If you're a 20-something like me and graduation is on the horizon, you may feel a bit uneasy as you scramble through the closet trying to find what to wear to that job interview. Making the transition as an upperclassman college student to a solid career wardrobe is no easy task. The internship you have now may let you get by with wearing jeans, but that probably won't cut it come end of the year when you have a diploma in hand.
Here are 3 reasons you should start building a career wardrobe now.
1. Skip the Scramble.
If you procrastinate like most college students do, you'll want to spare yourself from a wardrobe catastrophe. Waiting until you hear the words 'You're hired!" is not the time to scramble to form a career wardrobe. You'll end up over-budget, stressed, and with clothes that don't fit or may need a tailor. However, if you start searching now you can gradually find pieces that are perfect for you and your wallet.
2. "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."
I once read that an internship is an interview that lasts all summer and your appearance is the first thing that you 'say' to someone. If you present yourself in a polished and professional fashion, you're bound to be respected as an adult and more likely to be considered for that job offer. In the words of Joan from Mad Men, "You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl."
3. It's an Inve$tment.
Forming a solid professional wardrobe is far from cheap, even if you do it the thrifty way. That's why it's best to start now rather than drop a huge chunk of change at once.
Don't know where to start on the career closet challenge?
Go for the basics.
Guys this means the standard slacks and button downs. And ladies, this means to stay away from the chevron! Stick with the solids, and if you must do a print, stripes are my go to that add pop to any outfit. Buying basics guarantees you a more versatile wardrobe that is ideal to mix-and-match. Basics also won't be as likely to be noticed if you wear the same black skirt 2 or 3 times a week with a different top. The same can't be said for the metallic gold skirt that you just couldn't resist buying...
Quality > Quantity
Less is more (especially when you're a broke college student). It's better to buy a few solid investment pieces that don't go out of style than to have a load of cheap clothes that are more memorable and less professional. Investing in a smaller selection of (possibly more expensive) career clothes mean better quality, which also means they could make it through the first decade of your career. It's worth it.
Make a List (and stick to it)
This is where self-control really steps in. Make a priority list of pieces you MUST have and find the perfect fit to meet those needs. Here's what my list included:
- skirts : black, grey, navy
- blouse : white, blue/white striped
- long sleeved button downs : denim, white, black
- dresses : solid black
- slacks : black, navy, grey
- business jackets : black, brown, navy/white striped
- trenchcoats : grey or tan/camel
- belts : black, navy, white
- necklaces : pearl, tortoise
- shoes : black heels, grey and brown ankle boots
Where to Shop?
Banana Republic Factory is a great brand for career essentials with even better prices than their main store. Banana offers students a discount when you show your ID card and joining as a card member doubles the benefits.
You can't go wrong with secondhand clothes (especially when they've never even been worn). At Clothes Mentor, I've bought jackets, pants, blouses for a bargain price with the tags STILL ON them from brands like JCrew, Banana Republic, Gap, and Madewell. Express and The Limited also are great brands for a solid career closet start-up.
Need more help planning your career wardrobe? See my 9-5 Wardrobe on Pinterest for more ideas for your career closet.