The Working Look

The Working Look

Harvard graduate and career wardrobe stylist Jenny Cao-Wu offers advice on how-to get dressed fast and fashionably with flair.

The founder of INCORPORATE Mode, a lifestyle blog, and publisher of Dress for Success: A Fashionista's Guide to Chic Career Style, she inspires smart, fashionable professional women to express their personal flair through appropriate workplace styles.


You may miss wearing jeans and t-shirts at home with the kids, but your slick appearance will express another side of you!


Right and wrong outfits for work

Jenny says there is no standard work attire because what's considered appropriate varies widely, depending on geography, industry, position, job function and many other factors. The best way to tell what is appropriate is to observe what people one or two levels more senior than you are wearing on the job or during the interview.


Prepare the night before

The easiest way to get dressed in the morning is to choose your outfit the night before. Preparation saves time and reduces stress, especially when getting your children ready for the day too. Be flexible and consider a couple of options. If you plan too many days ahead, it gets tricky to account for things like a change in weather, important meetings and events you want to dress up for, as well as your mood.


“When I traveled four days a week as a management consultant, I planned out my outfits for several days so I could economize on the number of shoes and accessories I brought along,” Jenny says. “After all, you can't wear black pumps with a tan outfit!”


Back-to-work wardrobe essentials

For moms returning to work, invest in looser tops that flow on the body and skirts that compliment your figure, such as highlighting a narrow waist. Wide leg pants are a strong choice and so are structured, well-fitting jackets that can instantly make you look slimmer. Jenny doesn’t recommend clothing made of stretchy materials if they are too clingy.


Take the opportunity to infuse your own sense of chic into your look with a colorful accessory, like a scarf or favorite piece of jewelry. Add interest with a sweater featuring a bold geometric design or a textured skirt.


Nail your look

Discover what is acceptable in your work environment. Is it casual or traditional? Nails with glitter or neon colours may not be appropriate. Keep them relatively short and well-groomed, with or without polish. The same goes for your toes; when toenails are exposed in sandals or open-toe shoes – paint them!


“Remember, you are the product and what you wear is the packaging,” says Jenny. Start with basics and add items over time to reflect a more individual style as you gain more experience on the job. With a little common sense and preparation, you can make the transition from home to work beautifully and confidently. You will find your new attire as comfortable on the job as slipping into jeans and tees at home.


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