Let’s get it out of the way that I loathe the concept of investment shopping.
I really do.
I hate it when people think that they HAVE to buy that $1000 pair of shoes because ‘it’s an investment in my career because I have to dress for the job I want, not the one I have’.
Where are we working, in France!? 😛
Side note: In France, and in Europe in general, I am told by many this is the mindset because people really do notice if your suit is $100 or $1000.
Apparently everyone wears a suit to work, even if it’s a simple office job and they notice if your clothes are not nice.
So if you’re upper management, you better look like it or else they think you aren’t doing your job well enough to be successful to buy those suits.
SHOPPING IS NOT AN INVESTMENT, SAVING IS!
Look, I totally understand the idea of shopping to look better so that your career can take off, but a lot of people use it to justify their spending habits, and that isn’t right.
If you bought a $1000 pair of shoes, would it spit out $20 bills each morning for you? No?
Then it’s not an investment.
An investment is when you put money into savings of some sort, and it gets a return on the original investment.
It is not as sexy as shopping for shoes, but it’s the truth.
(And don’t try to tell me that by wearing those $1000 pumps, that you got a $30,000 salary bump when you asked for it because they liked your shoes. If that’s the case, I’m buying a pair. 😛 )
SPEND A REASONABLE AMOUNT ON YOUR CLOTHES
Your clothes definitely give an impression and speak before you do. If you showed up to an interview in sweatpants and a tight t-shirt, would your employer think you’re employable? No.
If you wore to an interview what you thought was a conservative dress, just because the colour was black, but the style was all wrong because it was a tight minidress, your employer will also think you’re not taking this seriously!
Dressing properly for work means wearing things that fit, flatter, and are budget-friendly without sacrificing quality.
You don’t need to break the bank to have nice things.
You just need to work harder to find them, and besides, not all expensive price tags are indicative the highest quality anyway.
TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WHERE YOU WORK
It is absolutely true that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have… but if you’re rockin’ out expensive heels, designer handbags and nicer, bespoke suits than what your boss or the head of the whole company is wearing, then something is very wrong.
For instance, I heard from a friend that in Italy, the men and women in one management consulting firm are forced to be super trendy, like skinny ties on men, and anything that is hot in fashion right now, otherwise, they’re told to ‘shape up their wardrobe’. In that case, you WOULD need to be trendy at work, but Italy could be an exception.
Otherwise, you might think if you look successful then others will perceive you as successful, which could be true, but they could very well think that you’re trying to overcompensate in fancy wrappings because you don’t really have the skills or the brains to get the job done.
DRESS SLIGHTLY BETTER THAN YOUR OTHER COLLEAGUES
My rule of thumb is I can only go AS nice as my other colleagues, or a slight edge above what they’re wearing.
If they’re in Lululemon outfits with flip flops, and if I personally don’t wear that even on the weekends, I’d wear nice dark denim trouser jeans, a casual blouse and some ballet flats.
But I would never dream of showing up in an expensive suit with high heels!
Besides, when I see people wearing suits in an environment where their colleagues (and even the boss) are not as dressed up, I immediately think that they don’t know their job, an they’re just trying to have the packaging fool you into thinking they’re competent.
At the other end of the spectrum, if everyone is in business casual, but someone shows up in flip flops and sweatpants, they better be freakin’ geniuses who can do and wear what they want because they are so valuable to the company (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steve Jobs), otherwise, I see them as unprofessional and too incompetent to even notice how unprofessional they are.
Call it judgmental and horrible, but it’s what I believe.
So dress at the level of your colleagues, and/or slightly more polished.
TIPS ON HOW TO DRESS NICELY ON A BUDGET
- Have a budget before you shop so you know how much to spend on each item
- Buy QUALITY not quantity!
- Consider that 3 pairs of work pants should suffice for a 5-day work week
- Always get your pants hemmed to be 1″ above the ground when wearing work shoes
- Spend more of the money on different tops for variety instead
- Buy the most comfortable, nicest heels you can REASONABLY afford
- Don’t get suckered into thinking you need 5 pairs of heels — 2 pairs are enough
- Don’t wear heels if you can’t walk in them and no one else is wearing them
- Don’t waste money on a suit if you don’t wear it to work (I don’t bother)
- Don’t forget to put some money towards a nice, structured briefcase/purse
- Spend a small amount on accessories — a really nice watch, or a simple necklace
- Don’t you dare buy anything too big, too tight, or too revealing
- Avoid wild, crazy and distracting prints or colours — Neon yellow is unacceptable
- Buy good, supportive underwear so that whatever you wear will look nice
- No sweatpants allowed, even in the most casual of all work environments!!!
- Take a wardrobe cue from your boss – she’s definitely looking at you!