Dressing for the job you want

They say you should dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. So what does that mean exactly?

It’s not about dressing like a man, wearing all black or losing your feminity. It’s about creating a signature style with tried and true basics that make a statement rather than a question about your work abilities and whether you’re the right woman for the job.

Here a few wardrobe basics that will take you from serving coffee to organising corporate takeovers in no time at all. Well, maybe not quite but a girl can dream can’t she?


Hugo Boss suitYour suit is your calling card. A well-cut suit speaks volumes and can say a lot about you when you first walk into that interview, courtroom, board meeting or hostile takeover. It marks you as a veritable contender and can win you jobs in an interview, the respect and admiration of your colleagues and charm your detractors and even your worse critics.

A suit should last you a few seasons so it’s a wise decision to invest money in a three-piece suit; jacket, pants and skirt. Suits should be a blank canvas in a neutral colour such as black or slate grey in a plain print that is made interesting with the clever use of colourful shirts or bold accessories.

There is nothing more detestable than the smell of a cheap, shapeless suit. A suit needs to be the perfect cut for your body shape. Ready to wear suits may require tailoring and a lot of shops offer tailoring as part of their service. Modify the jacket to your body shape and make sure the pants are long enough to skim the middle of your shoes. Jobs have been won and lost on the length of the pant’s suit. You have been warned.

You probably don’t think a lot day-to-day about buttons but they rank highly in the decision making process when buying a suit. A three-button suit is outdated, two buttons are traditional and a one-button suit looks good in a creative, quirky environment. Stay away from double-breasted suits or military looking suits which can date very quickly.

Where to buy
Designer: Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Zac Posen
Moderate: Arthur Galan, Farage, Satch, Cue, Veronica Maine

White shirt

Classic white shirt

A crisp white collared shirt is an essential item for any career minded woman. Three elements to look for when purchasing a white shirt are wearability, style and tailoring.

White shirts work best in pure cotton or a cotton-polyester mix. Cotton is a fabric that allows you to breathe easier for those prone to sweating but a cotton-polyester mix is easier to iron and stays fresher for longer.

There are a variety of styles that you can choose from such as classic man tailored shirts, the wrap shirt and oversized sleeves with various lengths.

Where to buy
Designer: Herringbone, Brooks Brothers, Farage
Moderate: White Shirt Shop, MCM Studio, Country Road, Cue, Satch

Trench coat

Classic trench coat

A trench coat gives you a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude that no powerpoint presentation or well written strategy can ever accomplish.

A trench coat in a three quarter length can be worn with more outfits and is a more traditional cut. Choose a trench coat that is warm enough to brave the cold winds of winter in a durable fabric than can withstand the downpour but stylish enough to accompany a dress or dress pants.

When purchasing a trench coat, always keep in mind that trench coats are designed to go over outfits so make sure you buy one in a size to fit. Look for a trench coat in a neutral colour and plain print with no embellishments.

Where to buy
Designer: Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Gucci
Moderate: David Lawrence, Saba, Country Road, Morrissey, Farage


Classic shift dress

Dresses are a very low maintenance way to impress your colleagues. The best buy are dresses that are ready to wear with little or no ironing involved or have no complicated washing instructions.

Just below the knee is a classic length for dresses. Remember, you’re always walking a fine hemline at the office. Anything above the knee screams office tart and anything longer than just past the knee will deem you the office frump.

There are several dress styles that work well in a work environment such as shift dresses and wrap around dresses.

Where to buy
Designer: Diane von Fürstenberg, Donna Karen
Moderate: Cue, Veronica Maine, Satch

Pencil skirts

Classic white shirt

Channel Audrey Hepburn in an elegant pencil skirt that will give you an instant hourglass figure that most men will want to set their watch to.

Pencil skirts must be fitted and are at their best when they are slightly below the knee and avoid skirts with a slit. It will make you look more like a ‘working girl’ and I’m not talking about the executive type.

Shirts should always be tucked into skirts and team it up with classic pumps or platforms for an up to the minute look. In my opinion, flat shoes should never be worn with dresses or skirts.

Where to buy
Designer: Zac Posen, Diane von Fürstenberg, Donna Karen
Moderate: Cue, Veronica Maine, Satch

Dress pants
Classic pantsWide leg pants are one of the most flattering looks at the office. Team it up with a pussy bow shirt or a waistcoat and you’ll be the undisputed style siren of your office.

Wide-leg pants are very elegant yet comfortable, forgiving and flattering to most body shapes. It’s important to note that wide-leg pants are not meant to be an ode to the sixties so keep an eye on the flare.

Black is always a basic colour that works in the office but taupe , beige and even pale pinks are more interesting options.

Where to buy
Designer: Zac Posen, Donna Karen, Michael Kors
Moderate: Cue, Veronica Maine, Satch

Pair of black platform heels or pumps
Christiano Louboutin Ronaldo Slingbacks

A basic item in your wardrobe is a pair of platform heels or pumps preferably in the colour black. Depending on how conservative your workplace is; open toe shoes may be acceptable but leave the sexy stilettos at home.

Black platform heels or pumps are a very versatile shoe that can be worn with suits, trench coats, pants and dresses. It’s a shoe that transcends all seasons and can be worn with opaque stockings in winter. Wedge pumps are a cute and comfortable look for winter.

Where to buy
Designer: Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo,
Moderate: Wittner, Nine West, Mollini, Wanted Shoe Stores, Peep Toe Shoes


  1. Clueless, 4 March 2009, 10:06 pm

    Great article! I’m working in a corporate office for the first time and I usually dress in a singlet, jeans and havianas lol.

  2. GossipGirl, 4 March 2009, 10:30 pm

    Maybe this will help with my payrise lol. Corporate dressing is so sexy.

  3. 30 is the new black » Fashionista or fashion victim? (Pingback), 23 August 2009, 12:07 am

    […] Buy investment pieces of clothing that will last a few seasons. It’s false economy to buy eight cheaper bags over a ten year period when you could buy one designer bag that will last over ten years. You may want to view this article on office basics. […]

  4. 30 is the new black » Fashionista or fashion victim? (Pingback), 23 August 2009, 10:45 am

    […] Buy investment pieces of clothing that will last a few seasons. It’s false economy to buy eight cheaper bags over a ten year period when you could buy one designer bag that will last the same period. You may want to view this article on dressing for the job you want. […]

  5. Michelle, 23 August 2009, 11:03 am

    Great piece- actually going to send this to some of my staff who are just starting out and need to understand the importance of looking great and feeling confident. When I first started in banking, I invested in several well cut wool suits that lasted for eons. Purchasing a few quality pieces is a smart way to impress.


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