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[bctt tweet=”Start shopping for the office life while in university with these tips” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

Most people who make the transition from being a student to a working individual know the truth. Contrary to the popular notion that it gets better once you can tweet “pay day”, the financial side of your life won’t get any easier for a while… Those first few months will have you catching a case while you wait for the bank’s notification.


With justifiable reason, companies that hire and place interns/trainees to low-earning entry-level posts expect them to dress in a way that’s not just fashionable but professional. School-leavers then face a huge challenge. How can you quickly adapt to the professional standards at the office while stuck with a very small rigid budget?

After struggling to put together a ‘formal’ outfit for my very first presentation during my first year of varsity, I made up my mind to start shopping smart. I have become one of those people who spend hours in one shop, mixing and matching outfits, trying on tens of clothing items.

Since then, I have learnt something new about shopping. It is fun and fabulous, but it is also a whole process on it’s own. Unless your budget stacks plenty of digits, you need to take your time and be strategic about it.

Following some research in my own closet and on trending fashion blogs, I have 7 dress ideas for just-graduated women.

1. Wide leg pants

Better known to me as palazzo pants. When I first spotted these in the market years ago, I didn’t think I could ever wear them. But when they came back in a whole variety of heavier fabric and colours, I couldn’t help myself. They had suddenly become more fashionable.

I loved and got this simple but gorgeous high waist black pair early this year and I have been Olivia Pope’ing successfully since. For the office, you can go for a normal button-up shirt and throw on a blazer, complete the look with a simple neck-piece and graceful heels.


Once you leave the office, you can ditch the shirt for a fun top and finish off the look with a pair of sandals or pumps.

MotherlandMogul Tip: This is the best time to play around with different fabrics, try to keep your selection light because heavy fabrics tend to formalise most outfits.

The benefit of owning a black pair of wide leg pants is that it makes it easier to play around with the colours of the top and shoes. Popular colour alternatives that are just as easy to transform between the two styles include beige, khaki, brown and rose gold.

If wide leg pants aren’t your style, you can opt for the newly popular paper bag waist pants or classic straight leg formal pants.

2. Black pump

I know a whole lot of girls that can testify that the black pump saved their lives, I know I can. Whether it is for the walk to the office or for school, this fashionable item can do it all. Not only are they durable if you take good care of them, but they are affordable and can be found almost everywhere.

Remember to give them a good wipe down every now and then. Also, keep them in a cool place, dirty or smelly pumps don’t do much for anyone.

[bctt tweet=”7 dress ideas for just-graduated women navigating office dress codes ” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

3. Plain t-shirt

That is actually a men’s shirt (yes, that can be fashionable for ladies too). I had bought it as a gift for a friend, but I found myself falling for it so I got him something else instead. I would suggest you settle for colours like white, grey and black or any light shade.

If you can make any other bold colour work then by all means, go for it. You can finish off the shirt for both styles with dark accessories (depending on the shade of your shirt).


For the office, it helps to cut the shirt off way up top, a high-waist skirt should do the trick. For a more laid back look, pair the boyfriend jeans with walker boots or pumps instead of heels and if it tickles your fancy, throw a kimono over the shirt.

This look is especially convenient for when you have a casual occasion to attend after a short day at the office because you can quickly change out of the skirt into the jeans.

4. Court heels

Where do I start? I absolutely love courts! Whether they are floral, lace-ups or just plain, these babies are beautiful and fashionable. Once you find your ideal pair, you’ll find that they go well with almost every outfit you can scramble together.

When shopping for court heels, like with every other shoe, it is very important to shop your correct size! If you buy a size that’s too small for you, you might not have any toes after walking in them!

The truth is, that pointed little front can be quite cruel to your feet, if you give your toes little to no room for movement.

[bctt tweet=”Did you know a delicate chiffon shirt is one of the easiest pieces to style?” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

5. Chiffon shirt

Whether it is long sleeved or short, a delicate chiffon shirt is one of the easiest pieces to style. It is a very light piece of clothing so ideally, make sure you wear heavier bottoms with it. These type of shirts usually have some kind of detail along the neckline or collars so you need not worry much about accessorizing.

Any plain pencil skirt works with this shirt. To bring the fashionable look together, add in a bold pair of platforms or boots. Platform and boot heels are usually heavier than any other heels for obvious reasons and like I said, the heavier your bottom, the better.

7fashionable-image4For a casual look, switch the skirt for a blue denim. If your shirt has a lighter shade (between white and blushes) pair it with a lighter shade denim, and if it’s more solid and saturated, pair it with a darker denim. Finish the look off with a colourful pump or wedge.

6. Skinny scarf

Whether it is made into a tie, or a bow, or just hung casually around the neck, the skinny scarf is definitely a good investment. This very humble yet fashionable item works perfectly with almost anything you can think of. It is found in a wide variety of textures, colours and prints. This super skinny silk piece is one of the hottest in the fashion scene right now.

If you can’t find a skinny scarf, you can settle for an ultra slim tie or the fuller summer scarf. There are hundreds of tutorials online that show different ways to rock any type of skinny scarf. If you hopped onto Google right now, I promise you wouldn’t come up dry.

[bctt tweet=”This very humble yet fashionable item works perfectly with almost anything” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]

7. Casual skirt

This is my absolute favourite, the playful skirt. This little number is perfect for budget-conscious young women because it looks great with stockings and boots for winter too.

For the office, I choose a very soft brown chiffon shirt and strappy heels, lace-ups are also good for this look. Although you can opt for any other heels, try to make sure they don’t cut your feet off, let your feet breathe!

7fashionable-image-5I pair the skirt with a bold burgundy short-sleeved turtle-neck for a flirty and fun look. Pair it with your All Stars or similar shoes and a cute backpack for a young clean finish.

So now you know! The next time you plan a shopping trip, be strategic about it, make the fitting room your friend and most important, take your time!

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