LOFT’s style director Amanda Kraemer shares her tips for looking fashionable at the office.
By Sara Cooper
Between Capitol Hill, Arlington and downtown, Washington is brimming with office buildings, business meetings and busy people. Most people who work in an office every day know that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, wearing the same piece week after week, but we believe that your work wardrobe should be just as exciting as the business world itself! Amanda Kraemer, style director at LOFT, knows all the right tricks to looking your best and spending smarter. So we chatted with Kraemer about how to be fashionable while still looking professional, and got some great advice about what every woman should have in her closet.
WL: How should a recent college grad dress for work in Washington D.C.?
AK: First and foremost, this is a recent college grads opportunity to really prove herself. So I think first and foremost, she needs to focus on making that first impression. Stock up on wardrobe staples – white shirts. You can never have enough really! Shirts, jackets, pants… There’s a reason that these things are classic. And then that gives her an opportunity. If she fills her closet with these staples, she can really balance these out, and pick them in some fresh colors or prints and patterns. That way, she’s defining, she’s really keeping her look professional, but she’s not losing her personal style. And she’s really going to be setting herself off on the right foot and making a first impression.
WL: What makes style and clothing so important to success in the workplace?
AK: Like I said before, you definitely cannot deny that first impressions can really, I’ve seen, make or break somebody’s job, unfortunately. So while you should never lose your personal style, I think it’s really important that you should never go into a work environment without knowing your work environment, as basic as that sounds. It’s simple but it’s something that I think is often overlooked. It’s really dressing for the part and knowing what you’re getting in to.
WL: What are some workplace attire do’s and don’ts?
AK: First of all, I don’t think she should just limit herself to attire do’s and don’ts, it’s more so be aware of your whole package. And by that, I mean think of yourself as a brand. I got that piece of advice a bit into my career and it really honestly makes sense… I can’t say it enough: really know your work environment… study the company you’re working for. Is it a conservative sector or is it more creative? Once you really study and know the insights you’ll be able to form a wardrobe that sets you up for success. And then on the flip side, a general rule of thumb – no matter what environment, steer clear of anything too tight, too sheer, too short, too low. Don’t have dirty nails or hair… So thinking about yourself as a brand and a whole package, and if you really stay cognoscente of it all, you’re really setting yourself up for success. Oh, and she should have a suit! She should have a no brainer, dressy piece she can go to.
WL: In your opinion, what pieces should you save on when you’re getting your wardrobe together for work?
AK: You can save on (because I feel like you need so many of them, like I was saying), you can save on dresses, jackets, and layering pieces. These are things you can really balance with something a little bit more of a splurge. For example, at Loft we have amazing dresses that start at $70, jackets as low as $80, and a ton, a range of woven shells for layering starting at $50. So I really think you just stock up on those, and that’s where you should focus on saving on.
WL: On the reverse of that, what pieces should you really splurge on?
AK: On the flip side, I think accessories is a no brainer, really. Handbags, footwear. For example, a faux leather handbag and shoe is really just going to fray, it’s going to peel, it’s going to scuff with use. Whereas, a leather handbag and shoe? They only get better with age. So I think really it’s important. People really focus on the details. And once you put time and energy and more money into these details and these accessories, people really notice that and that goes a long way…
WL: What is your personal favorite trend right now?
AK: Right now, I am actually really loving sculptural jewelry and bright hot color handbags. I think women right now are having more fun than ever with accessories. Definitely in Washington D.C., I think this is a safe way to try out a fashion risk. You know, you can pair louder trendier pieces back to something more minimal and classic, and it really makes for a look that is equally professional as much as it is fashionable. So I really think that’s what I’m loving and that would be my piece of advice to somebody that’s trying it out to make that fit in a professional environment.
WL: Is there anything else that you want to share that we haven’t touched on, that you would want readers to know? About yourself, or style in general?
AK: Another piece of advice that I always love to give, whether it be a woman first starting out, her first job, or someone that’s been in it ten years, twenty years, or is switching careers, what have you, it’s really a matter of listening yourself and knowing: what’s that piece, what are those pieces, that you always go back to in your closet time after time. Really focus on that, because those are the pieces. That’s what you love, and you love them for a reason. So instead of filling your closet with a lot of items – and I know we all do it – but focus on the pieces that you love … it’s going to make getting dressed in the morning a lot less of a headache.
WL: That would be nice!
AK: Yes! …Know yourself, and start from there. That’s really it. It really has hit home to me recently – I can’t say it enough: stock up on those staples. And then counter that with pieces that you should love each season. Because you need to balance. You need to have balance in your wardrobe. That, I find, goes very far with myself, and with my best friends and people I work with.
Do some shopping at www.loft.com.