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How to Actually "Dress for Success," According to a Career Expert

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Working in a creative space is a blessing and a curse when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. While we rejoice at the opportunity to embrace our personal style, a lax dress code can be a bit confusing: Will my boss think I take my job less seriously if I forgo a button-down in favor of a comfy T-shirt ? Does HR really approve of jeans?

To help answer these questions and quash your worries, we sat down with career expert Lauren McGoodwin, founder and creator of Career Contessa, to learn her thoughts on how to dress for a professional environment without sacrificing your personal style. Scroll to read her advice (and feel free to treat yourself to a few new HR-approved pieces in the process).

Tell us a bit about your business.

Career Contessa is a comprehensive resource for women that provides online tools, advice, courses, and the direction they may need to navigate, enhance, or change their careers. I wanted to ensure women felt supported.

What exactly does dressing for success mean to you?

I used to reply to this by saying “Dress for the job you want,” but after interviewing plenty of great women for my podcast, The Femails, I realize that dressing for your authentic self is best. If that means a great pair of heels, great, but it might also mean sneakers with a dress. However you need to dress to show up and perform at your optimal level is how you should build your look. If that means being more comfortable and casual so you’re not shifting around at your desk all day getting distracted, opt for that.

Speaking of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have, do you think upper management notices how employees dress?

All people experience unconscious bias, so you might have a boss who associates your appearance with how much you care about work. A good way to decide how important your put-together appearance matters to your boss is by looking at how they dress for their day-to-day. It’s not a great reality, but it’s the truth. That being said, putting in extra effort should not mean changing your look. Just because your boss wears a blazer and slacks doesn’t mean you need to change your personal taste to impress them. Find a way to look polished that feels true to you. And you can make sure when you’re a boss one day to only promote/reward based on merit.

Creative offices with no dress code can feel like a bit of a gray area. Are there any pieces you believe should be avoided despite not necessarily being inappropriate?

I think “polished” and “practicality” are a good filters to run gray-area items through. For example, do flip-flops look polished? Are they practical if you need to walk around the office with clients? Probably not. Are ripped jeans polished? Not necessarily, but they may look polished as long as you pair them with the right top and shoes.

If your pieces aren’t stained, worn-through, and or impractical for your job, they pass the test. I’ve found that investing in wardrobe essentials is key. Some items I invested in that I still use all the time are flattering dark skinny jeans, leather flats, a black blazer in a less-formal material, and a “grown-up” backpack that feels practical (but a bit more exciting that a tote or briefcase).

What if your office does have a strict business dress code? Any tips for still making the style your own?

My first job had a strict business dress code, and most of the things I wore were black, white, and gray. To mix it up, I’d wear brighter jewelry, paint my nails a bold red, or wear a printed shirt under my jacket. It’s important to inject a bit of personality into your look when you can.

We love that this navy blazer is just as flattering , but a bit more exciting than your typical plain black option.

Flats are a workplace staple that transcend dress codes. Feel free to wear these with a suit or denim. 

This under-$100 dress works for fall or spring when paired with the right accessories and footwear. (We can’t believe it’s from Walmart either.)

Make your backpack feel less grade school and more CEO with a crocodile print and a chic cream hue.

Take a note from Lauren and take your ensemble up a notch with playful accessories like these zebra-print heels.

If you’re hoping to inject more style into your business dress code, we suggest finding a blazer with a print that feels elevated but not overdone. 

These basically feel like you’re wearing sweatpants but look infinitely more pulled together.

Add pearl accenting to an otherwise boring shoe, a la these mules. 

Wear around your neck, in your hair, or tied around a purse for a pop of color. 

We love the abstract style of this ring (and that it’s only $30).

Judging by our office, most editors agree that these loafers are worth the investment.

Flattering dark denim is a must-have. Dress it up with a oversize blazer, kitten heels, and a top-handle bag.

We suggest making animal print your new neutral. It’s just as versatile but infinitely more interesting. 

You can’t go wrong with a classic cashmere sweater, especially when it’s under $25.

Up Next, 8 Who What Wear Editors on the Outfits That Got Them Hired



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Fashion

Shop 23 of This Week's Best New Arrivals

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It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for our weekly installment of new arrivals. For today’s roundup, I’ve searched high and low to find the best in designer and fast-fashion pieces—all of which just hit stores—so that you can be the first of your friends to wear them. After all, if you’re going to buy something, why not beat everyone else to it?

From summer tops to dresses for parties, brunch, and everything in between, there was a lot to love this week (not to mention something for every style type and price point). Now you just have to narrow down your favorites and make room in your closet—sorry! So what are you waiting for? Shop my picks of the week below and don’t forget to check back next Wednesday for another batch of fresh fashion finds.

This will become your favorite summer top, mark my words.

Leave it to Urban to make the perfect affordable floral top.

Just the right amount of sheerness and sparkle.

Never underestimate the power of a good ribbed tank.

Fruit prints are having a major moment.

Whether it’s with a pair of shorts or a satin skirt, this top is your brunch outfit solution.

Of-the-moment tie-dye is too good to pass up at this price.

You need this top and a vacation to wear it on.

Can Ganni do any wrong?

Did you know Anine Bing makes amazing bags, too?

The bag everyone will be Instagramming very soon.

The cage detail really has me intrigued.

I couldn’t settle on just one color.

Not your average wedding guest look, but it should be.

If a dress makes you feel like you’re in the French countryside, do you have to buy it?

The rainbow dress for the edgier girls.

Your summer LWD.

A throw-on-and-go dress for your rushed mornings.

Can you tell I’m here for party dresses?

Yes, you do need another white dress in your wardrobe. It’s summer, remember?

I don’t typically wear pants that aren’t jeans, but these are really speaking to me.

Your new non-basic work pants. 

Would this roundup really be complete without a strappy sandal?

Want more? Shop last week’s new arrivals.

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This Miami Fashion Girl's Look Is Screenshot-Worthy (and Under $100)

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When I daydream about Miami style, I get excited: I immediately think bright colors (and even brighter whites), bold prints, and evening-ready looks that seem synonymous with both the tropical climate and electric vibe of the city. That being said, I actually find it even more exciting to discover someone who stays totally true to their unique personal style, no matter their location. Take Miami local and fashion girl Bianka Walker, for example. “I’d say I’m more a New Yorker soul stuck in Miami,” Walker tells me. “I’m not a dress-and-heels type of girl. I’m all about sneakers and platforms.”

Originally from Ecuador, Bianka has lived in Miami on and off since she was 16, and she feels at home in the city thanks to its large Latina community and gorgeous weather. When I noted that her personal style differs from her fellow locals, she conceded that the city definitely has a style that everyone follows, and she sometimes feels the pressure to conform.

Ultimately, though, she feels that it’s important to stay true to herself when creating an outfit. So what does a Miami girl with an NYC soul (and a knack for affordable finds) want you to buy this summer, you ask? For starters, this perfect straw bag and these platform dad sneakers, both of which she scored at Walmart. Scroll to shop her entire look, see her favorite summer trends, and discover the one touristy spot in Miami she actually enjoys.

What’s your summer vibe in one word?

Sneakers.

What are the top trends for summer you’re looking forward to trying?

I’m looking forward to including bright colors in my outfits. Usually I wear nudes and blacks, but I’m ready to go out of my comfort zone this summer. I also want to try mixing textures more, like I did with the straw bag and jeans here.

Tell us a bit about the outfit…

This outfit screams my name. I love the black denim (especially the detailing), and the hat and shoes are such cute accessories. Plus the jacket. Fringe and metallics are two trends we’ll see a lot of this season, and what better way to display that than in this jacket? The top is super simple but cute, and while the shoes were originally a little crazy for my taste, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I chose this outfit because these pieces feel versatile enough to pair with other looks in my closet as well.

Do you believe in mixing high and low fashion?

Yes, I’m a big fan of mixing high and low! I think it’s the perfect combo. I tend to splurge most on staples like purses and shoes.

Name the one tourist destination that’s actually worth seeing in Miami.

Calle 8! Love the vibes, and the food is amazing. It’s the perfect mix of Miami and Cuba.

Next, 8 Basics That Deliver, No Matter Where in the World You Live



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The Affordable Cult Brands That Will Be All Over Your Instagram Feeds in 2019

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The word “affordable” is one I’m always wary of using within my fashion writing, as one person’s bargain is always going to be another person’s splurge. The pieces I’m about to talk about below certainly aren’t cheap, however, unlike many of the brands on Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion, they are potentially accessible to those of us who normally shop at Zara and Topshop

The contemporary market is one which has been growing significantly over the past two years. Back in 2017, I wrote about how brands like Ganni, Rixo, Staud and Réalisation are fighting to make your wardrobes brighter, better and more affordable. Instead of diffusion lines that mimic the aesthetic of a bigger design house at a lower price point, this new breed of labels are independent selling direct to consumer, with their own instantly identifiable design. Over the past two years, most of the cult buys that we have written about at Who What Wear are by these designers and priced around the $200-$350 mark.

This direct-to-consumer contemporary bracket is one that’s still hugely growing, and these are no longer just small Instagram-led businesses but a key priority for leading luxury retailers. In fact, buyers now scout for brands by scrolling. Net-a-Porter this summer is launching seven brands that were previously only direct-to-consumer, taking niche brands to a global audience. Keep scrolling to shop the new affordable cult brands that we at Who What Wear are championing in 2019.

Faithfull the Brand was founded in Bali in 2012, but this year, it has gone from an under-the-radar beach brand to a mainstay on our Instagram feeds. It specializes in holiday clothing with a zesty color palette and playful prints, but the dresses look just as good in your city as they do in Positano.

Kalda was founded three years ago by London College of Fashion graduate Kata Alda, however, this year it has really cranked its business up a notch, launching its own e-commerce site. These shoes are as comfortable as they are Instagrammable. 

The Frankie Shop has tiny stores in Le Marais and New York, however, this boutique is widening its reach this year, as it just launched on Net-a-Porter. This brand is getting a lot of love from power influencers and street style stars—the pleated skirts and boxy blazers are particularly popular.

Influencers are often responsible for items reaching cult status, and the Line by K was created by fashion blogger Karla Deras. This is another new name to Net-a-Porter, and it sold 500 items in its first week on the site. The lime-green slip skirt has been particularly popular with the Instagram crowd.

Rotate was launched by Danish fashion influencers Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Madsen last year and creates beautiful ’80s-inspired dresses, with bold colors and Dynasty-worthy shoulder pads.

Art Dealer is one of Net-a-Porter’s new direct-to-consumer brands that launched this year. It creates elegant co-ords for grown-ups and consist of printed blouses and matching pencil skirts. As the name would suggest, this brand creates beautiful prints with a nostalgic vintage feel. 

Sandals brand Studio Amelia only launched this year, but it made its debut on Net-a-Porter. Quite the entrance…

Next up, see our guide to the key trends for spring/summer 2019.

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK.

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