Dress Code Stress

With my first day at my internship just around the corner, I realised I have very few office-appropriate clothes to wear. This is slightly problematic, considering I’ll be working in an office. So I went shopping (any excuse, right?)

There are many things to consider when dressing for work. Practicality, warmth, comfort, level of smartness, durability, crumple factor (a real problem with many of my tops), layering ability (another struggle I have – so many of my tops don’t sit right with cardigans or jumpers but I get grumpy if I’m chilly so an optional second layer is often necessary, especially if I don’t know the temperature of the office) and yawn-stretch-belly-reveal avoidance (you have no idea). I stood in front of my wardrobe and tried to conjure up as many outfit combinations as possible, but was drawing a blank because I wasn’t entirely sure what look I was going for.

I realised I had to determine what vibe the office gave off clothes-wise. Being an advertising company, I had initially assumed that just about anything would go, but then remembered that clients meet in the offices and people need to not look like they forgot to change out of their loungewear of a morning. After some deliberation, I decided on smart-casual. I didn’t see a single power suit or many pairs of stiletto heels while I was in the office – granted my interviewers were men – but I was pretty confident from their shirts and slacks combos that I could probably get away with a comfy but smart ensemble. Whatever that meant.

I have a number of smartish tops already, so I’m not so worried about my top half, it’s my bottom half that concerns me. My usual outfit choices are skirts that are definitely not office friendly or jeans, which I’m not sure are quite smart enough.  

With ‘smasual’ in mind, I hit the shops. There lay my second problem: deciding what could be classed as smart-casual. There is a fine line to be walked between looking like you’re going into a meeting and entering a Netflix marathon, at least in my case. I know things can be dressed up or down with the right jewellery and I have plenty of jewellery to accessorise a small army, but are jumpers with a statement necklace or pearls really okay? What about a white shirt, does that look too much like I’m channeling my inner Blair Waldorf sans school skirt and frilly ankle socks? Stress.

Black trousers are a staple but in the eight shops I searched, only 2 had any appropriate trousers, and only one shop stocked said appropriate trousers in my size. Thankfully, I bought one pair of standard slim leg black trouser suit pants to start off my wardrobe.

I found some funky print trousers in Zara but none in my size; and the same thing happened in Mango and H&M, so I guess after posting this I’ll be doing some internet shopping…

I got fairly lucky in the shoe department. A quick zoom around Schuh found me a smart pair of black patent loafers that will be easy to throw on and are work-appropriate without having to worry about heels. I am the reincarnation of Bambi on the frozen lake when heels are in play. I really struggle for more than an hour in anything higher than 2 inches. It’s a pain, but these loafers seem a good compromise.

Now I’m wondering whether jeans might be acceptable in the office. My plan is to wear a dress on my first day – it’s my lucky go-to dress that is smart and funky and fills me with confidence, especially when paired with red lippy and my new loafers – so I can suss out the outfit choices of the other females in the office and base my later wardrobe pairings on what I see.

My buy of the day though was a stationery haul in Paperchase. I am a stationery addict. Pens, sticky notes, funky note cards, pencil cases – I want them all. I bought myself a new pencil case because every school year should start with a new case and I filled it with two patterned pens, three functional pens, two pencils, a rubber and a packet of sticky notes for marking pages should I ever need to do such a thing.

So, while shopping was largely unsuccessful in that I only came away with 2 items of clothing, I do feel more prepared with my pencil case packed and ready to go in my handbag, along with my new notebooks I picked up the other month and have been filling with notes on clients and positive reminders that we got this to get me through my first week. Also, my lack of success at shopping this time round only means I get to give it another go next week when I’m more clued up on office dress code etiquette.

To continue my adulthood prep, tonight I am planning on being very grown up: I’ll sit with a magazine, play Sex and the City in the background, apply a facemask and paint my nails with a glass of wine and some sushi for dinner. While I haven’t conquered coffee-drinking yet, I reckon I’m making a good start as I plunge into the world of adulthood.

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