You know that old adage “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”? No one understands that better than these four ladies. Take inspiration from their closets and their unwavering ambition, and you’ll be dressed for success in no time!
Working Girl (1988) stars Melanie Griffith as Tess Singer, a big-haired Staten Island secretary with lofty aspirations. When her high-power boss, Katherine, steals one of Tess’s ideas and passes it off as her own, Tess doesn’t get mad—she gets hustling. As she climbs the executive ladder, she realizes she has to step up her work-wear game and replaces her polka-dot tights and white sneakers with simple (yet elegant!) blazers, knee-length skirts, and crisp white shirts. I like the idea of mixing Tess’s before and after looks for a style all your own (after all, no matter how high you rise, you never wanna forget where you came from!). You could, for example, wear a fitted blazer and a prim little bag (business!) with a hot-pink peplum skirt, polka-dot tights, and big pink glasses (fun!):
On the television show Scandal (ABC), Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, the head of a crisis-management firm. She’s the one to call if you’re a high-profile muckety-muck with a dicey issue that needs to be squelched before the public finds out about it. As a keeper of elite secrets, Olivia needs to dress simply and impeccably—her wardrobe has to convey quiet power. And it does: Everything she wears is perfectly tailored, there’s a LOT of white, and she is the absolute QUEEN of the power coat. Borrow some of her swagger in a houndstooth coat, ’80s-inspired block heels, a men’s-style watch, and a palette of eye shadows in pretty neutrals. Carry your own secrets around in a sleek little handbag, and you’ll be ready to avert any crisis.
In 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, the five Crandell kids are left in the care of an evil babysitter while their mom vacations in Australia for three months. Good news: The evil sitter dies pretty much immediately, leaving the kids to have the best summer ever, spending the money their mom left for them however they want. Bad news: The money was buried with said babysitter. Big sister Sue Ellen (aka Swell), played by Christina Applegate, assumes the role of provider; even though she has no prior work experience, she fakes a résumé to get a job as an executive assistant in the fashion industry. To fit into her new professional environment, she overhauls her wardrobe, foregoing her’80s teen-queen uniform of lively patterns, wire-frame sunglasses, and stacked silver jewelry, in favor of sophisticated business suits. While I admire Swell’s extreme shoulder pads, I’m partial to her casual at-home look, which you can achieve with some floral-print overalls, Doc Martens, and chunky rings.
9 to 5 (1980) is a li’l feminist fable about three office assistants—Judy, Violet, and Doralee—who band together to defeat their misogynistic asshole boss, Mr. Hart. Judy (Jane Fonda) is the newest hire, trying to get by on her own after a divorce. Violet (Lily Tomlin), the office manager, has been there forever and has lost countless promotions to male employees she herself trained. Doralee is the boss’s secretary and, everyone thinks, his mistress too. (Though we find out that this is just a rumor spread by Mr. Hart himself!)
I love Doralee’s put-together outfits—her belted skirts and dresses are gold to anyone who loves ’70s fashion. Lucky for us, similar looks are easily found by searching Etsy for “70s secretary dress.” (You might even find some under “70s Dolly Parton”—that’s how I spotted this sweet number.) Then grab a cute little handbag, paint your nails and lips the brightest shade of red you can find, and wear your own name proudly around your neck, and you’ve got Doralee’s style on point!