I speak about this subject with a tear in my eye, back story moment! So I was coming up in my career and about to hit the offices, this was a massive achievement for my colour, for my age and for my location but that wasn't the challenge I was facing, my challenge was how to dress the part.
Now see my seniors and those about to be my peers were White, middle class and had the privilege and purse strings to go toe to toe with a central London property lawyer. Labels dripping, coordinated and put together with accessories that made statements all by themselves. So lil Black girl from off ends with her bag of kids and way too much to prove, was lost.
This wasn't something I could openly discuss because everyone in my life was so proud of me. Those that employed me were confident in my competence, my style I don't think they even considered, because those from my level were permanently in one dress code- scrubs. So, the terms professional and smart did not match my casual jeans and hoodie attire nor did they allow for the clean but very shop floor scrubs I was use to wearing at work.
So what did I do? I went to my local newsagents and picked up a Black magazine that showed Black women looking smart, focused and ready for level up daily. I looked at my budget and hit the shops dragging my kids along with me. Nowadays you don't even have to leave your home, so this is super easy!
My advice to you is know your size, don't got to the store selling the range in a size 6, if you are a size 14. You are going to power up, not make yourself feel down. Also, don't go cheap or expensive on everything, there will be some items that you can get away with and others you have to pay up. For sistas like me who have a big bum, we need to pay more to get a great fit, but top wise I personally can go cheaper. Don't buy the whole outfit as you see it on the manikin, the likelihood is it wont look the same on any real body and everyone that shops there or passes by, will know exactly where you got your outfit from, so mix it up.
Your basics must include:
Black/Dark trousers - skinny, wide leg, 3/4 be you, the top and shoes will pull any of these looks into line
Black/Dark dress - this simple over the head and go look should fit well but avoid tight, unless of course you are the boss, all eyes on you, is the expectation! Seriously though, if you are presenting or having to sit on a stool like chair, your stunning bod is now hunched over to avoid undue attention.
White shirt/blouse - these can easily be black if the buttons are coloured or you add a patterned scarf.
Black/Dark/Striped Blazer - Fitted or loose ensure it can be done up. The amount of times I have witnessed those after lunch spills on that classic white shirt that can not be covered because the blazer is a size too small.
Black/Dark skirt -knee length or lower, work is not the place where you want tomorrows washing on show and besides, free movement throughout all of your tasks, will make for a more enjoyable day.
A colourful pencil belt or chunky buckled black belt- Get one or the other or both, they both add power to the look.
Monochrome work dress, go midi length- They can be so chic, you stand out amongst all of the black and grey others are wearing but be mindful of not too much pattern or too sexy.
Comfortable shoes, for some this will be a loafer for others a classic heel, be mindful of the shoe being too high off of the ground, between health and safety and regular old micro-aggressions you could run into a problem or two.
A wrist watch - maybe some kinda apple version will work better for you, whatever you choose add it to your wrist, its not a great look, to always have your mobile phone in your hand.
Bag, handbag vs rucksack its a personal choice. I think if you have a lot to carry then the latter is a great option especially those designed to take a laptop and water bottle. If its a handbag, get one with a handle that works in your hand and over your shoulder, its so easy to end up with loads in your hands and a tiny handbag getting dropped or lost, there goes the mobile phone!
Jewellery is a must from simple studs to a subtle ring or bracelet or even a long pendent chain against an otherwise plain outfit will give you that little sutum sutum!
If you are thinking nah man, I need more colour in my life go for it! I would still encourage you to purchase a few staple pieces that will easily act as a back drop to your bright flare. Sistas sometimes standing out is not all its cracked up to be equally being in the shadows is not your fate either. Judge your situation on your own merit but also don't be afraid of speaking to another sista about your work glow!