Investment Banking Wardrobe
No, I have not gone crazy and written an article on women’s fashion. Instead, this is a guest post by . A former bulge bracket investment banking analyst, she has now entered the world of private equity and writes about finance, fashion, and even appropriate at .
While there’s plenty of information on how to dress for success in investment banking, a women’s guide is not so easy to find.
For women, the rules for looking presentable, stylish and professional are less strict than those of their male cohorts. Just remember: although you work in a world of men, you don’t have to dress or look like one.
Basic Rules and How to Avoid Being Sent Home Because of Your Inappropriate Outfit
First off, don’t wear anything bad (i.e. jeans, sexy tops, sweats, etc.).
Weekends tend to be free game but remember that your colleagues may be there as well – I wouldn’t recommend rolling in with sweats or the like unless you’ve had a VERY rough week.
As a female, you want to look put-together and professional – not sloppy and slutty. It’s actually quite interesting how many female analysts trot down the “sultry secretary” route.
Take it from me: you definitely do not want to develop that sort of reputation. In my junior summer, I watched a classmate get sent home from her bulge bracket internship because her outfit was inappropriate.
As much as we like to think we could pull off the business-type looks from characters in television shows (see: old Cashmere Mafia episodes, Amanda from Ugly Betty, etc.), we can’t.
Unless you’re a high-up female BSD (Erin Callan? Zoe Cruz?), there’s no way an Analyst or Associate can get away with being a fashionista and pulling off outrageous Zac Posen tops and cigarette pants.
Timing Your Shopping
Definitely get your wardrobe before your internship/full-time stint starts. However, the way the female brain is wired, you probably know that and have started planning by now: brands, types (pant suits, skirts, and dresses), where/when to shop, and accessories.
Being Fashionable Without Breaking Your Bank Account
The budget aspect is always a difficult one. Even if your bank is business formal, you can get away with mixing and matching and not always wearing a jacket. I would say anywhere between $2, 000 and $3, 000 is a safe bet for a full-time Analyst position.
As a summer analyst you can get by with less than that, especially if the dress code is business casual.
Suits and shoes are probably the most expensive items and worth splurging a little on. Having a well-fitted suit that is feminine yet serious can be difficult to find.
Heels – since you’re wearing them for 18+ hours a day – must be comfortable. They’re also a good way to add a little style and flair to your otherwise possibly conservative outfit.
I’m not suggesting that you buy some Sarah Jessica Parker Manolo-esque stilettos but a tasteful patent pump will do.
Favorite Female Fashion Destinations
This depends on your budget and what sort of look you’re going for.
Luckily for us, most large department stores and other mall stores carry a huge array of women’s clothing that can be worn in a business setting. Online shopping is another route you could take, especially if you know the way a certain brand fits and/or what you’re looking for specifically.
Outlets are also a good source to find some high-end designers are very reasonable prices. In New York, the Woodbury Commons and Tanger Outlet are good bets. If you feel daring, you can always rent a Zipcar with a few people and head out into the ‘burbs.
If you’re really into high-end designers but are not looking to spend your life savings, Manhattan also has some really great designer re-sale shops (as long as you’re not skeeved out that they were previously owned).
Recommended Department Stores: Macys, Bloomingdales, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and Barneys have huge selections of women’s clothing. Even if some of these options are outside your price range, feel free to take a gander, try on a few outfits and order online.