One of the biggest adjustments to beginning a first job (or a new job) is understanding your office’s dress code. Gone are the relaxed jeans and flip-flops of your college classes. Here come the knee-length skirts and button-down shirts.
Although what to wear depends on how lax your business environment is, it should go without saying: You can’t go to work naked. But past that, how do you know what’s OK? “Work clothes” can range from a suit and heels to a pair of nice jeans and a T-shirt.
My first job was a night shift in the newsroom, which was more casual than I’d expected — but we still had rules about closed-toed shoes for safety purposes. It’s quirks like these that your boss or HR rep should tell you about prior to your first day.
But some of the “given” rules of yesteryear are less rigid now — does anyone even still wear pantyhose? And with the rules quickly changing, “business casual” for one person may seem inappropriate to another, as a USA Today article pointed out a few months ago. The comments section on an “What Not to Wear” article from the blog Corporette indicates just how widely office environments can differ. Even our own Common Cents blog chimed in with guidelines on what’s considered office-appropriate when warmer weather hits.
So pay close attention when you go for your interview. It’s best to look nicer than you need to for that first impression (an interview and also your first day), but once you surreptitiously scour the office for inspiration, you’ll be able to blend in with your co-workers.
As for building your wardrobe without breaking the bank, thrift stores are your friends. So are sales. And coupons. And sisters who wear the same size as you but get bored of their clothing quickly. Check out a few tips for stretching your work wardrobe dollars.
And share your ideas and stories in the comments: Do you have a special trick for looking office-appropriate without spending the Benjamins? Have you had an awkward dress-code violation?