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Remember Pants? How to Return to the Office in Style

A Fresh Look at Your Wardrobe Can Rejuvenate Your Outlook and Boost Your Confidence
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After a couple of false starts, you’ve gotten another memo: It’s time to head back to the office, at least a few days a week. Now, the reality is setting in. What am I really going to wear? And how confident am I going to be, no matter how on trend I think my look is?

If you’re panicked at the prospect of attending meetings in something other than yoga pants and sweatshirts, leery about your haircut, or struggling with the 15 pounds you gained during quarantine, you’re definitely not alone.

For most of us, the thought of finally moving from the couch back to the conference room is producing a mixture of excitement and dread. Executive jobseekers facing the prospect of in-person interviews and networking meetings are equally anxious about their appearances.

The most important thing to remember about personal style is that it stems from self-confidence.

The good news is that reintroducing yourself to your colleagues doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, the post-pandemic world presents an ideal time to review your options, rejuvenate your look and in the process, find a new self-confidence.

Find or Rediscover Your Personal Style

A great first step is defining your personal style. We all have one, even if we can’t articulate it or it’s taken a backseat to other priorities. The most important thing to remember about personal style is that it stems from self-confidence. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, and with how you dress, act and present yourself, the more energy, poise and credibility you can bring to your role in the workplace.

Personal style shouldn’t be cookie-cutter, especially at the executive level. Gone are the days of strict three-piece suits for men and nylons and conservative pumps for women.

Consider the 6’ 7” media executive who can pull off a wrinkled white shirt, tails out, looking like an unmade bed—but at the same time, seem like he just stepped out of GQ. Or the marketing VP who loves to flaunt her eclectic jewelry, tall boots, and dyed hair. Their styles are dramatically different, but what they have in common is the ability to “own” their look. Workwear today is a new evolution of style where classic meets creative expression.

Workwear today is a new evolution of style where classic meets creative expression.

So, as you create (or recreate) your personal style, strive for a look that makes you smile. Don’t overthink it. If in doubt, default to the classics, then give them a “twist of lime” to make it personal. White shirts, pencil skirts, navy blazers, great leather shoes and a killer handbag never get stale. Depending on your office protocols, even jeans can make a statement. Whatever you choose, it just needs to make you feel great.

Go For Smart and Simple

These guidelines can help you get back into the style groove and at the same time, maximize the potential in what you already own.

Find a look you admire. If you’re uncertain where to start, grab a copy of the latest GQ or Vogue, then find a few looks you love. Or think about an acquaintance who’s always well-put together. Highlight the elements with appeal, whether it’s a color, a cut, an accessory, or a head-to-toe look. Don’t forget hairstyles and makeup.

Build a capsule wardrobe. Next, head to your closet. Here, we’re looking for a capsule wardrobe, which is 6-8 pieces that fit well, work together as separates, and most importantly, make you feel great. Pull the best contenders and use them as a foundation.

Focus on staples like an updated blazer, patterned button-down shirt, unstructured white shirt, nice blue jeans, and for women, black leggings, pencil skirts, silk blouses, and cashmere sweaters. It’s all about reimagining your style with looks that elevate the essentials and combine them with contemporary details.

Senior leaders have earned the right to dress for impact and memorability.

Buy complementary pieces. Once you know your foundational elements, head to the store or online for a few new items to round out your wardrobe. Look for fresh, modern pieces with great fit, and in the same or a complementary color palette as your capsule wardrobe.

Personalize it. As you’re planning your look, keep color and flair in mind. Senior leaders have earned the right to dress for impact and memorability. Use color to accentuate your best features and create a great impression, whether in-person or via Zoom. Add freshness and zest with accessories, a scarf, suspenders, a bow tie, or a fashionable facemask. Don’t forget the pizazz that the right earrings, eyeglasses and shoes will add. It only takes a few elements to transform your look—and your attitude—effortlessly.

Most importantly, have fun. Your look should be polished and professional—but at the same time project energy, attitude, and confidence. Remember, you can pull off anything if you own it!

Need a fresh perspective on your workplace style? Image and style consulting for executive jobseekers is included in our Executive Transition Services.

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