How to Transition Your Wardrobe from College to Career

If you’re a soon-to-be graduate, congratulations! Typically, students start looking for their first job out of college months before graduation. If you’re ready to start your job hunt and you want to land the best possible gig, remember that your wardrobe matters. While your accomplishments are important, your future employer needs to feel confident that you have what it takes to present their company in the best light possible, particularly if you’re looking for a role that is client-facing.

However, our team at Vintage 1946 also understands that as a soon-to-be graduate, your finances are likely tight. If that’s your case, it’s wise to know which pieces you should invest more in vs which pieces you can go cheaper on. With that said, let’s break down how to upgrade your wardrobe as you transition from college to your career.

Interview-Ready Attire

Put simply, any interview-ready attire is professional, put together, and ready for work. If you're attending an interview for your first job out of college, odds are you don't need to wear a full formal suit or tuxedo to the meeting—unless you are trying to make an ironic statement and ultimately not land the job! Here are a few more examples of what not to wear:

  • Graphic tees
  • Shorts
  • Casual shoes

Buy Clothes for the Interview and the Workplace

Fortunately, once you have transitioned your wardrobe to be ready for an interview, you've also made it ready for most workplaces. A professional, neutral outfit is the standard for most places of employment, particularly white-collar jobs that take place in offices. In this sense, you only need to buy new clothing items once: when you start to attend interviews post-college graduation.

While there are some basic guidelines for what is and what isn’t interview/workplace appropriate, please keep in mind that at the end of the day, you should choose a workplace where you feel confident and comfortable about who you are vs choosing a workplace where you feel pressure to fit in. Workplaces where you ultimately feel uncomfortable being yourself are the places you’re more likely to leave, and your first job should be a place where you can see yourself staying for quite some time.

With that said, there are plenty of ways to add personality to a traditional workplace look. Let’s dive into the basics.

Balancing Quality with a Tight Budget

While we would like to tell you the importance of prioritizing quality when purchasing any new clothing--no matter the piece or size—we also know that it simply isn’t obtainable for most fresh college graduates. However, there are a few pieces that you should prioritize. If you only have one item that you can splurge on, make it your slacks. Why? You’re more than likely to wear one pair regularly throughout the week vs. shirts that you may wear once a week or every other week.

If you start your wardrobe with a quality pair of slacks and a few basic button-ups, you can slowly replace your lower-quality items once income starts rolling in.

Wardrobe Item Suggestions

Now let's dive into some specifics. Remember, these items are also great for most workplace interviews—neither too dressy nor too casual.

Button-Down Shirts

Your outfit starts with a great button-down shirt. A button-down shirt is a go-to or standard article for office attire. If you’re on a tight budget here, here are a few things to consider to make the most of your purchase:

  • Think about the color of slacks you have available. From here, choose button-downs in colors that look well together, such as gray slacks with a light blue shirt or brown slacks with a white shirt. The last thing you want is to spend money on shirts and slacks that don’t even look nice together.
  • Remember, a good button-down shirt should be tailored to your body type, comfortable, and able to be tucked into your trousers. If you can’t comfortably tuck the shirt in, it is too small.
  • Pay attention to the materials your shirt is made from. You may be eying a sharp-looking button-up on the clothing rack, but some materials are more prone to wrinkling. And nobody wants to spend their day in an office with an embarrassingly wrinkled shirt. Choosing iron-free shirts is one great tip, but to be more specific, look for shirts woven with wool as this material tends to resist wrinkles well. Look for shirts that are also made with some sort of synthetic materials with inherent resilience, too. For example, nylon and spandex are two popular wrinkle-resistant materials.

Tailored Khakis

When it comes to legwear, you can’t go wrong with tailored khakis or slacks. Vintage 1946’s Charleston Khakis are ideal choices due to their colors, fits, and comfort. Khakis are staple trousers since they’re durable, comfortable, and perfect for combining with a button-down shirt you tuck in.

Belts and Boots or Professional Shoes

Lastly, don’t forget your accessories, especially your belt. You need a good belt to keep your trousers around your hips. As a general rule of thumb, always choose shoes that match the color of whatever belt you choose. Opt for a less flashy and more functional belt, particularly if it’s your first job or interview. Vintage 1946's oil-tanned casual belt with a matte nickel buckle is a great example of a career-ready belt.

Get the Look, Nail the Interview

Transitioning from college to career can feel a bit awkward, but you’ll find that looking the part can give you a major confidence boost not only during your interviews but also as you begin to make your name in your chosen field.

For slacks, remember to check out our subsidiary, Berle, for tailored slacks. At Berle, complimentary hemming is always included with your purchase. Good luck with this next exciting chapter in life!