How to Dress: Business Professional

By Thursday, April 25, 2013 2 Permalink

My brother’s girlfriend Michelle asked me last week if I could help her find outfits for an internship in Australia. First of all, how awesome is it that she’s doing an internship in Australia?! Of course I imagined her outside surfing huge waves or bottle feeding baby kangaroos during her internship. I mean isn’t that what you imagine when someone says they’re doing an internship in Australia? Well, she sent me the website of the company she’ll be working for and it looks pretty buttoned up – suit and tie style. I guess I won’t be vicariously playing with baby kangaroos through Michelle…oh well. But still, the Australia part is awesome. Now she just needs to stock up on some mix and match pieces to put together a “business professional” work wardrobe.

Business professional means pant suit, skirt suit, and structured dresses. It doesn’t sound very interesting but if your jacket, blouse, skirt, and dress options are varied, you don’t actually have to wear a legit Hilary Clinton skirt suit. A key, especially for an internship would be to pick colors that can combine with any of your other pieces. I chose beige  blue, and black because they all work together and if you’re on a budget it’s easier to mix and match if you stick to a few colors. Err on the conservative side and then see what other people are wearing, specifically people who are above you. In every situation it’s always better to overdress. Michelle asked me if she could wear cardigans and that’s a really good question. I’ve never worked in a conservative corporate office so I suggested taking a cardigan with her and then seeing if anyone in the office wore one. Same goes for hosiery or tights.

Some simple rules for classy office style:

– Watch your ladies, ladies. Make sure your decolletage is demure.

– Avoid anything sheer or anything that shows your underthings or bra straps.

– Dresses and skirts should hit at or below the knee.

– Leave your bedazzler at home! Embellishments, studs, beading, etc. Simple is better.

– Stick to simple prints and colors. For example: hot pink is probably not the best choice.

How to Dress: Business Professional

H&M Cardigan | J.Crew Tartine Satchel | Zara Basic High Heel Ballerina | J.Crew Emmaleigh Dress in Super 120s

How to Dress: Business Professional

Mossimo® Women’s Sleeveless Woven Shirt BlouseJ.Crew Long No. 2 Pencil Skirt in Double-Serge Cotton | Croft & Barrow Slim-Fit Striped Dress Shirt | butter LONDON in Hen PartyKate Spade New York Metro Watch | Zara Leather Court Shoe | H&M Blazer | H&M Trousers

Here are some other options:


Rhyme Los Angeles Alice Peplum Dress

The Limited Faux Tie Front Sheath Dress

J.Crew Bow-shoulder Dress in Stretch Wool


Banana Republic Luisa Non-Iron Striped Shirt

Tinley Road Silk Collarless Button Down Blouse

J.Crew Silk Flutter Top

Pencil Skirts:

Gap Pencil Skirt

The Limited Essential Pencil Skirt

Michael Kors Pencil Skirt


Express One Button Studio Stretch Jacket

Express One Button Studio Stretch Plaid Jacket

Banana Republic Sleek Suit Black Blazer


Gap True Straight Pants

Banana Republic Sloan Fit Flare (I have a pair – love ’em)

J.Crew 1035 Pant in Stretch Wool


The first places I think of when I think of business attire (not including department stores):

Ann Taylor and LOFT

Banana Republic

The Limited

For more relaxed or younger styles:


Gap and Piperlime




Definitely, DEFINITELY check out outlet malls, especially if your wardrobe is only temporary. It is nice to have a few pieces that can work beyond her internship, but I know Michelle doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on things she’ll only be wearing for a few months. I bought a very nice pair of slacks from Banana Republic that felt like a great purchase at the time, but I have yet to wear them to anything but interviews. Am I glad I bought them? Yes. Could I have waited and bought them when I needed them? Yes. Pick what makes sense for your wallet and your wardrobe.