Professional Fashion Must-Haves for College Students

I'm seeing dorm must-haves and college necessities everywhere. Don't forget your 85 different small electronics. Make sure you have the tiny k-cup brewer. Don't forget the elaborate and colorful storage system! (Not really, you can get by without a lot of that stuff). As far as campus chic goes, most ads only seem to recommend jeans, hoodies and class-ready PJs. Now, I wore a lot of jeans and tees in college. In a fit of extreme lateness/illness I did wear pajama pants to class once, but I usually put on real clothes for the days of studying and too many extracurriculars. The truth is college students need professional attire too. And they could benefit from it more often than they think. Note: This information differs based on your major. If you are business or pre-law, consider suits and classic business attire. If you are flinging paint around a studio, dress to be splattered.

Class Chic
Some classes are going to demand more professionalism from you. You can't just show up in jeans and expect the professor to take you seriously. You need to at least go business casual here. Instead of buying a ton of jeans and tees, consider getting a few pairs of slacks and upgraded tees. You can even be cute, colorful and comfortable. (I used to have a pair of dress pants made from a thick jersey. They felt like sweat pants, looked like suit pants). It's the same amount of effort as putting on jeans and a tee, and your demanding professor will answer your questions and give you the respect you showed for the class.
Class Chic

Speech Days
If you're going to get up in front of the class to present information, put effort into both the speech and your appearance. You don't have to wear a suit. In fact, a chic and simple blazer is more than enough to spruce up any speech day look. If you need to dress casual for the day, you can add a blazer to pants and tee. It can also top off a simple jersey dress (especially if you're going from class to coffee with that cute guy who sits in the back row).
Speech Day to Date Night

Career Fair
The career fair may be set up in the student center inviting your to browse as you flit from class to class, but you are meeting recruiters and potential employers/internship supervisors so dress to impress. This is a business casual or better setting. Try a simple skirt and blouse combo, bring along a jacket to dress up the look if need be. I love a classic straight skirt or pencil skirt. A lot of them are being made in thick jersey materials that move easily and pack well if you end up traveling to a conference.
Career Fair

Internship/Job Interview
Sure. You're a freshman. You're just trying to get a job at the coffee shop on campus. You're not looking to make partner at the firm or even get your first "real" job, but you can still look better than most of the other applicants. I got a cushy job in college filing paper and eating all the treats people brought to the business office. I interviewed in pants and a blouse. Later, after changing back into jeans and a tee, I ran into my interviewer in the cafeteria. When he hired me, he commented on the fact that I showed up in professional attire even though I didn't always dress like that. No one else had dressed up. I got the job. Get an edge where you can. Buy great separates that can look like a suit put together and mix and match well with the rest of your professional clothes.
Internship/Campus Job Interview

The Clothes
All of the looks above have been created using the set of clothes pictured below (plus a bonus grey dress pictured first. It is made of sweatshirt material, but it's a dress. You can't beat that). I picked comfy fabrics and affordable pieces. Every piece is less than $35. I included two dresses, two pairs of pants, two skirts, two jackets and four tops (because no one wants to do laundry all the time). The whole wardrobe of 12 items (with countless combos) costs just under $235. Click through the slideshow to see each item individually.

Pictured: Grey sweatshirt dress, Dorothy Perkins $28; Jersey faux-wrap dress, Old Navy $17; Graphic tuxedo pant, jcpenny $14; Classic pant, jcpenny $14; Flounce pencil skirt, The Limited $20; Blue pencil skirt, Old Navy $20; Terry fleece blazer, Old Navy $35; Blue boyfriend jacket, Target $30; Button front blouse, jcpenny $12; Orange cowl top, jcpenny $15; Dot top, Dorothy Perkins $12; Crochet tee, Loft $17


Anonymous said…
I love the idea of fabrics that are casual and easy to take care of that are in dressier cuts. Having young children means that white is mostly a no-no, (all of my beautiful, white cotton button-downs have met grisly ends) and anything that requires a lot of care is going to be a serious pain.

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