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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A quick and dirty guide to business casual

As you may recall, back in September I wrote a post on wearing make-up at work. Since my friends and I have been in that post-college, need-a-grown-up-job boat, here's a couple of tips I've picked up along the way for "business casual" and interviewing. (And hey, I got an awesome job, so it works! I am off that boat!)

1. If you aren't sure what's allowed and what's not, ASK. Always, always ask about the dress code and what it includes. When I accepted the temp job in August, one of the first things I asked was "what's the dress code?" Business casual in one office may mean "jeans on Fridays only, but khakis/cords are all right on other days", or it could mean "jeans are allowed every day". Even when I started at my temp job working in the video game industry, I asked about the dress code. I got some funny looks.

2. Have a few pieces you know you can rely on. I mean, this is a basic for any working wardrobe, really. This applies to both interviews and working, because sometimes it's just easier to roll out of bed and put on your workin' pants. (This stops being so easy when you realize you've been wearing your workin' pants every day that week. And the week before. Except for Fridays.) Basics for me would include black non-denim pants, black leather flats, solid color tops, and a nice black cardigan. For casual Fridays, replace the work pants with a dark denim. My fallback interview outfit has generally been black pants or skirt, a nice top, a cardigan, and black heels or flats. Once or twice, though, I've gone directly from Casual Friday to an interview, so the dark denim came into play (and was acceptable, thank goodness).

3. Keep in mind where you're interviewing. I've been to an interview where the dress code was universally understood and hammered into our heads (or so I thought) as "wear. a. suit." All of the guys there were wearing suits and looking rather dapper, as guys in suits tend to do. But the girls wore things ranging from khakis and knit tops to white pumps with khaki minis and a girl wearing something that looked like a party dress. I felt my standard cardigan-nice pants-heels would have been too casual, but apparently not everyone else thought so. Needless to say, I was in a black suit with my (now) go-to black heels, pantyhose, the works. I didn't get the job, but I felt pretty good about how I had dressed for the interview, anyway. And now I have a black suit and some nice heels.

4. Have fun with your accessories. I like to wear earrings -- long dangly ones, in particular, but just being able to wear fun earrings in general is a way for me to still express myself when I'm wearing black pants, black flats, and a different plain solid-colored-or-striped shirt every day. This isn't so great if you spend a lot of your job on the phone, so pick out something that will be fun and easy and not get in the way (like bangles will). Try fun necklaces or neckscarves if your job keeps you from wearing our beloved headbands and earrings. I love the Juxtapose necklaces at Artschool Dropout -- her store is currently closed, but you can see some of her work on her Flickr. Gorgeous.

5. Get a five-minute face down. I know that in my previous post, I talked about eyeshadow and what make-up to wear to work. I've got a whole little plastic drawer full of make-up, but I'm not going to do a full-on MAC eye every morning. You might! That is okay too! But just your basic face is the most important thing to get down, and often the hardest to achieve. So practice, streamline it, and highlight what you want to highlight.

Here's my basic 5-minute face!

- Step One: Foundation. I use Philosophy The Supernatural mineral make-up since I can pat it on with the sponge applicator instead using a brush.
- Step Two: Concealer. I use DuWop's Surface concealer because it's in a lipstick-like tube -- I swipe it on under my eyes, then blend with my fingertips.
- Step Three: Powder. I use Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil with a kabuki brush for this; it helps even out my foundation and my concealer.
- Step Four: Brows. For brows, I use DuWop Brow Wow in Lighter. It's a shame they don't make the highlighter separately, since that would be a great eyelid color. (Hint, hint!)
- Step Five: Eyeliner. I've talked about my eyeliner before, and my standard daytime eyeliner is Benefit in Sable.
- Step Six: Mascara. Any mascara will do; I've been trying out different types, but I think Fresh SuperNova is still my favorite.
- Step Seven: Cheeks. I use Benetint (again, as you know) and then I'll usually top it off with a powder blush. I've used BeneFit's Dandelion, MAC Mineralize Skin Finishes, Stila, etc. I've also used bronzer, too.

All of that in under five minutes! I've seriously set my watch and timed it so I know it's under five. (I put my SPF on before I brush my teeth, then start my make-up after I've brushed my teeth so that my moisturizer is all soaked in. So keep that in mind, too!)

If you need help, try going to a BeneFit or Bobbi Brown counter, as they tend to be the most casual-make-up-wearer friendly, but any make-up counter will be able to help you out, generally. As you can see, I rely pretty heavily on stuff I can get at Sephora, too.

Naturally, business casual is a popular issue around the blogs, so here are some links for more info on What To Wear to Work.

- Susan Wagner is one of the fashion contributing editors at BlogHer -- she also has a great blog called The Working Closet. It's not just for moms! Everyone can find really good information there, and if you have questions, she can definitely answer them.
- Pretty, Preppy, or Polished is in the same sort of boat -- no more flipflops! She's got a good eye (love the headbands!) and I wish I had the same sort of discipline when it comes to shopping for clothes. (I really need a fall/winter wardrobe, you guys; I am very much a summer shopper.)
- Faking Good Breeding posts fairly often about work and interview clothes -- just today she wrote about "dressing for your boss", including this link on Fashionista. She understands working with a budget (she's still in college!) and posts up all sorts of themed finds on Fridays (one was all Target coats! Yay, Target!).
- For bonus info, Gala Darling wrote about business casual back in May. Her advice is more of the "grimace and bear it" sort, which I definitely have felt pangs of at times. Plus, she's Gala Darling and she is awesome.

Now go out there and get 'em!

images from jcrew.com and artschooldropout.net

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