1. Fit is more important than size. The day the number on the label in the back of your pants matters is the day when every brand decides on one standard sizing pattern…Which is to say, it’s never going to happen. You could be a 4 in a shirt from Old Navy but a 6 in jeans from the Gap and a large in that one coat at Forever 21. Buy what fits instead of what the label says will fit you. A well-fitting size medium is going to look way better than the minor ego boost that society says comes with fitting into a small. (Besides, you’re the only one who’s going to know what the label says, anyway. Nobody goes around championing their size to everyone who will listen (because really, nobody else cares all that much).
2. The more you spend on staple items, the less you spend in the long run. A $60 button-down is going to last you way longer than three $20 button-downs will, and investing in a coat that sees through a few seasons is more practical than buying one that wears out from three months of everyday wear. You don’t have to blow your entire budget on designer labels, but searching for key pieces that have a great fit and solid construction is clutch.
3. When in doubt, create a uniform. Stick to a certain color scheme, or buy things of a similar cut and fit as frequently as you can. (If you know it works, why fix it, right?) Hell, buy 10 of the same shirt if you find one you really love. Cutting those 30 minutes you spend deciding what to wear out of your morning leaves more room to cook your breakfast, buy your coffee, get to work early— or just, y’know, sleep in..)
4. Work is not the place to be taking fashion risks. Well, unless you work in a really creative environment, all those mesh crop tops, plunging necklines and crazy accessories are probably best left for the weekend. Spend less time trying to see how you can bend the office rules, and more time in doing your best work at the office. (It’ll show, and you can go and blow your hard-earned bonus on the weekend in whatever crazy clothes you want.)
5. Dressing for the job you want is not a completely ridiculous adage. There’s an old office trick that says you should mirror what your boss wears; it’s less of being a copycat and more of an emulation. While it might be impossible to match what they wear with your smaller salary (and if you’re an intern, you might not even have that salary at all), take mental notes of a few details here and there, and then polish up your look so that you look capable, presentable, and like someone who is hirable or promotable. We all take cues from appearance, and doing your part to present the picture of someone who has their look together won’t hurt in the eyes of the people who have your future in mind.
We all have the outfits that make us feel like the slightly better version of ourselves. For some of us that means knowing we got a great deal, and for others that means the perfect blend of luxury and wearability. But what really matters is that it suits us perfectly, and takes us where we need to go in life, just like the car we drive. In partnership with Ford for their 2015 line, we present a quiz custom-made to find the outfit you should be wearing to get ahead.