SooJin K. Chu is the founder of Swagger & Glide (www.swaggerandglide.com), a Boston-based personal shopper/fashion consultant company. Chu specializes in customizing wardrobes to specific professional environments while incorporating personal taste.
What's the first thing you address when working on a client's professional wardrobe?
Most people don't realize that the way your clothes fit is a huge part of how you're perceived by others. If the shoulders of your suit are ridiculously big, you're giving the impression that you don't belong in it -- like you borrowed your dad's suit. So I work a lot with my clients on making sure the clothes you have on really do fit you and your body type.
How do you balance feeling like yourself and fitting into a business environment?
Sometimes people want to hold on to how they dress as their own creative outlet. And I encourage that in small doses: a fun tie, suspenders instead of a belt or an unusual pair of socks. But, especially with first impressions, nobody ever says, "This person looks too professional for this setting."
Is there a purpose to dressing for work, beyond just getting the job and looking professional?
Oh yes. For starters, if you make yourself stand out in a work environment that creates a subconscious reaction in others: You feel less approachable to them. At the same time, you don't want to feel like you've lost your personality. You want to let yourself think outside of the box. It's a constant balance.
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What to buy
Personal stylist SooJin K. Chu recommends the following for a professional wardrobe starter closet:
Men: Total budget: $3,000, including one amazing suit ($600-$800), a pair of terrific shoes, eight dress pants and a lot of really good shirts
Women: Total budget: $2,500, including six dress pants, three to four skirts, three jackets and “a whole mess of blouses.”