Off the Rack: Professional clothes


Story by Cal McNeil

Trying to find a job that pays the bills, moving away from family and friends and realizing your days of relaxing summers are a pastime makes transitioning from college life to the “real world” hard enough. On top of that, the thought of dressing professionally every day on the job might push you over the edge.

To keep your stress level down, I’ve compiled tips and advice to keep in mind when shopping for your first real job or internship to ensure your wardrobe is filled with essentials for the workplace.

There are more options for women than for men, but it seems like many fall back on the overused black or gray suit. It is important to look professional in the workplace, but infusing some fun into your daily outfits will help you stand out.

If you are going to wear a pantsuit, try a wide-leg trouser or slim-fit Capri pant. These cuts are flattering and add more interest to your outfit over a straight-leg pant. If you are really brave, try bold colored trousers to get noticed in the office. Make sure to try your pants on with heels to check if the length is right.

Blazers look nice on all kinds of body types.  A perfect blazer should cinch right at the thinnest part of your waist, end right at the hips and not have a boxy shape. For the spring and summer, stick to light fabrics like cotton or linen-blends. Some alternatives to blazers include cardigans and other sweaters or a nice blouse, but make sure to belt them to define your waist.

High-waisted skirts can be boring, but if you find a fun print or color, pair it with a simple top tucked in to keep it slightly casual and intriguing.  A skirt is always a great option during the warmer summer months.

Finally, a pair of heels can truly be the finishing touch to an outfit.  They make you taller and can look more professional than flats. They may not be the most comfortable option, but no one ever said that the “real world” would be easy. Mid-height heels or wedges in suede, patent leather and exotic skins are your best bet for fun accessories.

Stores that include great options for the workplace at decent price points include Gap, Express, H&M, Topshop, Zara, J. Crew and major department stores for great work options at affordable prices!

Focusing on bringing in more colors than a black suit is your best bet to have more fun with professional clothes. My favorite alternatives right now include a chocolate brown or navy suit. They still look appropriate for the workplace but are a little more hip than the classic black or gray suit. Adding a bolder shirt to a black suit can also really spice your outfit up.

Spring pastels are trendy options for trousers if you want something more casual.  Pair them with a casual blazer, white button down and leather driver or boat shoes for a perfect casual Friday outfit.

Whatever you end up choosing, make sure you get your clothes tailored to your body.  Nothing is worse than spending money on a blazer or dress pants and having them look too big and baggy. Some department stores, such as Macy’s, have complimentary fittings when you buy a suit. Take advantage of this to help ensure that you have a suit that fits well and will last you.

Stores that include great options for men’s professional outfits at decent price points include H&M, Topman, Zara, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew and major department stores.