Here's how to stretch your professional wardrobe to the max, even when you think you have nothing to wear.
by Emily Cieslak
At some point during the summer, you’re going to look into your closet and think, I have nothing to wear. All the professional dresses and shirts you packed in your luggage? Already worn...several times. One of the inevitable truths rarely mentioned is that when working five days a week, you have to be an outfit repeater or have an endless wardrobe, like all your editors seem to have. Is it time to head to SoHo and crack open your wallet? Not so fast...with a bit of creativity and strategy, you can invent new outfits and make casual pieces professional. Trust me, my best fashion moments come out of the mornings I first thought I had nothing to wear.
Nip and Tuck Dresses
Dresses are going to be your best friend this summer. The one piece wonder makes an entire outfit and is probably the breeziest garment you can wear on hot, sweltering days when entering the subway feels like entering the depths of hell. Yet you make think dresses are hard to repeat. Wrong. Love the bottom of your dress? If the top half is fitted enough, you can layer a boxy shirt or sweater over it and get an entirely new skirt out of it. Similarly, if you fancy the top portion, you can pull a separate pair of slacks or a skirt over the dress to create a new blouse. A T-shirt can also go underneath a slip dress or strapless number. These are great tricks to make a dress that’s originally too formal or revealing office appropriate. For instance, I recently wore a dress that was way too formal for work by topping it with a playful blouse. With a bit of rolling up my sleeves (literally) no one knew, and the fashion editor of my magazine actually complimented my black “midi skirt.” Of course I said thanks—with a wink.
Rethink Your Jumpsuit and Romper
I love jumpsuits and rompers for their ease and versatility as much as dresses, if not more. And just as with dresses, you can get new separates from these one pieces. Jumpsuits usually have fabulous bottoms, so it would be a shame not to wear them with different tops and give them more life. Likewise, the shortness of your favorite romper shouldn’t stop you from wearing it to work. Just pull loose pants or a skirt over it. Layering tops underneath can also elevate garments with spaghetti or no straps.
Don’t forget a jacket
If there is one thing you need in the office, it’s a cardigan or jacket. Even on the most humid days, your office will be freezing, and no amount of coffees will keep you warm. It’s time to cuddle up in something cozy. Depending on the formality of your workspace, you can go with a sharp blazer or a more casual jean or bomber jacket. If you’re going to wear another layer anyway, take the opportunity to don tops that are cute but perhaps a bit too revealing to wear to work on their own. Think bodysuits, off-the-shoulder blouses, or anything open back. Of course, use your best judgement to make sure you don’t look like you just pulled a jacket over a clubbing get up. Save that for Saturday morning.
Finesse Your Footwear
Another area that needs serious strategy is your shoe game. First off, don’t make the rookie mistake of wearing your nicest loafers or heels on your commute. Not only will you end up with the worst blisters but also you’ll unnecessarily cut the life of your shoes short (hello water stains and subway scuffs). It’s perfectly fine to wear worn-in sneakers on the subway and change into work shoes once in the office. Case in point: One of my editors slips on gold stilettos under her desk every day. You'll realize soon enough that carrying two pairs is actually a blessing. Footwear completely changes the tone of an outfit and will be a lifesaver when you won’t have time to go home and change after work for that dinner (in other words, every night). The right pair can turn a summer dress into a work dress into a going out dress. If you have to buy something in SoHo, make it shoes.
Belt It, Baby
You’ve probably already heard this, but accessories are the easiest way to change up a look, dress something up or down, and not shell out a ton of bucks while doing it. A belt can completely change the silhouette of a dress, a scarf can cover up bare shoulders, and statement earrings can make the ponytail that took five seconds look like it took five hours. Take advantage of all the pop up flea markets and vendors selling handmade or vintage jewelry in New York City. You won’t just extend your intern closet; you’ll extend your intern memories with something permanent. And this is the summer not to forget.