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With startup attire giving the traditional suit and tie a run for its money, a business casual look at the office can’t hurt. Having such a wide breadth of options for work wear can be incredibly daunting –– while jeans and a tee may pass with your laid-back colleagues, it’s wise to level up your wardrobe and dress for the role you want, not the one you have.

Illana from Broad City wearing a dog sweater

How else would you keep your ears warm in winter? (via giphy.com)

Thankfully, upgrading doesn’t have to be a huge headache on you or your bank account. With a few simple steps, you can be one snazzy well-dressed employee. Here are a few tips to revamp your startup uniform:


#1 - Pick A Palette

The first step in your professional workwear journey? Start with color. Power colors like black, navy, grey, white and brown have long been favorites of the business world, and are the perfect neutrals to include within your attire.

Pick 1-2 as a base and then branch out from there. For a full outfit and a good bit of variation, aim for 5-6 hues that you really enjoy to start. A quick look at your closet may show you that you’ve already established a palette preference -- for example, your closet may be full of denim, forest greens, and the occasional pop of burgundy or cognac brown, run with that!

Instead of trying to come up with a completely new palette, you can simply go off the colors you naturally gravitate towards and already wear on a regular basis.


#2 - Get Inspiration

dude ruffling his hair

Dress up the hair too. (via giphy.com)

Ever seen a snazzy dresser on the subway and thought “man! I’d love to put together an outfit like that!” Well, you can! As you’re building out your office attire, take stock of what clothes you’re drawn to in others. You don’t need to be a fashion professional to see how others put together threads.

If you’ve started a new job, get some inspiration from your fellow colleagues. Ask yourself what appeals to you about what they’re wearing. Are you drawn mostly to the colors or is there a particular shirt style that really catches your eye? Take a look at how the person has used accessories, like a watch or jacket, in their outfit and look for any shapes and textures that really appeal to you as well.

The more you notice these small details and begin to build your own inspiration of workwear, the more you’ll be able to easily pull pieces off a rack when you’re looking for a refresher.


#3 - Set a Budget

ballin' on a budget

Now that’s ballin’ on a budget! (via giphy.com)

So, you know what you like and you have a general idea of your style or you at least have an idea of what garments you’d like to bring more of into your workwear. Great! Now how much are you going to spend?

Blowing your whole first paycheck when you’re new to the job world may not be the smartest way to build out a professional closet. Instead, give yourself a feasible number to work with. $100 to $200 can get you pretty far, especially if you think about building a capsule wardrobe -- a collection of essential pieces or staples. A pared down closet can have anywhere from 20-30 articles of clothing, allowing you to easily mix and match for a streamlined look.


#4 - Go for Staples

too much fashion

Keep it classy. (via giphy.com)

Once you have an idea of what colors tend to already make up your attire and how much you’re looking to spend, you can hit the refresh button on your existing closet.

Take a look at what you already have and begin to build out your staples -- a solid or nicely patterned button down, a nice formal black dress, a crisp suit, and a sweater or two that can do double duty for colder office days.

Of course, stick to what works best for you and the environment you work at. The plus of having staples in your closet, like a navy blazer, is that it can be thrown on over anything to pull together an outfit.

Staples are as versatile as they are efficient. If, for example, your Wednesdays tend to be a mix of client meetings and doing work at your desk, a nice blazer can give you the option of going from biz semi-pro to biz casual. Pieces that can be thrown on over or under anything can help pull together an outfit. #layereverything


#5 - Try a Stylist

stylist

And we never even left our house! (via giphy.com)

If the thought of shopping for yourself gives you major anxiety (we get it!) then sign up for your own personal stylist. There are a number of clothes subscription boxes that send hand-picked favorites directly to your doorstep, like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club.

For a small fee, these fashion gurus will get to know your personal likes and dislikes, and curate a couple of apparel and accessories pieces for your wardrobe. The nice thing is you don’t have to opt in for all of the pieces in your box, if you for example, are looking to add more visually appealing wear, a personal stylist can send you pieces you may have never thought to try on your own.


#6 - Pick Quality Over Quantity

gretchen from mean girls tries to make fetch happen.

Happening in every season. (via giphy.com)

This golden rule will make your professional closet put in some serious work. While putting together a style that is professional, young, and uniquely you, splurge for pieces with longevity. This goes hand-in-hand with your staples, because you’ll want to fill your closet with clothes that are well made and will survive a couple of wears.

Pro tip: To keep your wardrobe budget-friendly, see if your neighborhood has any thrift shops or consignment shops. You can often find quality gems at these neighborhood favorites for a steal. You’ll also want to invest in a good tailor and dry cleaner to help keep your best pieces looking spectacular. Putting that little bit of TLC into your clothes can mean you have a piece for 5 or 10 years down the road – saving you hundreds, probably even thousands, in the long run.


Jumping into the professional world with a well-thought out wardrobe will boost your confidence and let the world know you mean business! Once you’ve got your initial pieces, adding in a few styles throughout the year will be much simpler and a lot nicer on your wallet. Add a few trendy pieces each season and you may even get a few compliments as you’re rolling up the ladder. Looking for more workwear inspiration? Grow your career with Planted and sign up to get our best tips on making the most of your startup life.


Dronile Hiraldo is a New York City born and bred writer with a passion for stories, doughnuts, and Thriller. As a copywriter and digital media professional, she loves exploring the Dominican-American experience through such topics as wellness, style, and travel. Her lifestyle blog, the little dominican , inspires other women of color to manifest wild, carefree, divine lives– full of tender (self) love and care.