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How to work the workplace

Kevin Valdez | The Ticker

Dear Lily,

I am about to start an internship, and they are a “business casual” kind of company. I’m having trouble figuring out what to wear, as I am used to having to wear formal dress pants or a professional skirt and a blazer. Please help me!

-Anxious and Overdressed 

Dear Anxious and Overdressed,

Don’t freak out! This is a super easy fix. Thankfully, there are options for all types of budgets, should you require some new pieces. But most likely, you already have everything you need in your closet right now. Go through your wardrobe and see if you have any of the following pieces, or something that resembles them:

• White and/or black T-shirts (not undershirts, not ratty and not too revealing)

• Blouses

• A nice pair of jeans (no rips)

• A nice pair of pants (any color, any style)

• Culottes (if you like them)

• Sweaters and scarves

• Heels (opened-toed is acceptable), boots, booties, flats, mules, nice (clean) sneakers

•Skirts (approximately knee-length or longer, though about two inches above the knee is acceptable, too)

Basically, business casual means you don’t have to wear slacks, a button-down shirt, a blazer and stilettos from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The possibilities are endless.

For example, you could do a skinny dark jean with knee-high boots, a nice blouse and a statement necklace. Or, you could opt for culottes, booties and a nice tee shirt, paired with a snazzy leather jacket. If you’re stuck on skirts, take a midi skirt, add some stylish white sneakers, put on a sweater and throw a blazer over your shoulders  to complete the outfit. Fur coats can be acceptable, too.

A good rule of thumb is this: shorts, skin-tight and short skirts and dresses, too much cleavage, sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings and flip-flops are always a NO. Instead, swap those flips-flops for a pair of mules or loafers. To stay away from the cozy sweatshirts, choose a fuzzy or oversized sweater instead, and pair it with skinny jeans. The contrast in tightness creates a good balance in an outfit while retaining the comfort of your favorite sweatshirt.

If you still like to wear slacks and blazers, make the blazer colorful or have a fun pattern. Add a statement shoe. Maybe a pop of color in a neck scarf. Don’t be scared to try new things. You’re lucky to live in New York City, one of the fashion capitals of the world, so take a look around! See what other businesswomen are wearing. Take a walk in Madison Square Park at lunchtime and I guarantee you will see a variety of “business casual” outfits. They can give you a plethora of ideas for your own style, as well as insight into what’s “in.”

This question was written by the author as an example of the Arts & Style section’s new fashion column, “Ask Lily.” The advice given does not necessarily reflect or represent the opinion of The Ticker.

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