I'm three years out of college and I've never had a job that required me to dress up. Not ever having gotten in the habit of wearing makeup, this also means I've never worn any to work. However, I'm being offered a job that will require full business attire, and I feel like it behooves me to develop on a sophisticated presence. I have a young face (people think I am a freshman in college!) and while this will in the long run be an asset, it makes me insecure in this type of situation. I want to go for something subtle, but I have no idea where to start. Help, please! --Clueless Cassie
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Dear Clueless Cassie
Congratulations on the new job. How exciting! You're right, of course, that dressing and looking professional matter. That doesn't mean, Clueless Cassie, you need to dress like a Fortune 500 CEO, but the right clothing and fresh makeup will help with perception and self-confidence.
Decoding work dress codes can be challenging, so I suggest checking out your new environment before breaking the bank on a new wardrobe. There are many stores that have exactly what you need. Anne Taylor, J. Crew and Banana Republic specialize in business-casual attire, with great options for mix-and-match office chic. If you buy a few pairs of pants and skirts in basic colors -- grey, black and khaki -- you can alternate your sweaters and blouses to create a fresh look everyday.
Invest in a good pair of closed-toe shoes, and make sure the heels are manageable. I recommend keeping your toes covered; open-toed shoes in a business environment can be a little iffy.
When it comes to your make-up, less is more. And you don't need to be an expert with so many around! Find a good department store with a great cosmetics section, and tell them what you told me. I superlove all the cosmetics staff at Nordstrom's; they're friendly, knowledgeable, low on pressure and high on service. You can return anything, which is very helpful when that red lipstick looks coral in natural light. Bobby Brown, Clinique, and Prescriptives are known for their natural looks and colors, so hit those counters first. I recommend a tinted moisturizer to even out your skin tone, a good mascara, and some sheer lip gloss. Maybe a very little blush. A few good basics will pull together your look very nicely and easily.
Congratulations again on the new job! Learning curves and new environments can be stressful; remember to get enough sleep, practice good eating habits and try, try, try to keep a regular schedule outside of work. A little routine will help keep you grounded.