How to: Look Like a Young Professional (Part one: Executive Fashion)

This is something I’ve been struggling with since I got my job. How is it that I can balance looking like a professional, without looking much older than I am? I mean, I’m in my early twenties. I’m just a kid. I’m scared to look like a “real adult.”

I’m planning on making this into a series piece, focusing on different levels of professional dress. This is what I like to call the levels: Executive/Corporate (the most conservative), Business (mid-level), and Business Casual.

This post is going to focus on the idea of Executive/Corporate. This level has the least leeway with colors and patterns. This level can be the hardest to bring in personal style and personality. But we’ll see what we can throw together.

For pants, dresses, skirt color think dark. Black, dark blue, gray, dark brown. I don’t usually do dark brown, but that’s just personal preference. For tops, there’s more room to play around, but the sort of tone should match the type of industry you work in. For instance, I work in government/politics. I wear a lot of jewel tones: blues, reds, purples, emeralds. I don’t usually wear bright colors like yellow or orange. First off because they don’t really look good on me, and secondly because it would look kinda out of place.

You can wear animal prints in a conservative work environment! Don’t fear. I do it all the time. Just keep it low key and classy. That should be the motto for this level of fashion, keep it low-key and classy.

If you decide to go with a sleeveless top for the day, make sure your shoulders are covered… a cute blazer gets the job done. For dresses and skirts, the hem should be hitting you within about an inch to two inches of your knees while sitting. That means that while standing, the hemlines should be hitting around the middle of your kneecap. Some work locations (like mine) require that women who are wearing skirts or dresses to wear pantyhose. This kinda blows, especially when it’s warm out.

Closed toed shoes are a must for this level of dress; you can definitely get away with flats if you’re wearing pants, opt for pumps if you’re in a dress or skirt, unless the office is super busy that day and there’s going to be lots of walking or running around involved. I’m almost always wearing black pumps, because they’re acceptable at any of these levels and always look good. I actually keep two pairs of pumps in my desk so I don’t have to walk out of the house without them. I refuse to drive in pumps unless absolutely necessary. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good colorful shoe, and colorful pop throughout my outfits, it’s just not always right for the outfit.

And now we turn to accessories. I am always rocking two rings. One is my college ring, and the other is always a Celtic ring (my family’s heritage is based in Scotland mostly). Other than that.. I’m always wearing my watch. It’s not fancy or anything. It’s just a cute cheap one from Target. It gets the job done. As a little present to myself, a couple months ago I bought this adorable tennis bracelet. It was at JCP for like $30 a the time. And I’ve always wanted one, sure it’s not real. But it looks good. When I’m dressed at this level, the accessories are conservative, think pearls, small pendants, small earrings, dainty bracelets. Things like that.

The final topic… Price. Some of the items in these outfit collections (made on Polyvore, follow me here) are ridiculously expensive. While I would love to buy the gorgeous Loubous in the first outfit set, my current budgetary lifestyle doesn’t allow for that, but a girl can dream (someday they will be MINE and they will love me). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with fake pearls, fake diamonds, look-a-like bags. I can’t tell you what you can afford.  I’ve found some awesome pieces at consignment stores around town (the pair I’m wearing as I’m writing this were SEVEN DOLLARS and are totally work appropriate). People can’t tell what brand of pants you’re wearing.

Target has some great stuff that is totally work appropriate and reasonably priced. I have a few of their blazers and I love the way they fit.

But also remember, you get what you pay for. You could pay $12 for an awesome pair of black pants, only for the hem to rip a week later because they were badly made. Personally, I’m more inclined to pay more for pieces I know will stick around in my wardrobe for a while, work appropriate pants, sheath dresses (I love them so much), good shoes, things like that. And I’m less inclined to pay more for tops– I can go through them so quickly, or trendy jewelry pieces.

And now for some pictures:

Outfit Number One:execfashion1


Outfit Number Two:execfashion2


Outfit Number Three:


I hope you aren’t bored by the color palette of Executive/Corporate Fashion. The best way to make it not drab and boring, throw your personality into it. You have a signature color? Show it off! You love a trendier piece? Throw it on with some classic pieces. Have yourself a good time, but keep it classy.

Other things that might be helpful that I’ve found while perusing the internetz: I found this site recently, and read every post in about three hours. Love it. And dang, can I just say, thank goodness for Pinterest. It provides me with so much outfit inspiration and closet goals. Follow my style board here.

Tell me what you think of the outfits in the comments below, and don’t forget to stick around for the rest of the series!


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