Young Professional Clothing Advice for College Graduates | The Frugalista

Young Professional Clothing Advice for College Graduates

by frugalista on April 23, 2012

If you are a young professional or graduating college senior, one of the biggest expenses that you face is creating your career wardrobe. I know firsthand what it’s like upgrading your wardrobe from comfortable college co-ed to empowered career worker. Please check out an interview we did with image and fashion consultant, Tonya Seavers Evans owner of the Style Strategist website. These tips will teach your where to spend your money and save your money when building your career closet!

Fashion Tips for Young Professionals


What should recent college graduates have in their wardrobe?

The most important piece is a black suit for both men and women. Whether you will be working in a conservative environment or a more creative work culture, a black suit for an interview is always appropriate. Another must have piece is white button down shirt. You can wear it under your suit for the interview and if you have a business casual workplace you can u pair it with a skirt or pants without the jacket.

What should you wear on a job interview? One for a creative corporate job, one for a straight corporate job and one for a freelance/indie type job.

Job seekers have to remember that a job interview is their opportunity to make an amazing first impression. Whether it’s an indie job or a corporate role, you can never go wrong with a classic suit which will convey professionalism and a polished image. It’s much easier to transition to a style that is more laid-back if you discover that the environment is less formal. However, once a potential employer views a candidate as less than professional or too laid back, it reduces their chances of getting hired – particularly in today’s highly competitive marketplace. If the environment is more creative, let your work demonstrate your creativity.

Does it matter where you shop? What shops are frugal and fabulous?

Well the first goal is to purchase a classic suit that will be a lasting wardrobe staple. J.Crew has a great line of suits for both men and women. Banana Republic also has a line of suits in classic colors. You can search for brand-named suits in stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls but you have to be patient. Since classic pieces will sell more quickly it might take several trips to find a classic suit in the right size. Those stores are also great places for shirts and blouses. For accessories, hit the consignment stores. You can get more for your money and find some truly unique pieces.

How many accessories are too many? Should you have a statement piece when entering the workforce?

The short answer is a big NO! The more accessories in a wardrobe- the better. They are a great way to incorporate color; transition your day look to an evening; and update a wardrobe. Accessories also serve to direct attention toward ones best features, expand a wardrobe and update older garments.
And accessories are definitely the place to share a little bit about who you are and really make a statement. They can be used to convey things that you like, places that you have been or other characteristics about your personal style.
In other words accessories are the Frugalista’s best friend. When you have a limited budget, look at your wardrobe and purchase accessories such as jewelry, belts, ties, shoes, hosiery, watches, etc. to make updates to classic pieces. The choices are unlimited.

Should young professionals have their nails professionally done? Is color OK?

I don’t think that nails have to be professionally done but nails should be a part of your overall grooming routine. There are some great DIY nail kits.
Classic nail colors like reds, burgundy or neutrals are best for work because they will be the most complimentary to the colors in your wardrobe. In addition, some of bright colors out this season like orange, blue and yellow are fun but color will attract the eye. At work, the goal is for people to look at your face and pay attention to what you are saying not be distracted by vibrant nail colors.

What do you think about red lipstick?

Again, red is beautiful and there’s nothing more fashionable than a classic red lip and it will draw attention to your face as well which is what you want. There are thousands of shades of red so it is important to know which red works best for each skin tone.

How can we stretch our clothing budget during our first year?

Accessories. That is really the best way to stretch any wardrobe. For wardrobe items start with a classic black suit as I mentioned in combination with blouses, shirts and ties in different colors. Then incorporate accessories to create multiple looks.

Is it possible to find clothing that we can wear to both work and to happy hour?

Absolutely. For women a black sheath dress is ideal because a jacket can be added for the workday and then removed for a cocktail affair. I can’t stress enough that accessories are the key. Even a more conservative suit can be glammed up with dramatic accessories and a quick shoe change. Men can remove their tie and jacket for a more casual look.

How much money should we budget or save for clothing budget?

I would suggest a minimum of $500 to cover the purchase of a classic black suit in a light wool fabric for both men and women. That will also allow for the purchase of a few button down shirts and blouses for women and button down shirts and ties for men. The rest of the budget should be spent on accessories.

Why is it important for a young college graduate to have an image? Does it really matter?

Studies consistently show that people begin to make assumptions about your character in just five seconds of that initial meeting. That is hugely important when job hunting. And for younger workers, I believe that image is even more important because they often don’t have a significant work history. Their image can be a powerful tool in conveying their professionalism and seriousness about building a successful career.

What should we want our image to convey?

Image is really the message you send to the world every time you enter a room. It’s a personal billboard that communicates who you are and what others can expect from you. It conveys professionalism, credibility and work style.

Should we dress for the job we want or the job that we have? We don’t want to intimidate the boss!

I encourage my clients to dress for the job they aspire to have particularly if they are looking to move up the corporate ladder. A professional image conveys to your manager that you are ready to take on new challenges and prepared for the work ahead. Looking the part also conveys to the management team that you will be a positive reflection and extension of the company’s brand in the community.

Tonya Seavers Evans is a Miami-based image consultant with a passion for teaching individuals how to develop a professional style to marry with a powerful message. Join Tonya and on Twitter at 8pm est on Wednesday for a #dealchat on career fashion for young professionals!

So do you have any fashion tips for young professionals?

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