Q&A: Professional Style 101

February 13th, 2008

Q:  I’m a medical student about to start my full time clinical rotations. For certain specialties, I can get away with scrubs, but for the ones requiring office appropriate attire, I’m at a complete loss. Anything a little fashionable or a little sexy ends up sending the wrong message under a white coat (Agyness Deyn might be a trend-setter, but would you want her diagnosing your cancer?) But I would really like to look younger and fresher than the boring button downs and slacks that have become my fall back!

Cotton Ruffle Front Floral Shirtby Jessica Stockdale, Style and Beauty writer at Found4less.com

A:  Balance is the keyword to working with this problem. You want to be respected, as you should be. But you don’t want to sacrifice style. And the good news is that you don’t have to. Other than balance, where you buy your clothes will aid you tremendously in picking suitable attire.

Where to Shop

A store like Express has sexy and fun clothes, but most of which are not going to be appropriate for the office. Same goes for the Victoria’s Secret clothing catalog.  The good news is that there are plenty of stores to find professionally appropriate attire.  We would recommend: Banana Republic, J Crew, Club Monaco, Anthropologie (for their trousers), White House | Black Market (for their jackets), Ann Taylor, and Bluefly.com (especially for their blazers).

What to Wear
The quality of your clothes will also sell your look as more professional.  Build a solid foundation wardrobe by investing in some good basics, such as a white blouse, black trousers, a cashmere sweater, and a flattering overcoat. These items will be long-term investments, so if you’re going to splurge, do so here.

Where balance is concerned, it’s fairly easy. Any piece of “sexy” apparel (e.g. V-necklines, light beading, etc) should be worn in a neutral color and in a not-too-tight fit.  That said, there are plenty of garments with modestly cut necklines and hemlines in fresh patterns.  Feel free to wear bold colors here—in fact, we encourage it!

We especially recommend the fitted blouses that Banana Republic has right now, in four different colors. They’re feminine, but professional. And do check out their cashmere mock turtlenecks and cowlneck sweaters.

Have a great tip about how to dress fashionable yet professionally?

  Share it with us in the comments!

Pictured:
Cotton Ruffle Front Floral Shirt | $58 at Ann Taylor.

Style question?  We’ve got answers.  E-mail us at questions at omiru dot com.

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women, Women's

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aioa  |  February 13th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    My aunt, an ob-gyn, likes to wear button-down tops then leave the first button open to reveal a necklace. She also wears a lot of white but in interesting cuts.

  • 2. alex  |  February 14th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Is there anything a medical student should avoid to wear with the white coat on?

  • 3. Jessica  |  February 15th, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Alex - The first thing that popped into my head was ’sequins’. LoL. But on a more serious note - trying to match whites would be a no-no, since whites, like blacks, are sometimes noticeably different. Also - that could be very boring. Whatever you wear under your white coat should really give a nice pop. Unless you’re trying to go for subtle sophistication, wherein a tan turtleneck with a chunky brown beaded necklace would take you everywhere you want to go.

    Also - creams. Ivory, cream, etc - probably not going to work that well with a white jacket, unless it’s paired with another color (a print) - but even then… I’d be a little wary.

  • 4. Courtney  |  February 20th, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks so much for the advice! I broke the “no cream top with a white coat” rule the other day and felt ridiculous. It’s amazing how off your game you can be when you don’t feel good in your clothing, so thanks for the tips for looking (and feeling!) better in the hospital.

  • 5. Jessica  |  February 22nd, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Courtney - I’m glad the advice is helpful. :) I bet you are the best dressed gal at the hospital.

    I just thought of something that might be useful- wear navy blue if you want to pull off a vibe that says ‘professional but laid back’. It’s very close to black, which can be very proper, but the blue is fun. And with some dainty little earrings with blue gems, it will bring out the blue. The Ann Taylor blouse pictured above has navy blue. This would work for a solid blue, too.

    Okay, I have to go get some diet coke!

  • 6. britt  |  February 28th, 2008 at 11:30 am

    reading this post has been so helpful! i’m finishing up my 3rd year of medical school, and will be heading out to away rotations soon.

    thanks for the pointers!

  • 7. Trisha  |  February 29th, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Glad we could help, Britt!

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