Graduating from college can be an understandably bittersweet experience for a number of reasons. You’re naturally excited about finally embarking on your new life as an educated adult. However, you’re bound to miss a lot that came with college life as well. If that includes your carefree college student’s wardrobe, you’re definitely in excellent company.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that finally getting to go pro means settling for stuffy, drab attire from here on out, though. Today’s professional wear is anything but boring. Plus, it’s easier to build a professional wardrobe to be reckoned with than you might otherwise think. Keep the following tips in mind when shopping and you’ll definitely be off on the right foot!
5 Tips for New Grads Building a Professional Wardrobe
1. Start by Building a Solid Foundation
Building an impressive professional wardrobe as a new graduate is a lot like building a house. You need a firm foundation that you can grow with, later on, so focus on building a solid capsule wardrobe first. (Accessories and statement items can come later.) Think timeless foundation pieces that never go out of style and neutral tones that will go with a variety of different looks. You’ll not only look sharp but make sure every cent of even a limited budget really counts.
Men should focus on stocking their closet with essentials like business jackets, dress pants, dress shirts, and ties. Women have more options to choose from but should focus on professional tops or blouses, fitted jackets or sweaters, and a combination of professional pants and either skirts or dresses. Start by investing in two or three of each item except for the tops. With tops, it’s a good idea to make sure you have at least four or five different options to choose from.
2. Know The Three F’s
In order to be a good fit for your new professional wardrobe, a given piece needs to be more than just professional and affordable. It needs to take all three of the “three F’s” into consideration as well.
Fit: Fit can make or break your outfit, not to mention your first impression. When what you’re wearing is properly tailored, you instantly give the impression of having your act together, and then some, so don’t be afraid to have a seamstress help you achieve that perfect fit.
Fabric: When you’re working with a limited budget, you’ll want to be careful of choosing too many high-maintenance fabrics that are “dry clean only.” Opt for wrinkle-free pieces whenever possible and always make sure your professional clothes are ironed.
Feel: It’s not just about how an item looks; it’s also about how it makes you feel. If a given option looks professional but doesn’t allow you to feel like yourself, it’s a no-go.
3. Remember What Does and Doesn’t Work For Your Silhouette
By the time you’ve successfully completed your degree, you’ve usually got at least two decades worth of experience to your credit when it comes to dressing yourself and putting together different looks. That said, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your assets and weaknesses are. You know whether you’re curvy or lanky, short or tall, squat or leggy. You’ll definitely want to keep this knowledge in mind as you put together your first professional wardrobe.
One really flattering dress is going to be worth twenty trendier items that don’t really suit your body type. Interviewers will definitely be sizing you up based on first impressions, so showing that you understand how to dress for your body type without simply trying to cover it up works in your favor. It shows you’re self-aware and confident, among many other things.
4. Don’t Underestimate The Importance of Footwear
What you choose to put on your feet really does say a lot about you, especially in a professional environment. That said, it’s important to know your stuff in this area.
Make sure you have at least two or three pairs of low heels or flats in similar tones. (Skip the stilettos for now.) Choose solid options from trustworthy brands so that they’re with you for years to come.
You’ll also want to make absolutely certain you care for your footwear properly. Invest in some good shoe care supplies and make sure your work shoes are always polished. Take care of dirt and stains promptly before they have a chance to ruin your shoes. Use shoe trees so that footwear retains its shape when not in use.
5. Don’t Abandon Your Personal Style
If you assume that building a professional wardrobe means leaving every inkling of personal style out of the equation, think again. Contrary to popular belief, your future employer isn’t looking for a corporate drone devoid of personality. They want someone who’s as unique as they are professional and responsible. Keep this in mind as you build your foundation of wardrobe essentials into the future.
Are you a bright, cheerful person who absolutely loves color? Pair your black pencil skirt with a jewel-toned blouse or choose a colorful tie to go with your tailored gray business suit. Is your love of music a huge part of who you are as a person? Accessorize your look with a tasteful necklace that reflects this or layer one of your favorite vintage concert tees under your blazer some casual Friday. As long as your choices are respectful of the dress code at your place of business, there’s always room for a healthy dose of creative expression.
At the end of the day, graduating from college and moving toward your new life as a working professional is less about trading one style in for another. Instead, think of it as adding to the style, personality, and value set you already have. You won’t be able to help but succeed!
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