How to Dress for Work without Sacrificing your Personal Style

October 26th, 2016

Shelby Daily

Brand Strategist / Project Manager

Several of our team members attended the Leadership Works conference here in Memphis a few months ago. One topic that particularly resonated with myself, Lexie and Becca was about personal branding. It is important to be aware that even without trying, you are developing your personal brand as a professional with every interaction you have. One part of this is the way you dress - apparel makes a statement before anyone says a word. Since apparel sets the tone for how you are perceived by your clients, your supervisors, your peers, and even yourself, it is important to strike a great balance of being both professional, and true to yourself. Here are a few good rules of thumb to keep in mind! 

Step 1: The Mullet Rule

You know what they say about mullets – business on the top and party on the bottom. The same applies to work wear. Pick ONE item that really reflects your personality. This could be a skirt with a fun pattern, a pair of colored trousers, or your favorite polka dot shirt.

Now, here’s the important part. Pair that ONE fun item that says “this is me” with a polished item for the perfect balance. This way, people get a sense of who you are as a person and a professional.

Here are some examples:

  1. Patterned skirt and black top
  2. Patterned top and burgundy (non-patterned) pleated skirt
  3. Pink pants with chambray button down (check out the fun shoes too)
  4. Cherry patterned button down with polished black trousers





Step 2: It’s all in the Details

A work outfit can go from drab to fabulous in no time with the right accessories. Plus, it’s fun to surprise people with something unexpected.

An easy fall look I love (when it actually gets cold enough to wear here in Memphis) is a turtleneck and ankle length trousers. This isn’t the most exciting look in the world, but it’s a classic. AND it’s a blank canvas for you to leave your mark.

Just add the perfect pair of patterned flats, a burgundy pair of heels, a scarf in your hair, some unique earrings, or a statement necklace, and VOILA, your outfit is transformed.

I almost forget the most important rule here though. ONLY PICK ONE OR TWO STATEMENT PIECES to wear at a time. If you wear them all at once, you’ll go from chic to walking rave. Reel it in….and get ready to rake in the compliments.

Here are some examples:

  1. Statement necklace
  2. Statement bracelets (yes, can double arm it, and note her pattern play with the blazer and shirt)
  3. Statement flats
  4. Statement earrings 


Step 3: Work Jeans are a Thing.

The jeans you wear to work may not be the jeans you wear on the weekend. They are slightly more tailored, polished, and often feature a relaxed fit. In other words, don’t wear the tightest jeans you own to work. Why not? Your coworkers and clients don’t need to see all of your assets, no matter how fine you are.

Also, once you find the right fit, don’t be afraid to try cropped, flared, skinny, or even GASP, white denim. I know the old rule of no white after Labor Day, but this rule is made to be broken. White denim in the fall and winter looks great and breaks up the monotony. High-waisted denim with a tucked in shirt is a great option for work too.

Then, pair with flats, boots, or heels and a polished top. Off to work you go!

Here are some examples:

  1. High-waisted slim fit jean with a nice blouse
  2. Cropped boyfriend jean with a classic, striped shirt
  3. White, high-waited, and flared. Be still my heart
  4. Black slim fit jean

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to insert your own, personal sense of style. You are unique. Embrace it! And, if you aren’t sure about a certain trend or statement piece, bargain shop and find it on the cheap. That way you can make sure you like it before you invest any further.