Professional Attire on a College Budget

One of the trickiest things to tackle when preparing for an interview is what to wear.  Professional attire is always essential.  Being undergraduate students, we know that it is important to budget our money for the future.  Professional attire can be costly, but if you know what pieces to get, you can get your money’s worth.  Before shopping for professional attire on a college budget you will need a few things: a solid list of what to buy, where and when to go, a good eye and comfortable walking shoes (very important).

Creating a list of things to buy is important because it keeps you focused on what to buy.  It is easy to get distracted while shopping to buy other things, but having a list helps prevents that from happening.  It also helps you remember what you need to buy.

Before you begin to go shopping, know what stores sell good priced business clothes.  Also, remember to take your body type into consideration.  For example, if you are a woman 5’3” and under, you may consider buying things in the petite department because that department tailors to your height.  Always be on the lookout for sales and discounts.   Remember to take your Mount Card when you go shopping.  Some stores offer a student discount; all you have to do is ask.  Some stores also offer a military discount.

Here are a few things that should be on your list: Main pieces in neutral colors, business appropriate shirts, sweaters and shoes.  Main pieces, meaning pants, suit jackets and skirts should be in black, blue, grey, or tan.  This will allow you to mix and match between different pieces.  Often times buying a suit is seen as very costly, but it is a great investment.  Buying a suit ensures that both your suit jacket and bottom piece match exactly, whereas if you buy suit separates the colors may be slightly off.  For women, you could buy a pantsuit or a skirt suit.  Remember that skirt length should range between below to right above the knee.

Now that the main piece is picked out, it is time to dress for underneath the suit jacket.  For men and women it is important to buy button-front shirts (oxfords) in an accent color that would match your suit jacket. An accent color is a color that highlights what you are wearing.   A good selection for both women and men for an interview would be a light blue or white oxford for their interview.

Women can also buy blouses or knit tops for their choice of layering underneath their suit jacket.  Men should pick out ties that complement their shirts.  It is a good idea to buy patterns that are not too distracting.  Stripes, argyle and plaid are great business tie patterns to wear.  Also, men can never go wrong with a solid colored tie as long as it accentuates their button-front shirt.

It is now time to pick out business shoes.  Two important colors to have in business shoes for both women and men is black and tan.  Black goes with your black, tan and grey suites.  Tan shoes go with your navy suits.  Business shoes for both genders should be leather.  For women, buying a pair of plain flats in both black and tan is necessary.  Buying heels is also an option for women.  They should be in the same color and also plain with no designs on them.  The height size of the heel should be no more than about two inches.  Stay away from high-heels and height-heels with an extra platform on the base of the foot.

For men, buy shoes in leather that are either brown or black.  It is a good idea to have two pairs of shoes, one in each color.  Dress shoes should be simple with no designs on them with only four or five lace holes.  Penny loafers are also an option for men’s business shoes.  Remember to not wear ankle or athletic socks with the business shoes. For interviews, plain black socks that go above the knee are the only option for men.  For other business events it is acceptable to wear some patterns such as plaid, argyle and stripes.

Now that the business attire is properly picked out remember to iron the clothes before wearing them.  Pay very close attention to the care instructions found in the label of the clothes.  Some business clothes are dry clean only.  Putting them in the washing machine and dryer may cause damage to these clothes.   If you have any other questions regarding professional dress, the staff is willing to answer any and all questions about career development, including business attire.

Yuengling Trinh

Career Center Intern

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