A few years ago, I heard the perfect quote to describe what personal style is. It came from Ellen DeGeneres during one of her stand up routines. She said, “Being stylish means to stand out and fit in at the same time.” When I heard this, I stopped what I was doing and wrote down what she said. In all my years of working in fashion, I had never heard style explained so perfectly. I have used this quote many times at speaking events. Thank you, Ellen.
While this description could work in all areas of life, I think it definitely applies to work style. Work is the place with the most limitations on what we can and cannot wear. When we go to work we are going to do a job. It’s not a fashion show and there isn’t a lot of flexibility around the standards that companies have set. Even if we don’t like the rules, we have to follow them. Dressing well is also a sign of respect, not only for your job, but for your role and position within the company. However, despite these rules, I also think it is important to find your own personal style within the parameters of what is considered acceptable at your workplace. This can be a tricky balance to achieve.
I have worked with a lot of women over the years and the majority of my work has been with professional women looking to stand out at work while being appropriate. Therefore I know how hard it can be to pull off this balance of self expression and acceptable work style. However, it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, I bet, with just a few small tweaks, you can easily take your existing work wardrobe and make it pop so that you can fit in and stand out at the same time.
Work Style: How to Stand Out and Fit In at The Same Time
The trick to standing out and fitting in is to add just a little something different to an acceptable work outfit. It doesn’t have to be major. It can be a pop of color, an interesting color combination, or a piece of jewelry. What you do is replace one boring and expected item for something that is more interesting. By doing this, your wardrobe remains acceptable for work while a bit of personal style is infused. The key, however, is to make sure that what you are adding to enhance your work look still falls within the parameters of what is acceptable.
Because illustration is usually the best way to explain things, below are three outfits that can give you some ideas on how to achieve this. Check them out for more direction.
In this first look, I took a cherry red Reiss blazer, black knit top from Vince Camuto and classic Elie Tahari pants in black. On it’s own, this is a completely fine work outfit. However, what amps this look up a notch is the use of cobalt blue booties from Nordstrom that complements the pink jacket, while adding a third color, along with the pendant necklace from Bauble Bar. Finishing the look is a pair of gold stud earrings from Macys.
The outfit remains clean, modern, and completely work appropriate, but with these subtle twists, more excitement and personal style is added.
In this outfit, using a navy and black tweed skirt from J. Crew, a black Tory Burch sweater and black boots from Calvin Klein, boldness is added by the simple addition of this bright yellow necklace from Modcloth. Without this pop, the outfit is completely acceptable and perfect for work. However, with just this one simple addition, the outfit is bolder while still being completely acceptable.
If you style this brown tweed dress from Boden and ivory cardigan from J. Crew with brown boots it is an attractive outfit that is totally ready for work. However, there is nothing about this outfit that makes it all that special. After too many times wearing it this way it could get a bit boring. To liven it up, all I did was add a pair of burgundy booties that is styled with brown opaque tights and finished the look with a chunky necklace from Bauble Bar that has some soft blue in it. With these changes, the classic nature of this look remains but there is now something more eye catching about it.
The next time you are getting dressed for work, look to see if you can swap out one piece for something more interesting. Can you change your shoe color, add some different colored tights, or maybe a pop piece of jewelry? By considering these additions, while keeping the base of the outfit appropriate for work, your work style may just start stand out while fitting in at the same time.