Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I’m about to move to a new city and start a new administrative support job after staying at home for 20 years to raise my kids. I feel confident in my ability to do the job, but insecure about my attire because the workplace has changed so much since I’ve been away. The company handbook doesn’t even mention a dress code, and the fashion blogs and magazines seem to be catering to women under 30. I budgeted for a new wardrobe but don’t know what to buy.

Do you have any thoughts?


Dear Clueless,

Congratulations on your new beginning. Be grateful your problem is a pleasant one!

When at a fork in the road with fashion, there are two paths: You can cultivate a signature look, or you can conform.

People who cultivate a signature look ignore the trends and commit to their choices with so much aesthetic flair and self-belief that they always look right. That could be anything from a woman who wears peasant-style blouses while every other woman is in a starched collared shirt, or the man who always wears a tie to a workplace where everyone else is casual.

People who conform express their style as a statement of their general awareness.

Also, take into consideration where you will be working. Urban workplaces tend to be more formal than rural ones, and Mexico is a lot more formal than the United States in terms of dress.

Unless you’re one of those rare people with a signature look, I suggest you hit the ground running with a couple of presentable outfits you already own.  Once you get a feel for the climate, the terrain and what the people in your new company and community are actually wearing, you can take it from there. Even in these Instagram-crazy times, fashion trends are remarkably regional, and even those who fancy themselves experts on footwear won’t really know what shoes to buy until they’ve managed their commute for several days in a row.

Though first impressions matter, people will be much more attuned to your overall “vibe,” your competence and your congeniality than to what you’re wearing that first week on the job.

Here’s to being fabulous in this new chapter of your life!


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