College to Career: The Career Gal Wardrobe

It can be tempting to go ga-ga with the plastic and buy up all of the boardroom-chic attire your newly-hired heart desires.


Have you SEEN your CC interest rate? Yeah, ouch. And, then there are those pesky student loans, and rent, and FOOD. Girl, you’ve got to slow your roll.


You also have to look fabulous. How, you ask?

#JustCareerAdvice: Slow Build Your Collection

Yes, I said “collection”. You’ll be heading to work on the daily for years to come – and investing in certain staple pieces that you can build your personal style around will serve you well. Save the trends for your accessories – more on that later.

You probably can’t shop for designer items just yet – but, you can start somewhere with quality working girl wares like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic or Talbots. Bargain spots like Kohls and H&M also usually have the must-haves in stock.

Here’s your staple shopping list:

Black trousers – flattering and not-too-tight fit

1. Black pumps – 2-4” heel and no higher, because: walking
2. White blouse – French cuffs are always in style
3. Gray or light blue blouse – go with a different cuff for variety
4. Black pencil skirt – knee length, fitted but not tight
5. Black blazer – tailored fit (stay away from boxy)
6. 2-3 cardigans in White, Tan and Dealer’s Choice (go ahead, pick an actual color)
7. Black patent leather belt

If you can afford it, add:

8. Tan or grey dress – knee length, tailored fit
9. A pair of dressy flats in black or tan

Imagine these pieces and how many outfits you can get out of them. Tan dress + Black blazer. Black trousers + Blue blouse. Black Pencil skirt + White Blouse + Tan Cardigan. Belted Grey Blouse + Taupe Dress.

#JustCareerAdvice: Set A Stipend

Financial experts cast a pretty wide net on what you should be spending on clothing. Whether you set aside 3% or 10% depends in large part on how much you make, what your overall budget commitments are, and what sort of industry you work in (obviously those in fashion or high finance will need to spend a bit more than, say, a blogger or research scientist). But, do figure out what you feel is prudent and stick to it. You may need to save for a few months to get something your heart really desires – but, if it makes you feel fierce and confident, it may very well be worth it.

#JustCareerAdvice: Show Some Flair

Accessories are where you can be trendy, fun and unique. Choose a few belts in interesting patterns. Find wraps and silk scarves for that pop of color and personality. Handbags are another place to have fun – but these can also be long-lasting wardrobe staples, so choose a few timeless pieces, like an evening clutch and a workhorse tote as well.

Pins and brooches are no longer passé and a statement necklace or a stunning pair of earrings can just about transform any outfit. Of course, don’t toss every accessory you own onto one ensemble. One statement is enough for any workday.

And, by all means, add to your shoe collection – but again, focus on staples before fun. You’ll want tan pumps and a pair of no nonsense black booties BEFORE you splurge on something that screams runway.

More College 2 Career Advice…

To read my other blog posts on interview etiquette and making your mark in your new job, click the menu above – and stay tuned for next week’s post on nailing the transition from College2Career. I’d also love it if you joined the conversation under the #JustCareerAdvice tag on, @JustineSantaniello on Instagram and @JNSantaniello on Twitter.

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