6 Items Every Entrepreneur Needs to Dress for Success

A fashion expert weighs in on what pieces of clothing business leaders should have in their closets.

learn more about Lindsay LaVine

By Lindsay LaVine


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As New York's Fashion Week draws to a close today, we tap the expertise of fashion professional Kat Griffin, author of Corporette, a popular fashion blog for “overachieving chicks who need to look professional but want to look fashionable” to learn what timeless items entrepreneurs of both genders should be wearing.

Here are her wardrobe staples and overall fashion tips.


Theory / Theory

A classic black blazer.

According to Griffin, a blazer is a key piece of an entrepreneur's wardrobe. "A high quality blazer is worth the investment because it's so versatile," Griffin says. A simple black blazer can be dressed up with a dress or down with jeans. If a meeting is casual, say, a gathering of Silicon Valley tech types, jeans and a blazer work for either men or women. Griffin suggests blazers from Smythe, Rag & Bone, and Theory. Above are her men's and women's picks from Theory ($495 and $395)

Nordstrom / Bloomingdales

Nice jeans or fun dresses.

A nice pair of jeans is another staple for both men and women. A pair of jeans in a dark rinse or black (with little to no distressing) can be appropriate in a lot of casual situations like meet-ups and conferences. Women can pair jeans with a classic set of pumps and a blazer.

Women shouldn't feel confined to wearing a sheath dress to a meeting or event, says Griffin. She suggests pairing a fun dress underneath a blazer to show your personality. If you choose a dress, make sure you're not showing any cleavage, the hemline isn't too short, and the pattern on the dress isn’t too distracting. While you shouldn't be afraid of color, Griffin says it's important to balance your wardrobe with the type of business you're in. For example, if your business is more serious, you don't want to show up to an event in loud colors. Griffin recomends this dress from Nordstrom ($98) and men's jeans from Bloomingdales ($160).

Colehaan / Happy Socks

Functional footwear.

When it comes to shoes, you want to give yourself flexibility and comfort. For women, Griffin says "nude for you" pumps are a great option. "Nude for you" matches your skin tone, elongates your legs, and you don’t have to worry about matching your shoes with your clothes because they go with everything.

Griffin suggests these Cole Haan Chelsea High pumps in Sandstone ($298). 

The male equivalent to "nude for you" pumps this season is the crazy socks trend, allowing guys to showcase their personalities without going over the top.  Check out Big Dots Socks ($12). 

Saks Fifth Avenue

A quality watch.

Even in the era of smartphones, a good watch is a necessity because it's a status symbol and shows you know and appreciate quality, Griffin says. Griffin is a fan of Cartier watches for men and women like this one ($4,650).

Warby Parker

Glasses with personality.

Steer clear of boring wire frames. "Your glasses can show your personality. Go with something fun, depending on what your startup is, your glasses can say a lot," Griffin says. If you're going into a creative field, Griffin suggests you have fun with your glasses. Keep in mind that you want to feel comfortable in what you're wearing. Warby Parkers, like this pair ($145) are a popular choice for both genders.  

Zappos / Knomo Bags

A basic handbag or briefcase.

 You don't have to spend $2,000 on a new bag, Griffin says, but you should make sure your bag is well taken care of -- no scuff marks or loose strings.

Unless you're going with top designers, choose an "anonymous" bag (without designer logos). She suggest the Kate Spade Cobble Hill Penny handbag ($345) and the Knomo Kobe messenger bag for men ($325). 


Three shopping tips for entrepreneurs.

1. Skip the suit. You don't necessarily need a new suit, Griffin says. Venture capitalists are more casual when it comes to fashion. If you need a suit to meet with the bank, for example, Griffin suggests buying a less expensive suit and splurging on a nice blazer instead.

2. Shop for your field. "If you're building a new wardrobe, make sure the person you're shopping with knows the world you're going into," Griffin advises. "It's easy to drop $3,000 in a shopping spree and later realize you can't wear the clothes more than a few times." For example, you don't want to load up on suits if you're in a creative field where nobody wears them.

3. Start small. Griffin suggests entrepreneurs who are just starting out buy one outfit at a time. "Go to one meeting and see how you feel in what you're wearing, and see what others are wearing," Griffin says. If you don't know where to go to find the latest trends, a great place to start is Nordstrom. The sales team works on commission, so customers receive personal shopping attention without paying for a stylist. Plus, most shoppers she's spoken with that have used the service say stylists don't go for the hard sell, and instead want to help you find something you're comfortable wearing.

Lindsay LaVine

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has worked for NBC and CNN.

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