DIY Style

My girlfriends and I recently returned to work or school after years running households.

We have clothing for errands, dog walking, carpooling and cleaning. We have things to wear to a dinner party. Our professional attire is B.C. (before children), therefore ancient.

Q: How can we transition from stay-at-home-moms to working women, style-wise?

A: Ditch the yoga pants. Smarten up.

You were hired or accepted into your program – uniform not required. Let’s pull together some ensembles that say, “Take me seriously,” not, “I could seriously take a nap.”

Nine to five

If you’re in real estate, banking, or academics, attire should represent your employer in a non-distracting way.

Punched-up classic

A key foundation piece that every professional woman should have is a black, charcoal grey, or navy suit with pants and skirt. Add a pop of color with your shirt or accessories. Keep your make-up and jewelry simple. Buff nails or paint them with a clear or neutral polish.


You work with the big boys in money. You want to inspire confidence in your abilities to handle other people’s moola. Just because your workplace is predominantly male doesn’t mean you have to dress like a dude (or a dud).

Fiercely fitted

You need two suits: black and charcoal. Have them altered to your silhouette. Wear tailored shirts with stretch for a feminine take on the classic button-down.

Accessorize: Show some style with shoes, keeping the colors dark or neutral. A good quality watch (nothing too blingy) is the perfect power ensemble accent.

You’re fired: No colors here, you don’t want to stand out in a distracting way. Overly feminine is out. You are not at work to snag a date.

Bonus: These are expensive pieces, but suits and shirts are classics that can be purchased at a discount from outlets.

Creative professional

If you work in an art gallery or clothing boutique, a power suit with a white button down shirt is too blah. You want to show that you are original and current.

Miss mix-a-lot

Combining prints is a cool way to showcase your artsy style. Pair a boldly patterned above-the-knee skirt with a top in miniscule print with complementary or contrasting colors.

Accessorize: Wear metallic flats or heels and a belt. Jewelry can be an eclectic mix of vintage and modern pieces. Try layering short necklaces with medium and long necklaces. Stack bracelets on one arm and wear a big funky ring or small rings on every finger on the opposite hand.

You’re fired: Don’t wear something that is more art than clothing (like a newspaper tutu and leather bustier). Leave the avant garde stuff on the canvases.

Bonus: This is a fun opportunity to comb thrift and vintage stores for quirky pieces that showcase your imaginative style and augment your wardrobe on a limited budget.

School is in session

You are not going to fool anybody if you sport the local college girl uniform: full make-up, messy bun, leggings, sorority sweatshirt and Uggs. It doesn’t look appropriate for class on them. It will look doubly embarrassing on you. Wear clothing that makes you sit up and pay attention in class. This is a chance to shine and show your interest education.

Class act

Dark-wash skinny jeans without rips tucked into boots or with flats, a drapey, patterned tank or T-shirt, topped off with a 3/4 length sleeve cardigan or long sleeve cardigan with the sleeves scrunched to the elbow.

Accessorize: Wear short to mid-length dangly earrings, a long necklace and a few mix-and-match bracelets.

Dress for Academic Success

Take a knee length sundress and top it with a blazer made from sweatshirt material. The cut of the blazer makes it look more polished, but the fabric is casual (and feels more comfortable).

Accessorize: Choose a chunky choker and stud earrings. With a showy necklace, skip the bracelets and wear a few small rings or one large ring.

A little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll

Take a fingertip-length floral dress and pair it with a leather jacket and flats or ankle boots. If your dress is black with colorful flowers, pair it with a black jacket. If your dress is light or neutral, try a caramel jacket. Cropped and hip-length leather jackets look great with dresses.

Accessorize: Add a thin chain and pendant with a long, complimentary necklace and small stud earrings.

Expelled: Anything short or tight distracts from class and makes you look desperate. You want to make the grade, not waves.

Extra credit: It’s acceptable to find inspiration in your classmates’ style. Try an adult spin on youthful trends.

Congratulations on joining the workforce or continuing your education!

Choose your wardrobe wisely and give yourself that extra edge for success.

McKinney may be reached at life@ Her column is published on the second Friday of each month as part of the Lifestyle section’s “Fashion Friday” features.