillary Clinton in a pantsuit is enough to cause anyone to lose sleep. So how does a 21-year-old look professional in the office and still let her personal style shine through?

SMU alum Chelsea Parker works as a senior stylist and custom specialist at Trunk Club in Dallas. She suggests that women start with the basics. The essential pieces of professional wear that every woman needs. Nude pumps, a structured leather bag, a silk blouse and a tailored blazer are the first items you need to own when entering the professional world.

Cropped black pants can be fun with zipper detailing, especially when paired with a colored blazer and open toed heels. Photo credit: Pinterest

“The most important piece of dressing for work is the necessity to recognize that appearance matters, and how you portray that depends on your audience,” Parker said.

So instead of feeling stifled by the stereotypical office look of a white blouse and black skirt, buy essential pieces that show a bit of your own style. When working with clients, Parker said, she often looks to brands like Theory, Vince, Diane Von Furstenberg, Joie and Splendid for trendy, professional attire.

By selecting the right cut of a blazer, collar of a blouse or designer name behind a bag, you can transform an outfit into an ensemble that feels more like you. For instance, pairing a black pencil skirt with blue, pointed-toe pumps instead of a rounded nude heel can lend a completely different feel to an outfit.

Instead of the traditional black pencil skirt, try out other colors and patterns to show off your style. Photo credit: Pinterest

Once you have the basics, it is all about mixing and matching parts of your wardrobe with the professional pieces.

Parker Hutchens, a project engineer for Austin Commercial, says he notices the women in his office who stay stylish. Hutchens perceives it as a sign that they want to move up in their career and are willing to put in extra effort.

“I don’t think them being stylish is a reflection of how much they spend on clothes,” Hutchens said. “Girls especially can be thrifty while being stylish. I would say more effort indicates to me caring more about their career.”

Simply adding a scarf to an ensemble, carrying a Kate Spade purse or donning a favorite pair of Kendra Scott earrings are simple ways to accessorize an outfit, all while staying professional. Adding your favorite pieces to an outfit can keep you looking serious yet fashion-forward and most importantly, like yourself.

Subtle detailing on the blouse collar, matched with accessories like a belt or earrings, can make the typical work outfit look chic. Photo credit: Pinterest

Dee Loofbourow is a travel coordinator at PSAV in Dallas and understands the importance of dressing the part for work. A long-time career woman, she believes that employers want to see a polished look that doesn’t draw too much attention from the higher-ups. More than anything, she believes that it is important for women to feel good about themselves and what they are wearing while they are at work.

“It will help you feel more comfortable and confident,” Loofbourow said.

So don’t fret the night before your first day. You are going to do a great job. And your new parchment colored Joie heels will be a great talking point with your supervisors.

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