Work It, Girl: Professional Dressing for the Modern Ladyperson

Sometimes being a girl is complicated.

If you’re a dude, your outfit choices pretty much come down to “which pants?” and “that shirt.” But for ladies, there’s a wiiiiiide range of options out there, which means there are a LOT of ways to go wrong, especially when you’re talking about what to wear to work, in an interview, or for a big presentation. How to do it right? I flipped through the ads in this spring’s fashion magazines to find out. Here’s what I learned.

1. Follow the 25% Rule

If you want to land your bizness plane squarely on the runway of success, you have to learn to show precisely the correct amount of skin. That amount is 25% of one breast — no more, no less.
Nailed it. The lima bean bracelet is a luxe touch, too.
Bingo. As you can see, this ensemble is meant for casual Fridays. Replicate the look yourself by pulling out your mom’s jeans and gift wrapping them with your dad’s belt.
BAM. Professional perfection. Optimal boobage and a classic pump, too.

2. Practice Restraint

Minimalism always wins when dressing for work. Don’t wear all your favorite clothes at once. In fact, as Coco Chanel once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” This is a Chanel ad, so as you can see, Coco meant pants.
Or maybe she meant, “clothes.” If you decide to go full-frontal, keep it classy. DO opt for a multi-strand necklace and a practical messenger bag. DON’T sweat the haters.

3. Try Subversive Hair

This isn’t the 1960s. Think more Joan Jett, less Joan Holloway. If you’re going to rock the buttoned-up look, great — but draw the line when it comes to a sculpted hair helmet. Instead, chew off the ends of your hair to create a little contrast and suggest that maybe, just maybe, you’re a paralegal and a bounty hunter.
See? Proper outfit + broom head = balance. Tuck your prim blouse into a mid-length skirt, then whip an electric egg beater through your bun for 20 seconds to rough things up.

4. Accessorize with Care

On weekends, feel free to go overboard with baubles; but your Monday-Friday gig is another story. Pick ONE favorite accessory and use it as your theme. Seen here: starfish.
You can also do a single starfish as a brooch. See how pulled together she looks while she’s listening in on that conference call? I don’t care if you’re just an assistant now. Always dress like you’re the CFO — Chief Fabulousness Officer.
Have an accessory that looks a bit like a face? Awesome. Let your colleagues feel your quirky jive when you walk into your presentation and yell PEEKEEBOO! It’s a fun way to break the ice, and it loosens everyone up for the Q&A section later.

5. Travel Smart

Remember, you represent your employer no matter where you go. At a restaurant for dinner? DON’T get all sloppy and make a pterodactyl out of your napkin. DO project an image of power and composure at all times. Show here: take advantage of the time it takes to fuel up the rental car, and practice your rope skills. That’s right, everybody — this lady’s whipping her company into shape.

6. Dazzle Every NO into a YES

Let’s say you know you’re about to get fired. Maybe you woofed a big project or something. You’re toast, right? WRONG. Now’s the time to pull out your secret fashion weapon: distraction. Pile on every color and pattern you’ve got, walk into the office, and voilà — your boss will be too overcome by sensory input to remember why your head was on the chopping block. Now don’t blow that second chance, girl.

7. Think Whole, Not Parts

If there’s one rule that will get you through every professional situation, it’s that everything needs to work together as an ensemble. Individually, you might not think a trench, a woven bag, and a bra-less woolen vintage bathing suit would work, right? But all together, ta-da! This meeting is called to order.

In short: Run a fork through your hair, undo one more button, and get ready for your turn at the top, baby. You’re going places.

* * *

Speaking of going places… do you like to go to parties? I’ll be rocking my best quasi-professional look for the Penguins with People Problems book tour this summer, and I’d love to see you along the way. Dates and places will be updated online as plans are made!

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 2.05.37 PM

(On a penguin note: Have you seen the New York Times exclusive mini-series? It’s called “Penguins with Parent Problems,” and a total of six episodes will be running at random intervals through the beginning of June!)

(PS: One last thing… If you’re on Facebook, you may have been following the I Miss You When I Blink page and/or my official author page. I’m switching over to using just the author page, because two pages is too damn many pages. That’s good news because it means you won’t see double posts in your newsfeed. So, make sure you’re following that one? Thanks!)


  1. Sitting on the train during my boring commute this morning, I read your blog post that brightened the mundane!
    Unfortunately I’m not following the 25% rule this morning in my choice of office attire but tomorrow I’ll try it out!
    :))) happy Monday!!

  2. I wish I would have read this before I got dressed for work this morning instead of during my coffee break.
    Oh well. Now i”m prepared for tomorrow and every day thereafter!
    Thanks for keeping me on the upwardly mobile track!

  3. Thank you! I am a paralegal/bounty hunter and until now, I’ve been a bit stumped trying to find just the right professional look. This is great. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s