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Tips for Updating Your Wardrobe After College

by Monette Anderson, Academic Relations Coordinator, WSCPA | Aug 20, 2015

©iStock.com/NinaMalyna

Ready to take your wardrobe from college to career? Whether you have your diploma on the wall or are gearing up for recruiting season, we’ve scoured online fashion and business sources to curate the top tips for breaking into career success. We know as a recent graduate there are a lot of things you can’t control—the weather, gas prices, how quickly the results of your CPA exam are released. How you present yourself to new acquaintances is not one of them. Countless studies have shown that people make first impressions about you within 5 seconds of meeting.  Giving your style a makeover may be easier than you think. Remember when updating your wardrobe that you don’t need to abandon your personal style. Find ways to make sure your wardrobe and accessories continue to reflect your personality, but this may just mean toning it down, focusing on the details, adding pops of brighter colors, or finding a few investment-worthy pieces to add to the mix. You will likely spend the first decade of your career really building and curating your wardrobe, so remember these tips are just to get you started. No one expects you to have a Partners wardrobe right out of the gate. Give it some time to come together, without maxing out your credit cards.

Tips for Men:

  1. Shoes: Let’s start with the priority investments. Shoes may not make the man, but according to the Great American Shoe Survey, 80% of hiring managers responded that shoes are weighed much more heavily than attire as an indication of attention to detail, confidence, and business culture. Start with two pairs of good quality shoes, one black and one brown.  Make sure they are pieces you can rotate through, keep cedar shoe trees inserted when not in use, brush away dirt after every wear and shine and polish when needed (most recommend after 3 wears). These will increase the life-span of your investment significantly.
  2. Suits: Our second priority investment. Start with two good quality wool suits. Tailoring is key here to really make a great impression.
  3. Ties: The general rule is three ties for every suit. Start with simple solids and stripes. Only once you’ve acquired around half a dozen simple staples should you begin to look at purchasing brighter and more complex pieces. With that said, remember your tie should never dominate conversation.
  4. Belts: One black and one brown, same shade as your shoes.
  5. Dress shirts: Again, fit is key. If you can’t have them tailored pay special attention to the fit in the shoulders and collar. This is especially important if you’ll ever be wearing them without a jacket.
  6. Navy blazer: You can dress it up and down and it works year around.
  7. Accessories: The bloggers at artofmanliness.com suggest that accessories do not stand alone and should be thought of as a spice; they can only bring out the best in a dish that starts with quality ingredients. Aim for at least 4-5 accessories. Watches, belts, tie clips, cufflinks, rings and sunglasses all count here.

Tips for Women:

  1. Visit a tailor: Avoid looking like you’re playing dress up in mom’s closet by making sure your clothing fits flawlessly. This isn’t as much fun as getting to shop for all new apparel, but it’s an investment that will make a huge difference in your wardrobe.
  2. Mix and match: find some great suit pieces that you can mix and match to look stylish and polished. Donning a full matching black pantsuit can age you; you want to keep some of your fresh youthful style.  A great black blazer that flatters your figure will pair well with skirts, slacks or even over jeans and a tee on casual Friday. 
  3. A silk blouse: A silk button down pairs excellently with slacks, a skirt, or under a sweater or blazer. It will quickly become a staple.
  4. Classic pointy toed heels: You can go mid-range or high depending on your personal preference, as long as you feel comfortable walking in the height. If you wear flats daily, now is not the time to go for 5 inches. You don’t want to walk into interviews wobbling like a newborn calf. Black or nude are best.
  5. Accessories: Be sure to invest some of your wardrobe budget on chic simple accessories, and a few bold statement pieces to wear with an understated outfit. A good  general rule for professional wear is at least 6 accessories, but not more than 10.

Sources: "How to Build Your Wardrobe," ArtofManliness.com; "7 Ways to Make Your Wardrobe More Grown Up After College," bustle.com; "Who gets hired: Why employers select one candidate over another," Workopolis.com

Monette AndersonMonette Anderson is the WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator. You can reach her at manderson@wscpa.org
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