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From T-Shirts to Blazers: How to Upgrade your Closet

By Lauren Russett and Kailah (K.P.) Peters

Have you been staring at your closet for hours now looking for something to wear to that interview or networking event? We get it. This problem started for us when we first moved to Chicago. We felt like we simply did not have enough wardrobe options for everything going on. We are here to help you dress your best for less today, by creating a business outfit capsule. This capsule is full of everyday pieces, special occasion outfits, and all of the essentials you need to dress like a million bucks.

Top Things to Know

Always be aware of the dress code. You may be told to dress business casual but if you are wearing something that is disrespectful to the environment you will regret it. Items that fit in this category include crop tops, shorts, and spaghetti strapped tops/dresses, running shoes, and tank tops. "At most companies, however, the business casual dress code encourages employees to project a 'professional, business- like image while enjoying the advantage of more casual and relaxed clothing.'" -Business Insider

You are selling your worth to your boss, dress appropriately. If you are interviewing for your dream job, be certain that the outfit you are wearing can best represent what you can bring to the employer. If you are interviewing for a company that has a more playful and fun atmosphere, Black pants and a fun top with heels, or dark jeans and a plain T with a blazer, can be a great look. If you are interviewing at a company that is more professional, wear a loose fitting dress with heels and nice necklace, or slacks, button up shirt and a pair of dress shoes. If you are dressed inappropriately for an interview, the employer will not believe that you are worthy of the position. It is better to be safe than sorry. Remember, you should not wear a Saturday-night-out-with-your-friends outfit to an interview.

"Many highly intelligent, well-qualified, capable men and women are often disqualified or dismissed because 'they don't sell for what they're worth'" -Business Insider. "They've let the 'business' out of 'business casual' and the lack of professional appearance holds them back. It's frustrating, because clothing certainly does not determine one's actual competence and credibility; it does, however, influence others' perception of those qualities - and that reality impacts career opportunities."

What to wear. Your work environment will be able to tell you what is considered business casual appropriate, but here is a general list:

Tops: Blouses, classy sleeveless shirts, sweaters, cardigans, blazers, trench coats, button ups (with or without a tie) and solid color polo shirts

Bottoms: Pencil skirts, loose skirts, dark jeans, slacks, khakis

Other: Medium height heels, brown or black shoes, loose fitting clothing, and no clothing with offensive/disrespectful language.

Tips for Building Your Capsule Work Wardrobe

Tip #1: Stick with the basics first. Lauren is the first person to buy the cute floral dress she sees at Zara, but before she starts buying a lot of clothes she must make sure she has the basics down first. She bought the neutral color clothing that she knew she could wear many ways before she got tired of them. Now that she has all of these pieces, she doesn’t feel bad for buying a floral dress that she can only wear every so often. This is especially essential as college students, saving money is important and starting with the basics will help you have many options of outfits for less. Always have slacks and a neutral colored top at minimum in your closet.

Tip #2: Quality over quantity. When it comes to fashion, there are so many options of everything you could buy. It may seem easier to purchase 5 white tees at Walmart, but they will not hold out as well as two more expensive shirts. Your business wardrobe is an important part of your life, and all of the clothing you buy you are going to want for a long time. Keep this in mind when you are shopping for the pieces in your wardrobe.

Tip #3: Start with what you have. I bet you have a closet full of clothes that you never wear because you think you have nowhere to wear it to. As long as it is work appropriate cute, and can be styled properly start working it into your wardrobe. Lauren had bought a very nice pink and blue stripped sweater at Urban Outfitters but only wore it once. It was expensive so she did not want to part with it. She ended up finding a pair of navy blue slacks that matched the blue in the shirt perfectly. Almost any piece from your wardrobe can be styled to look nice- even for work. Sources like Instagram and Pinterest are great for outfit inspiration.

Tip #4: Have a little something for everything. When you are shopping find pieces that will work for all occasions. Have a dress for networking events with coworkers, but also have a dress for the everyday office wear. If you have one black dress for both, find little things to style it differently for both work and networking. Accessories using bags, shoes, and jewelry.

Tip #5: Shopping. Stores such as Zara, Target, Nordstrom, J.Crew, TJ MAXX, Marshalls, Banana Republic, Forever 21, and Express are great for shopping for business casual clothing!

Use the graphic above as your shopping guide, these are business casual basics perfect for building up your wardrobe!



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