Five basic corporate style tips for young professionals

Featured on’s LAUNCH Magazine January 2010

You’ve got your degree and a great resumé. Now all you need is a fabulous job or internship and all your hard work will have paid off.

You want to make the best impression on potential employers with your skills and experience, but don’t forget your clothes can also say a lot about who you are. Preparing for an interview, new job or internship, or networking event is daunting enough without having to worry about having nothing appropriate to wear.

I enlisted the help of Angelene Fenuta, a recent graduate from the Ryerson fashion design program, to compile five key pieces of advice that will help you get a handle on your professional style so you can climb the corporate ladder.

1. Know Your Workplace

Fenuta says its important to assess the industry you will be working in before going shopping. Each company is different, and it can be nerve-racking not knowing the proper dress code. “If you are in more of a creative and artistic field, you can probably get away with more trendy or unique outfit choices than if you were at a law office or in the corporate world,” she says.

Once you have a good idea of what you can and can’t wear you can then go ahead and see how to fill the holes in your existing wardrobe.

2. Make an Investment

You’ve already invested in your education to get your dream job, and now its time to do the same for your wardrobe. “I know it’s the age of fast fashion and being trend hungry,” says Fenuta, “but when you are starting your career its important to invest in good basics that will last more than one season.” Fenuta says to look for natural fabrics like wool and cotton. They may cost more initially, but they will keep their shape longer.

3. Choose Great Basics

“Everyone should have a good pair of black pants, white shirt, and a blazer in their closet,” says Fenuta. She stresses that well-fitting clothes are key. Make sure pants are flattering and the right size, as well as skirts and suits. Taking the time to get your pieces tailored will ensure your pants aren’t dragging under your shoes or your sleeves aren’t covering your hands. This will help you create a polished and confident look and show employers you know how to fit into the workplace.

4. Add Personality with Accessories

Although professional wardrobe staples are essential, you can still bring out your personality in your work wear. “Think about how you can accessorize in an interesting way,” Fenuta says. Try to find a blazer with a unique shape, maybe a skirt with an interesting waistline, or a shirt with details on the collar or on the buttons. Fenuta says shopping vintage can also be a great way to make an impression while still sticking to the dress code. Look for belts, scarves, hosiery, earrings, and ties that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

5. Don’t Forget about your Feet

Nothing is worse than ruining a perfectly put together outfit with less than stellar shoes. Whether you are wearing a skirt or a suit, Fenuta says to pair your look with classic shoes that will look sharp with multiple outfits. Ankle boots are great in the colder months, while a wedge or pump can be worn year round. For guys, make sure pants fit well over the shoes. If you are wearing heels, Fenuta suggests the height be more office friendly than club wear, about 3 inches or so. Don’t forget to care for your shoes with weather protector sprays and keep them shiny and clean.


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