Transitioning Your Wardrobe from College to Career: Dressing for Success

Business casual outfit ideas for college grads

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If you’re a recent female college graduate, or simply wanting to elevate your work wardrobe, this is for you! Transition from college to the professional world with outfit ideas for your first job and what to wear and what to avoid in job interviews! As a Nashville based wardrobe styling firm, we believe having an elevated wardrobe can elevate your life in so many ways – communicating how you feel about yourself through how you present yourself in your clothes. And hey, your outfit just may be the key to landing you your DREAM JOB!

With these tips, you can revamp your wardrobe to reflect your new professional identity and give you easy to execute tips on how to style yourself for job interview outfits, corporate job outfits, or any business casual atmosphere. Let’s dive in!

Assessing your Current Wardrobe

Before embarking on a wardrobe transformation, start by assessing your current collection. Take inventory of what you already have and identify key pieces that can be integrated into a professional wardrobe. Look for versatile items like blazers, tailored trousers, and classic blouses that can be styled in various ways. Need help with this? You can book an in-person or virtual closet edit here.

QUICK TIP: Placing work clothes in a separate section of your closet will make it easier to get dressed in the morning.

Blair’s favorite Blazer from Gibson Look – and get 10% off with coupon code BLAIR10

Invest in Essential Basics and Save on Trends.

Building a professional wardrobe doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Start by investing in a few essential pieces that will form the foundation of your work wardrobe. We suggest spending on blazers (10% off this Gibson Look blazer with code BLAIR10), a trouser you can wear multiple times a week and a quality handbag. You can save on trendier items and seasonal pieces/accessories.

Consider a well-fitted blazer, (here is our favorite because it’s knit and comfortable to wear!) a tailored pair of trousers or a skirt, a versatile dress (remember you can always throw a sweater over a dress or a blazer to make it look like a new outfit), and a few high-quality blouses or shirts. These timeless pieces will provide the basis for countless professional outfits.

Dressing For your Job Interviews

When you’re thinking about “what’s your greatest weakness” or other crazy questions they ask, take an intentional pause. Your answer, and your outfit should convey professionalism, confidence, and a touch of your personality! Here are a few tips to help you dress for success (sorry, we don’t have your answer to the interview questions!) :

  • Opt for a tailored suit or a polished dress with a blazer.
  • Stick to classic colors like black, navy, or white for a sophisticated look.
  • Keep accessories minimal as they can be extremely distracting in some environments.
  • Ensure your shoes are clean and appropriate (and comfortable!) for the workplace. A damp cloth or a magic eraser works wonders on some shoes. Be sure to test an area you can’t see before cleaning the entire shoe.

KASSI, our youngest stylist who specializes in young, professional attires says:

WE LOVE A LIST. Get great key basics such as:

  1. Neutral blazer: color can depend on the season and time of year
  2. Trouser pant 
  3. Skirt that is length appropriate
  4. Dress that is length appropriate, has a professional vibe (not too short and not too revealing)
  5. Blouses and crisp button downs (that are not too revealing)
  6. Comfortable shoes: mule, loafer, and a classic heel should be on your list of must have shoes. For our full list of the most stylish YET comfortable shoes, go here.

What to Avoid for a Job Interview Outfit

  • AVOID:
    1. Super bright colors
    2. Loud patterns
    3. Uncomfortable shoes
    4. Heavy amounts of jewelry
    5. Revealing clothing
    • You want to make sure your outfit is not only appropriate (not too short or revealing) but also AGE appropriate. A young college graduate should not be dressing like a 40 year old because number one, they won’t be comfortable or confident in themselves during the interview and number two, they need to represent who they are. Why is that important? Everyone is different and brings many different qualities to the table! Teams are made up of so many different people for a reason!
    • Dress to impress! An interview is all about selling yourself and letting someone know why you are right for the job. The easiest way to do that is be and feel confident! So make sure you’re wearing an outfit that appropriately shows who you are. 
    • Wear fabrics that don’t easily wrinkle, are clean, and fit you properly. The more polished you look, the more likely you will get the job!

What not to wear. Images from Meg-Made Creations.

Navigating Corporate Dress Codes

Make sure you understand and adhere to the corporate dress code. Whether it’s business formal or business casual, here are some guidelines to follow. I mean, what’s the difference? We’ll break it down.

  • Business Formal: Embrace tailored suits, pencil skirts, and dresses with conservative hemlines. Choose closed-toe shoes and opt for neutral or subtle colors.
  • Business Casual: Mix and match separates like blouses, slacks, skirts, and dresses. Experiment with color and patterns, but always keep it professional and polished. Pair with stylish yet comfortable footwear. Jeans should most always be a darker wash but it depends on your work culture and dress codes.

Business casual as shown in first two photos, business formal in last photo. Shop all Blair’s business casual outfit here.

Adding Personality to Your Professional Attire

While professional attire often leans towards a more conservative look, it’s important to infuse your personal style into your outfits. Here are a some easy ways to add personality to your professional wardrobe:

  • Experiment with statement accessories like bold earrings or a colorful scarf. Jewelry is the easiest way to make casual chic more professional and polished. Remember TUCK, CUFF and CLASP. Tuck your shirt, cuff your sleeves and clasp your favorite accessories on.
  • Incorporate pops of color through your blouses, shoes, or handbags.
  • Opt for interesting textures or prints in your clothing while still maintaining professionalism. Mixing soft fabrics like satin with a leather handbag gives dimension and interest to any outfit.

How a handbag can complete and polish an outfit

First Job Outfit Ideas

To kick-start your professional wardrobe, here are a few outfit ideas suitable for your first job:

  • Classic Power Suit: Pair a well-fitted blazer with matching trousers or a skirt. Complete the look with a crisp button-down shirt, tucked in or half tucked if you’re not comfortable with a full tuck, and sleek pumps.
  • Timeless Dress: Opt for a tailored sheath dress in colors like black or navy or tan. Pair it with a blazer and elegant heels for a polished and feminine look.
  • Chic Business Casual: Combine dark-wash jeans with a tailored blazer and a stylish blouse. Finish off the ensemble with comfortable yet fashionable flats or low heels. Even adding a belt to jeans can make it look elevated & intentional.

Transitioning your wardrobe from college to a professional setting can be an exciting journey. By assessing your current collection, investing in essential pieces, and following the guidelines for job interviews and corporate dress codes, you’ll be well on your way to building a wardrobe that exudes confidence and professionalism. Remember to add your personal touch and have fun expressing your style! You’re going to kill it!

If you have any questions about dressing for a first job, or need personalized styling assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Nashville personal wardrobe stylists! We work with clients across the USA virtually or if you’re local to Nashville, we can set up an in-person service. To get a free style consult, fill out this form and get ready to wow the company with your new looks!

Written by Jennifer Deyo