How to be on trend with a professional dress code

by | Feb 23, 2015

It's all very well for Professional Image Consultants of a certain age and seniority to tell the 20 and 30 somethings what they need in their wardrobes. Very often they might want to dress as we suggest,  but can't afford it. Other times they don't want to look older than their years. All  without exception don't want to dress like their mothers!

[Tweet "Many think some of the dress code rules means they have to look frumpy."]

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no need to look like a younger version of your mother.

How do the under 30s build up a professional wardrobe that is on trend?

With the rise of international high street brands such as Zara, H & M, Top Shop, Coach, Banana Republic, LL Bean, Old Navy, The Gap, River Island, Comptoir de Cottoniers, and department stores offering global online shopping, the possibility for buying quality fashion at affordable prices is increasing. Many online suppliers have free delivery for orders over a certain value - so make sure you group your purchases to take advantage of special deals. They also have pop-up sales with as much as 25% discount lasting 24 hours.

[Tweet "" Sign up for alerts so you can buy your business staples at the best possible prices.""]

So whether you live in New York, Nottingham or Nantes, it is possible to create an on trend look to satisfy corporate business codes,  as well as staying within a tight budget. The quality of some of the high street chains may not be couture standard, but if the items last a season, or even two, then you will have had good wear out of them and your money's worth.

Dress codes

Many companies have strict dress guidelines, while others are more flexible. The key focus is to choose something that is appropriate for your organisation, but also in line with your goals, body shape and personality.  The demands of an international law firm will be different to a hi-tech start-up or a manufacturing company or a social service. You want to be remembered for the right reasons and not because of your scruffy trainers, spike heels on the shop floor,  or plunging necklines in a meeting with your boss. Remember to dress for the job you aspire to - not the job you have.

To build a well-balanced wardrobe focus on the basics, avoid bold patterns and extreme fashion fads, leaving yourself the luxury to invest in one or two knock 'em dead, indulgence items for special occasions.

So what key core basics should the under 30s have in their wardrobes?

A tailored jacket

There is no professional image consultant or fashion specialist worth their salt, that wouldn't advise every professional woman to have a tailored jacket in her closet.tailored jacket It should be kept handy for any unexpected meetings or lunches. It instantly converts the casual to the professional and moves easily from day wear to evening wear and can be worn with a dress, skirt, trousers or jeans. This one in the picture is from Zara, and retailing at €69 it is very affordable.

Round necked jackets are very on trend currently and most major retailers stock a wide range of styles and colours.  It doesn't have to be Chanel to create a well-groomed professional look.

Pencil Skirt

Every professional woman should have a well-fitting pencil skirt of good quality tailoring hanging on her rail. Marie-Claire described this item as every woman's "secret weapon" and the ultimate fashion "multi-tasker", which can take you from business meeting to drinks parties or a post work date, easily and comfortably. Trends in other skirts come and go, but this timeless wardrobe piece has served women well for more than 50 years. They can be teamed with the other core pieces to create the desired look. Most large chain stores will stock a range of models wherever you are located. Find one that is lined so that it hangs properly and in business neutral colours if your budget is tight. When you get your bonus you can add a more individual item. Accessorize to suit the occasion and your personality.

Collared shirts

Any fashion rag of any merit will advise any aspiring professional woman to have some collared shirts to hand. Select ones in 100% cotton or those with some stretch fabric. Plain white is a must, but striped or in other colours can create a classy business look.  They can be worn tucked in, or if tailored outside skirts or trousers. Make sure they are impeccably ironed! This basic item can often be bought in quantity with prices starting as low as £12.50. Some vendors offer cheap deals for multiple purchases of the same article.

White and Black T-shirts

Every professional woman should have a stash of good quality, logo free, 100% cotton black and white T-shirts to hand. Long or short sleeves, round necked or crew, they can be teamed with any of the other basics in your wardrobe.  The main point is they should fit well and not cling. The minute they start to look less than brilliant white or totally black, they should be consigned to your sports bag. Every store near you will carry them.


Nothing creates a professional and elegant look more easily than the traditional  but timeless, little black dress, an essential item in every woman’s closet. The L.B.D comes in many styles. For the office remember the no skin rule is best applied, not too short, or low-cut. Teamed with a jacket or cardigan they can be accessorized to change the look, with scarves and jewellery. Take off the jacket for after work cocktails, dates or networking events.

Good quality cardigan

Finding a good quality cardigan can supplement a basic wardrobe to team up with all of the other core items.  You can save for cashmere, or buy lower costs models in line with your budget. A neutral shade offers the greatest versatility, with a longer style brushing the hip being generally the most flattering cut.  All stockists offer a wide selection.

Black trousers/ pants

black trousers

No wardrobe is complete without a pair of black pants or trousers. Select a good quality, well-fitting pair that suits your shape and will team with your other basics. Whether you go for a skinny look, pencil or more tailored versions will depend on the dress code of your organisation and your body shape. Prices are very affordable.  Factor in that the shoes you would like to wear will change the look, whether with power heels or ballerinas. Always bear in mind the image you want to project as well as the practical implications.


 Signature piece

Now your basics are hanging in your closet you have the freedom to think about signature items. So whether it is a belt, scarf, handbag, some stylish shoes, a timeless trench coat or some boots - now is your chance to add that dash of individuality that speaks about you and who you are.

What else would you add?

Fashion Junkie Contributor
Fashion Junkie is a Gen Y closet fashion fiend. By day she is an industrial engineer with a passion for clothes and trends, at night she is a glam fashionista. She loves to Benettonize her friends' closets and moonlights at weekends sharing her ideas about clothes for women who care about how they look, recognises that some games need to be played, but without selling their souls. Above all she wants the judgement of women's appearance in the workplace to be reduced to the same level as men. She is not so much out of the box but was never really in it!

Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services

Individual services

Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.

Corporate services

The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)

Upcoming events

Book Now

There are no upcoming Events at this time.

Dates for the Diary



We have Remote Learning Programs available 

Check out our exciting portfolio of offerings to support your business in upskilling and competence building for your teams, to address the unprecedented challenges that women face in this new totally a digital world.








Download and listen free podcasts

Related articles

How to be good at receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is an essential component at every level of team interaction and leadership. Very often we read a lot about giving feedback correctly, but not how to receive it. It’s hard when someone criticizes our work, not to get defensive.

read more

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
3 Plus International Call Back Request