Post College: My Clothes are Useless

When I graduated from college, I did not expect that I would have to completely revamp my wardrobe.

Seriously, when it came to the internship and my job after graduation, I had no clothes to wear! That being said, my sense of style has changed dramatically over the past year. Now it’s all flats and cute little sandals. Back in the ol’ college days, I spent almost every day of my life in sneakers. Part of it was a safety issue (in chemistry labs you have to wear closed to shoes in case you spill something on yourself) and the other part was that they were just super comfortable.

I like comfortable.

What did the rest of my attire look like as an undergrad? Jeans and a t-shirt. If (big “if”) I was feeling fancy, I would wear sandals and a nice tank top or shirt. Other than that, college was an exercise getting the maximum result (looking cute) with minimal effort. I can honestly say that most of my days in college were spent looking scrubby, and I’m okay with that because something has to give when you have to choose between sleeping and finding a cute outfit.

In retrospect, I’m surprised that I was so not into my clothes during college. I love clothes. I love all the pretty things that I can put on my body and all the cool things that I can do with my hair and make-up. I’m not exactly sure what was going on with me. It was probably the lack of sleep, weight gain (oh yes, one day I’ll write all about that one because the Freshmen 15 are more real that you can imagine) and the overall havoc a busy schedule can wreak on your appearance.

Anyway, upon graduation, I realized that my current closet just wasn’t going to cut it. You can’t go to a congressional office in jeans and your college gear. It just won’t do, ya know? Suddenly, I had to look like a young professional and had absolutely no clothes to match this new image that I was trying to project. No one told me that this was going to happen!

College seniors (college freshmen, you should pay attention too), heed my advice, start looking for professional clothes now. It will give you the time to find what works for you and, most importantly, build up a wardrobe over time so that you don’t have to spend a lot of money at one time when you enter the workforce.

You may think that you know what you should wear in a professional environment, but trust me “business casual” is the most ambiguous dress code ever. Start looking now. I know that it’s probably the last thing that you want to think about, but it’s going to make your life so much easier.

My best advice is not to ask your friends what you should wear. Go to a store and ask an associate because there are certain rules about dressing in a business environment that, although lame, are considered a standard. Case in point: skirts. If you want to wear a skirt, at the most, it can only be two inches above the knee. Dressing the part is not as a easy as it sounds.

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  • Katie Jenkins

    Ah! So true. Just this past week I began my serious wardrobe overall from college to professional. Man, am I gonna miss those sneakers!

  • Elise Goodreault

    Any advice on good, reasonably priced, fashionable stores? Seriously, shopping sometimes feels like it’s for the 40-55 age group or the 12-18 age group. I would love to shop at Anthropologie every weekend but my chosen career path definitely will not allow it.

    • Melanie Gebhardt

      Check out New York & Company! All perfect fashionable office attire, and although they can be pricey that have really good sales :)

    • Shandra Goldfinger

      Try Loft! They always have sales and, while some of the clothes are more casual, you can definitely find work staples.

    • Lindsay Ann

      H&M or Loft!

    • Emily Huth

      There’s this sweet spot in between the maternity/grandma/junior clothes at Target that has business casual clothes that are usually pretty cute.

    • Jessica Mirabelli

      I find a lot of great work appropriate clothes at H&M, Forever 21, & Winners (for Canadian readers out there!) Also sites like Tobi, Polyvore, ASOS also have some really unique finds. I always find great office wear that’s professional but still fashionable.

  • Michelle Grove Shaffer

    All true…I’m also a fan of avoiding anything that sparkles, glitters or shimmers excessively – you’re not a bar, for crying out loud.

  • Maggiee Underwood

    I was just asking myself the other day, “why does everyone else look so grown up already, and I still look like a baby person?” I have to wear my chef gear 70% of the time, so when it’s time to wear normal clothes I just wear whatever is comfortable. A v-neck old navy tee is literally as fancy as I get, and yes I have every color known to man!

    • Andrea DuBois

      I feel your pain with the chef gear all the time! I wear my black chef pants almost everywhere after work (I work the 6am-2pm shift) and everyone can tell what I’ve made that day by what has splattered on my pants :)
      Its also quite amusing when people see me outside the chef clothes and realize that I’m shaped like a big white chef coat!

  • Audrey Marquardt

    Ann Taylor (Loft or not) is also great for this! I’ve been doing office-based internships over the summer, and they have clothes that are business casual, but are great for other occasions too!

  • Andrea Hernandez

    I just graduated from college and I can totally relate becuase my wardrobe iS useless… I have more tips for our gen.

  • Maria A. Hernandez-Venegas

    Ann Taylor (LOFT) is the best! I should’ve put in recommendations too. I’ll do that in a few weeks! Because it’s hard to find clothes that don’t look like something your grandmother would wear. Glad you guys liked the article!

  • Rebecca Farmer

    This article is so so so true!! When I got my job out of college I spent $300 on business casual clothes. Not fun to do all at once. Also, it’s important to know what the typical office attire is for wherever you’re hoping to work. When you go in for interviews, look around to see what everyone else is wearing! I did this, and thankfully my office is on the more casual side of business casual. No suits but still, no jeans. We are in an awkward grey area of sorts, but unsaid attire rules still apply.

  • Sharon Tan

    Can totally relate with this. I as well felt like I had nothing to wear when I graduated!!

  • Maria A. Hernandez-Venegas

    After I graduated, I was like, “Why the hell didn’t anyone else tell me that this was going to happen?!”

  • Amber Kirby

    I’m so glad I saw and read this! I graduate in December! Now that I think about it, I do need to start looking for appropriate clothing. Thanks!

  • Teresa León Saldaña

    Thank you for this article! I’m currently at senior at my university. This past summer, I got an internship at a community clinic working for a dietitian, and I realized that I didn’t have any professional clothing. I had to go shopping, but since my internship was only once a week, I bought only one or two outfits. But I know that I’m definitely going to need way more once I start working at my post-baccalaureate professional internship. Need to start shopping now!

  • Ju Li

    I have that kind of problem, too, just the other way around. In April I quit work (after 10 years) and went back to college to get a Bachelor’s degree.
    Often I find myself looking slightly different from most students and I tend to feel too posh the way I’m dressing. So basically I’d have to “downgrade” my wardrobe in order to look like a “real” college student…doesn#t help that a couple of my teachers are even younger than me (at 29y)!

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