Just graduated college? Congratulations! Now, it’s time to update your wardrobe. This isn’t so much of a reward as it is necessary maintenance to your personal style and brand. The clothes you wore in high school and college probably won’t be appropriate in your post-college work life. Follow this list of wardrobe must-haves for gals and guys and you’ll be dressed for success!
Kitten Heels: While the name may be a bit passe, these classic, conservative-heeled shoes are excellent for a professional working environment. You don’t need to be as skilled in walking around in heels to pull these off and they add an extra layer of polish and femininity to your outfit.
Ballet Flats: Flats have made a big revival in the working world, especially since wearing stilettos all day can be downright painful. These shoes look great in interviews or in the office and there are many affordable options. Plus you can carry a pair in your purse to change into after a long day in heels.
Blazer: A men’s-fashion import, the blazer has become an important piece in the professional women’s wardrobe. It conveys strength, power and an “I mean business” attitude. Trade the shoulder-pads of your mom’s era out for a well-cut and clean look.
Dress Pants: Pairing these with your other separates can create a classic and bulletproof look. Dress pants shouldn’t be confused with the different cuts of denim, e.g.: bellbottom or boot-cut. Women’s dress pants should be loose to create texture and movement, or fitted to create a sharp look.
Tailored Dress: Buying a dress off the rack is okay—the hem might not be perfect for you or the shoulders might sit funny, but it usually will do just fine. However, if you can afford it, find a dress that you’re in love with and take it to a tailor. A tailor will use your measurements to nip and sew, turning something “just fine” into something perfect.
Pencil Skirt: Don’t underestimate the importance of separates, like the pencil skirt, in a woman’s wardrobe. Pencil skirts are waist and hip-fitting skirts that fall just above or just below the knee. Choose black or gray and you will have a versatile piece that will work year-round – wear it with a sweater or cardigan and tights in cooler weather, with a lightweight top or tank in warmer months. With so many options, it is the classic office piece for a reason.
Oxford Shirt: Another men’s fashion import, the Oxford Shirt epitomizes a business casual outfit for the post-grad woman. It is a piece that you can pair with everything from a pair of jeans to a skirt and blazer and look pulled together in a snap.
Dress Shirt: Whether you’re attending an interview or eating lunch with a colleague, a dress shirt is a great piece of ammunition to have. The cut and fit are obviously important, but pay special attention to the collar. What collar fits you best—button-down, spread, club, mandarin? There are many types of collars—the best thing to do is to figure out the general shape of your face and find a collar that compliments that shape. Note: You may opt for the interesting contrast collar (a color that is a different color from the rest of the shirt) but only go down this route if you’re comfortable looking like a 1980s-era Martin Sheen.
Oxford Leather Shoe: A classic, wonderful cut shoe. These shoes are a staple in the working man’s wardrobe because they can literally go with anything depending on the color. We recommend getting both a black and deep brown pair – they will coordinate best with common menswear. Opt for a rounded toe rather than a boxy or pointy one.
Chinos: What most people refer to as “khakis,” even though khaki is just a color of a type of cloth used to make trousers. But since people don’t say trousers anymore, just call them chinos. They’re meant to be light and comfortable, yet sharp and well-made. Opt for something well-fitting and crisp so you don’t look like you stepped out of your dad’s closet.
Blazer: Ditch the fratty blazer you bought when you pledged or the hand-me-down you have had for years. If you roll up with that, corresponding khaki-colored pants and boat shoes you will be launched out a window. Opt for black or blue: black for a more formal look and blue for more casual look.
Ties: Ties aren’t necessarily the noose of corporate business and they shouldn’t call to mind the sk8r boi-emo era of the 2000s. Ties are meant to be subtle compliments to your outfit. Depending on the color of your shirt, you should (usually) contrast your tie – a dark shirt should have a light tie and vice-versa. Don’t be afraid to get playful with patterns—a paisley tie can tone down an otherwise drab formal look. Think of this as an opportunity to show your personality, in a tasteful way. No superhero motifs, please.
Suit: A necessity for all men. Whether you’re in dressing for an interview or day in court, you should wear something that resembles a suit. Two-piece styles (jacket and pants) can be easier to come by and pull off than a more formal, three-piece style (jacket, vest and pants) but pick whatever suits your fancy! Navy, gray and black are versatile neutrals that will work with other pieces in your wardrobe.
Tips for everyone:
- Fit is everything. A well-fit garment will always look better than an ill-fitting one.
- Leather matches leather, metal matches metal.
- Match your shoes to your belt (almost always).
- Invest in high-quality classic pieces that will look good for years to come.