I am starting my summer internship in a few days and one of the things that comes to the top of my mind is what I should wear to work. The past two years of remote working got me accustomed to leggings with a nice shirt on days I needed to turn my video on. But now that I have to show up in person, I need to build a sustainable yet fashionable wardrobe for work.
Over the years, a key lesson I have learnt is the importance of investing in staple pieces. In my early twenties, when I shopped, I optimised for the number of items I bought rather than the quality. While not every piece needs to be designer, there is a lot of value in spending a bit more on staples you will get multiple wear out of. These pieces can elevate your look and can be styled in different ways.
Below are some staples I recommend investing in:
• Black blazer: Goes with pretty much anything
• Navy blue blazer: Very versatile; can be dressed up or down
• Black pants
• Silk white shirt (short and full-sleeved): Can also be dressed down with jeans for business casual
• Comfortable work flats (nude or black)
• Comfortable pair of heels: I have seen too many people struggling to walk in heels that look good but are way too uncomfortable
The best part about being in a place like Nepal is that you can get a lot of these pieces tailor made. But if you live abroad, a couple of stores to check out are Banana Republic, Theory, Artizia, and J-Crew. Although a bit pricey, the clothes you buy there will last for years.
Understanding work culture
As I began preparing my wardrobe for the whole week – yes, the whole week, trust me it saves a lot of time in the morning – the first thing I did was ask my manager what to wear. Every office has its own culture and it’s best to not stand out for the wrong reasons on day one. Do your research before starting work – it is totally fair to ask for the dress code; you don’t want to show up in a three-piece suit when your colleagues are in khakis. Even while working as a consultant, I was advised to understand the clients’ dress code to blend in and not stand out. So, I wore plain blue suits while consulting investment banks and jeans while consulting a tech company.
This summer, I am working at a startup and my manager told me that people choose to dress casually. Upon hearing this, I was tempted to put my most comfortable sundress on but instead swapped it for a business casual look (a shirt, cotton pants, and heeled sandals). At least for the first day, I wanted to try a bit harder. Most of my team is older than me and I was cognizant of wanting to be perceived more seriously. While your work speaks for itself, the way you present yourself matters too.
Bringing your individuality
Although your office may have a set dress code, you can still bring out your individuality through what you wear. Know what you are comfortable in. For me, even outside of work, I like to wear blazers, heels and funky accessories (huge earrings, colourful shoes, etc.), so I try to find ways to incorporate that professionally. While working for a bank, I did not enjoy wearing monotone suits, so I started switching my white shirts with colourful satin blouses. I opted for flared pants when I wore a plain white shirt and accessorised black blazers with colourful scarves. On the other hand, while working for a tech company, I did not feel “work-ready” in casual clothes. So, I switched the white sneakers with heeled sandals and styled my shirts with coloured blazers.
Have fun playing around with your work wardrobe!