By: Samantha Bosin, GWWIB's Alumnae Relations Director and Sixth Annual Spring Conference Networking Director
Choosing to attend a university in one America’s biggest cities, I was given a plethora of opportunities to gain practical experience in my chosen field of study. In my case, my summer internship at home turned into another position for our company’s office in Washington DC during the school year. I have been fortunate enough to gain exposure to the professional world and from these experiences, I have learned a lot in terms of my professional abilities - and wardrobe.
Having held several positions in the financial services’ industry, I learned that black and grey pantsuits epitomize stockbrokers and financial advisors, and frankly, the rest of the business world. I can honestly attest that I agreed with this long-nurtured phenomenon, but my stance changed drastically when I was introduced to my first boss. She entered our fast-paced and market-driven office wearing a Clover Canyon dress under a Chanel blazer accessorized with Louboutin gladiator pumps. Could my eyes be deceiving me? Could this professional and well-known financial advisor be colorfully dressed to the nines during market hours? Over the next twelve weeks we bonded not only over our common interest of financial and economic principles, but also over the runway’s most prized looks and newly-found designers. My boss proved that you could do what you love, find a career that fulfills your aspirations, and truly look damn fabulous while doing it.
As I realized I would be continuing my experience in our company’s office in Washington DC, I wondered if perhaps my grey and black pantsuits could be capitalized upon. I journeyed to my local mall and naturally headed for J.Crew. I utilized its patterned pencil skirts, ankle strap heels, and solid oxfords to construct a new professional wardrobe that better allowed me to express my personal style; I called it “business chic”. Now, don’t misunderstand my actions: I wanted to keep my professional reputation understood, although I learned from my boss that a few additive items could really help you stand out in a professional setting.
As I approached my first day in the new office I threw together a new outfit from my J.Crew selections and headed out across town. Six blocks later I opened the large glass doors and entered the elevator for a five-floor-flight. I smoothed my pencil skirt once more, popped my collar (naturally), and adjusted the array of pearls that hung delicately around my neck. Throughout my first day I received dozens of comments and compliments on my wardrobe choices.
Looking back I should have never doubted my ability to hold myself accountable for my professionalism. Whoever said that a professional wardrobe had to consist of black and grey pantsuits clearly never made it into the 21st century where females are steadily taking over the workplace and creating a more comfortable environment to express personal style and branding. Each and every day I attend work, I think back to my first day as an intern. I never imagined that an experience that was only intended to expose me to the financial industry actually resulted in a summer of personal growth and identification through my wardrobe.
In conclusion, I can offer some advice: be yourself, be daring, be brave, be colorful, and never be confined to black and grey pantsuits. There are appropriate ways to incorporate your style into a professional wardrobe and pull off the desired business chic look. Are you edgy? Find a pair of gladiator heels to adorn your blazer and shift dress. Are you preppy? Find a soft-colored patterned skirt to pair with a freshly pressed oxford. Are you bohemian? Find a belt with a medallion to cinch at your waist to make a dress or skirt unconventional. One new accessory or clothing item each day can improve your confidence and ability to pull off business chic.
Still unsure or doubtful of your styling abilities? Turn to The Corporate Catwalk, a blog that revolves around creating a fashionable professional wardrobe and how to successfully pull of a business chic ensemble. Inspiration from others can go a very long way when starting this revamping process. Ultimately, your co-workers and superiors will appreciate your ability to hold yourself to exceptional standards and maintain your professionalism without hindering your personal style.
The Spring Conference Series, written by GWWIB Board members and former Spring Conference directors, is dedicated to preparing GWWIB members and guests of the conference with relevant, first-hand information about how to get the most out of their Spring Conference experience. Click here for tickets and more information about our Seventh Annual Spring Conference.