Post-graduation life can be daunting: getting a job, going on interviews, finding your own place, paying off student loans. One thing does not have to be stressful — building up your professional wardrobe!
You’ve graduated and received your degree, congratulations! Now, it’s time to prepare for interviews, which are, by definition, nerve-wracking. However, if you look sharp and confident, you’ll feel sharp and confident. As a recent college grad looking for work, you are naturally a little lower on the income scale, and it may seem difficult to attain a fashionable professional wardrobe. The great thing about today’s office attire is its affordability and accessibility, so there is no need to sacrifice your wallet to look great. When I began to collect business wear, I found that shops like Forever 21, H&M, JCPenney, and Payless were great places to find reasonably priced dress shirts, skirts, dresses, shoes, and accessories.
When building your professional wardrobe you are doing just that: building. Start simple with interchangeable pieces. Your goal is to begin with items that can be put together to make multiple new outfits. Simplicity is key, and once you land your new job, you can continue to expand and diversify your collection. You’re a soon-to-be working girl! Let’s start with these six items to get you on your way.
1. Flat Dress Shoes
It’s always best to have a pair of low-heel or flat dress shoes for interviews. A pair of stylish dress flats is a must because they give you the elegance of high-heeled pumps without the discomfort. You want to start off with comfortable shoes you can run after a bus in or get caught in the rain in. Sensible shoes ensure preparedness when the unexpected happens, which can be quite often en route to serious interviews. If you’re attending multiple interviews in one day, your last concern should be how much you wish you could take your shoes off.
2. Button Down Blouse
Every grad should have a long or short sleeved button down blouse in her closet. It instantly elevates any look and goes great with anything, so it’s perfect when mixing and matching items for multiple outfits. A solid print is always best with interchangeable pieces and overall cohesion. For interviews, traditional business attire is usually expected but there is the occasional interview where business casual is appropriate, and a button down blouse is perfect with denim slacks or a flared skirt. You can dress it up by adding a thin pencil belt or down by loosening the collar.
3. Pencil Skirt
You can never go wrong with a high-waisted pencil skirt. There are different styles of pencil skirts: above-the-knee, below-the-knee, high waist, mid waist, flared hem, straight hem, side slit, back slit, etc. A below-the-knee straight hem skirt is best to start off with because of the simplicity and versatility of style. A solid, simple skirt can be worn with multiple outfits, multiple times without appearing over worn. The pencil skirt is a classic professional garment that can be dressed up or down, is paired great with flats and an absolute must in any professional’s closet.
4. Dress Slacks
Dress slacks, or even tapered trousers, are always a great option to have when going out on interviews. Slacks are typically seen as boxy, uncomfortable garments, but due to current trends, many are now constructed with stretchy rayon and spandex blends, instead of stiff cotton. Like sensible shoes, they serve well when met with the unexpected. Trousers are a much more comfortable, loose alternative to a pencil skirt or dress whilst giving you that strong professional look you need.
A blazer jacket ties every interview outfit together and should be a staple in your closet. A simple dark, three button, fitted, waist length blazer is best to start with and looks flattering on every figure. It’s one of the most versatile types of jacket, as it can be used to dress up an outfit or dress it down. It’s perfect for business casual interviews and corporate interviews. A dark blazer is also visually stimulating; it instantly adds an element of sophistication and projects a level of maturity, displaying your committed interest in the interview.
6. Business Dress
It is always best to have at least one special event dress, but a dress for the office is a must. Once your job search starts picking up steam, you’ll be going on a lot of interviews and meetings where an office-appropriate dress is great for that extra boost of confidence. Often, when getting ready for an interview, you may be running late or busy piecing together answers to those anticipated interview questions. It’s always good to have a go-to outfit that you know you look excellent in and doesn’t require assembling. Feeling great in a killer dress on your way to an interview can only help you!
Life post-graduation can be highly stressful and scary, and the task of putting your knowledge to the test and getting a ‘real’ job is even scarier. Dressing for an interview should be one of the enjoyable aspects of the process, not the most stressful. Even though it can feel like you’re dressing for your execution, I assure you, you are not! Just start slow with these six staples and make building your professional wardrobe fun!