Before you know it, you’re going to be thrust into the oh-so-dreaded “real world” and will have to actually dress up every single day.

Those sweatpants and Norts (My loving nickname for Nike shorts) will not make the cut. And don’t even think about wearing one of your clubbing outfits!

The biggest mistake students make is assuming that the problem will solve itself down the road … that you’ll magically find a work-appropriate wardrobe when it’s time.

Unfortunately, when you finally land a job, you’re going to be broke as a joke after moving, paying your apartment deposit and buying furniture. You also might not get paid for at least a week or two, depending on when you start and what the pay cycles are like. Considering the above factors, you’re not going to have a whole lot of wiggle room in your budget to pay for a whole new wardrobe all at once!

So why not slowly build up your wardrobe over the course of time? Not only will you be buying clothes that you could wear to an internship or job, but you’re also investing in your future.

While each workplace has its own version of what is considered to be appropriate attire, there are a few items you need to buy for any office setting.

Dress shoes

Men: While not every office will require you to rock a pair of wing tips every day, there are a few options you should consider adding to your wardrobe. For one, you definitely need a black lace-up shoe. In addition, you’ll want a more casual but still work-appropriate shoe. These Desert Boots by Clarks¬†are a popular look. Also, you can never go wrong with Sperrys.

Women: Your options are a lot more open, but aim for the most comfortable fit when buying. Any type of closed-toe flat or heel should work as long as it’s not too loud. I found a bunch of options for cheap and cute flats on Polyvore. Stores like T.J. Maxx offer designer shoes at a more affordable price.


Men: You’ll want to have at least one go-to suit. With suits, the fit matters. If you aren’t exactly sure what your fit its, go to a department store like Macy’s or J.C. Penney to go try a few on. Once you figure how how everything fits, you may be able to buy them at a lower price online. Check out this guide to finding affordable men’s wear from Primer Magazine.

Women: It depends on which field you’re going into, but you’ll most likely want to buy at least one pant suit or dress skirt/jacket combination for interviews. I was able to buy an adorable dress skirt/jacket from a White House Black Market outlet that I wore to almost everything. For a more casual interview look, consider buying a blazer.


For both men and women, it’s important to have a long dress coat for when the days get chillier or rainy. These definitely run pretty expensive no matter where you look, so your best bet may be to hit up a J.Crew or Banana Republic outlet during the off-season and see what they have to offer. For dress coats, quality over quantity matters.

What would you add to this list? What do you think the workplace clothing essentials are?

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