In 2016 I moved back to my home country, Sierra Leone. Yes, sis— that tiny country on the coast of West Africa, no one knows much about.
Sierra Leone has a population of approximately 7 million people, we have government institutions, a growing and healthy private sector dominated by the mining, agriculture, hospitality, and the FMCG industry— as well as a large NGO presence.
With a range of middle-management and administrative job options so close, yet so far out of the reach of Sierra Leoneans.
None-the-less I was determined to learn the political, economic and social landscape of the country, work for NGO’s whose mission statements I believe in, and start my own business!
The only problem was that, at my big age of 24, I had no young professional wear!
I was coming out of a two-year job in a tech start-up where we wore jeans to work every day.
I quickly learned that to go on job interviews, or meetings with potential investors and clients for my own start-up, I needed affordable yet good quality business casual items in my closet.
Below I will share with you my the top 10 items that saved my interview and client meetings game for two years of freelance consulting and building a start-up.
Illustrating each item is the fabulous and unparalleled stylings by Fatouma Haidara, also known on the gram as @the_fashionartist_.
1. The high-waisted paper bag trouser
A good quality high-wasted trouser in black or dark/navy blue goes with almost every professional shirt and even casual shirts.
This piece changes any outfit from the casual to – “I’m fresh out of an important meeting” look.
The tip here is that it cannot be a tight fit or fitted trouser. The slightly loose wear allows you to run around flexible all day from meeting to meeting as most bosses do.
2. The cotton poplin shirt
Every woman needs this in every color! Start with the basic office blue and work your way from grey to every color under the sun!
Even a basic office blue with different patterns like stripes and polka dots works. You can collect these over time. But if you find a store where they’re on sale, stock up!
3. The flounced/satin/silk blouse
There are a million and one materials, cuts, colors, and designs to buy this in.
Essentially, what’s great here is that its a stylish yet comfortable shirt that can be worn with many different kinds of bottoms while maintaining a professional/work-based air about your outfit.
4. The black ballet shoe
Practical, comfortable and transferable! This is best for work when fully covered (no peep toes— most offices and interview spaces have either a written or non-explicit policy against this anyway).
It is best to get this shoe in good quality leather (or good enough quality) so that it lasts long.
I had an all-black one from Aldo with an alligator texture and a small gold zipper in the back, and it lasted me 3 years of daily wear!
5. Closed-toe low-heeled pumps
Neutral colors like black, beige and nude are a good place to start. This has the same appeal as the black ballet shoe, however, I recommend having at least one or two of these because some offices require them for meetings.
I find pumps most essential for networking events and conferences, they add an extra layer to my self-esteem for some reason.
6. The non-fitted high-waisted knee-length (or below) pencil skirt
Yes oh, this one is mad specific because I find that if just one part of it is off, it doesn’t hold the professional gaze that I’m going for.
Pairing this with any kind of top or a classic round neck jewelry piece is a quick and easy young professional look for your more relaxed days.
7. The blazer
You may not work at a bank or in a law firm— but trust me, a blazer always comes in handy one day or another!
8. The Longchamps Pliage
This one is a bit of a splurge and a luxury I know! But if you have something similar then go for it!
What you truly need here is a black medium to a large sized handbag that is light even before you fill it with your planner, your lunch and your laptop!
Carrying bags all day can be heavy, you want something easy on the shoulders. The pliage is also waterproof for those Harmattan/rainy season days.
But if you don’t have access to one, then any good leather bag should do. Black is a practical color because it goes with every outfit.
9. The Pleated Skirt
I could go on and on, but the skirt speaks for itself. This is my favorite piece for a work presentation, networking events and lazy days when I don’t want to be confined by more fitted clothing.
It’s such an elegant piece, without even trying.
10. Your business card
You know how they say “you’re never fully dressed without a smile”? Well for a young professional— you’re never fully dressed without your card!
Not only does it allow potential employers to easily contact you but it’s a great avenue to use to ask people for their own business card in exchange for yours— so that you can send that follow up email and call later!
Haidara is the Malian founder and CEO of the interior design firm Haii Designs and her work can be found on Instagram at – @haiidesigns_interior.
In all aspects, Haii Designs, blends the traditional and modern birthing innovative and “never seen before” designs. Along with her clean, modern, and lively spatial designs, I have long been drawn to Haidara’s grown and #BossLady fashions! If you’re looking to purchase your next office ruling inspiration piece and jewellery after this article, explore tribia-by-hd.afrikea.com or @tribia.by.hd on Instagram.