Today’s post is part of my series of college posts in the spirit of back-to-school season. These days, I rarely buy clothing that I can’t wear both to work and in a more casual setting. The work week is five days per week and the weekend only two, so versatile pieces are my game.
Just a few years ago, it was a very different story. I was the epitome of casual in college. I only wore jeans (unless I was wearing sweatpants), I owned maybe one dress, and the only shoes I wore were either tennis shoes or flip-flops. I barely had the wardrobe to dress for a nice dinner, let alone a professional internship.
Then, my senior year of college, I was offered an internship in the state office of a US Senator. I wasn’t exactly rolling in dough, so I couldn’t run out and buy a new wardrobe. Luckily my mom bought me some pieces when I was hired, but mostly I had to get creative and frugal when it came to growing my internship wardrobe.
Determine the company’s dress-code standards.
In different office settings, you see a range of dress codes. Some are more casual. Dave can get away with wearing nice jeans and a polo shirt to work. This is obviously the more casual end, and you’ll often find dress codes like this in creative industries. On the opposite side, probably at companies like law firms, you’ll see conservative, business professional dress (ie, suites). Then you’ve got some in between. Get a feel for the dress-code at your internship by observing other employees. If you really aren’t sure, just ask.
Start with the basics.
One of your first purchases should be a black suit. As women, we have a little more leeway there. You can do a black pant/jacket combo or a skirt/jacket combo. It’s a solid professional look, can be worn regularly subbing in a new top, and will be a necessity when you’re interviewing for jobs.
Stick with a basic neutral color scheme.
I have a ton of black and white in my wardrobe, but very little brown, tan, etc. It makes pairing outfits easier and when I’m shopping for new tops, I only have to buy tops that will go with black and white. Pretty much any outfit I wear has a black/white piece and a colorful piece.
Find a way to use what you have.
The jeans aren’t going to help you in the office (except on Friday), but you can re-purpose tops and wear them with a blazer to make them more professional. Another piece most females in college have is cardigans, which are perfect for the office.
Find stores where you can get professional clothing on a budget.
H&M is one of my favorites.
Research capsule wardrobes.
You’ll find lots of people who create a full wardrobe of outfits on a limited number of pieces. It creates simplicity and makes it easier to pick out an outfit when you don’t have as much to choose from.
It definitely took me awhile to get into the habit of dressing professionally and picking out professional clothing. Even if you aren’t interning in an office, college is the perfect time to start building a professional wardrobe that will prepare you for a career after graduation.
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