A professional wardrobe is a must for new college grads
May 13, 2011 at 2:28 PM CDT - Updated June 24 at 1:45 AM
(RNN) - There comes a time in every college student's life when he or she must throw away the torn-up jeans, Greek life shirts and cargo shorts in exchange for skirts, slacks, blazers, dress shoes and heels. This time is best known as graduation day.
While college life was all about independence and individuality, there are more important things to consider the day after you receive that diploma – like getting a job.
Some reports have placed the unemployment rate among those 25 and younger as high as 54 percent.
A recent survey reported by Time.com claims that 85 percent of new grads will move back in with mom and dad post-graduation. That is almost nine out of every 10 new college grads.
One way to distinguish yourself from all those other applicants and interns is step your game up when it comes to dress. It could make the difference between freedom and crashing with the ‘rents.
From the waist down
The best bet for you gentlemen is to find a local clothier and toss those khakis you only wore to church on the weekends when you made it home. The professionals there will be able to measure you for slacks and shirts that fit much better than what you'll find at your average department store.
"You're doing yourself a service by going to a professional tailor," said James Hill, co-owner of High Cotton Ties in North Carolina. "The extra money you spend to get measured professionally is totally worth it."
Guys, think outside the box and grab some linen pants or a seersucker suit. These items were once wardrobe staples among Southern gentlemen, but their popularity has grown outside the region in recent years.
Linen and seersucker are made of breathable, lightweight materials (usually cotton or wool blend) and are ideal for the hot summer months. They can be found in an assortment of work-acceptable colors.
"Linen and tons of color are going to be the trademarks of this spring and summer fashion," said McLavy Limited's James Osborn.
Linen and seersucker are an outstanding choice in a more casual work environment, like an advertising agency, or as a top-notch alternative to khakis on casual Friday.
A little modesty, please
One of the most difficult transitions for many young women is choosing a work place-appropriate wardrobe when they've spent four years dressing to impress other 20-somethings.
Make the best impression possible by keeping the length of your skirt to just above the knee. Forego the slit, or keep it 4 inches or smaller. If you can see your upper thigh when you sit, your skirt is too short.
"Inappropriate outfits are going to garner the wrong type of attention and give the wrong impressions to a possible future employer," said Emmie Henderson, co-owner of the Atlanta, GA, retailer Southern Proper.
Remember, you want the attention focused on your work and not what you decide to wear.
On your feet
Guys, once you've picked up a few pairs of wool-blend trousers or chinos, take a look at your footwear. If they are open toe, shabby or appropriate for the gym, take them off.
And never forget this, men: Sandals are for the beach and the boat, not the office.
When looking for a shoe in the workplace, consider the following: Will you be inside or outside most of the time? What's your climate? And never put anything above comfort!
"You cannot go wrong with having a black and brown pair of work shoes, but it does depend on your job's setting," Hill said. "Some jobs allow jeans for the on-the-go worker, and there are dress shoes out there that look great with jeans."
During the summer, you cannot go wrong with your basic loafers, boat shoes (never to be worn with socks) and white and khaki bucks. The summer is the perfect time to find some winter shoes on sale, so always be on the lookout for duck boots for those rainy, snowy work days.
Any woman knows shoes make up half her arsenal when it comes to standing out and making an impression at the workplace or during an interview.
"If you want to make a statement and stand out, do it with your shoes, not a tight skirt or low-cut top," Henderson said.
A woman should always wear what she feels most comfortable and confident in, while expressing her personality by spicing it up with some color, prints and fabrics.
On casual Friday, women have far more options than the guys. Flip-flops are always wrong. Heels, flats or a kitten heel are always fine choices. It's casual Friday; not a barbecue.
From the waist up
Guys, a true dress shirt is not measured in small, medium, or large. Let the clothier measure you for dress shirts, blazers and suits.
"Get a nice selection of classic colored shirts and five or six ties to match with them, and a suit," Osborn said. "You will keep your look fresh by mix and matching the shirts and ties."
Upon graduation, invest in three suits: Navy, gray and black. Your navy blazer that comes with the suit will be your biggest weapon when dressing for interviews or the workplace.
A navy blazer can be worn with slacks, khakis or jeans on the weekends. Peter Millar, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren all offer affordable, stylish blazers that will last until you get that big promotion.
"Every man should have a form-fitting navy blazer," Osborn said. "They look great and can be worn year around in the office or out on the town."
Ladies, depending on where you're applying or working, different outfits are appropriate for different settings. Take a look around and take notes from your coworkers on what they are wearing in the work setting.
Better yet, take a look at the person who holds a position you aspire to and dress like her. You want to look the part.
It's your work ethic – not your skin – that should be on display. Choose shirts that keep the goods behind "closed doors." Liven up your look with a blazer in a light weight fabric in a spring color.
"You're going to want all the attention on your work during a presentation," Henderson said, "so wear something that will keep coworkers' attention on that and not your outfit."
Lastly, there are a couple of things you can keep in your arsenal that have nothing to do with what you're wearing. Always use manners, arrive early and stay late, get your hair cut a week before an important appointment, be confident, listen, and smile.