Back to School, Back to Business

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Job interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about what to wear last minute. What does business casual even mean? There are a few pieces that every professional should have in their closet that will work for most, if not every, occasion. The following items should be the first ones to add to your wardrobe for anything from a job interview to a regular day at work.

What to Get

  • A well fitting, matching black suit
  • White, long sleeve button down
  • Black ankle length pants
  • A black or neutral colored sweater
  • A pair of black or nude flats
  • A pair of black or nude heels (closed toe, 3 inches or shorter)

A matching suit (black is more desirable than navy or mismatched) that is well tailored to your body is necessary for business professional situations and will make a great first impression. Wearing a crisp white button-down underneath will complete the professional look, and can also be worn in casual situations with the ankle length pants and a sweater if the weather permits. The flats can be worn in both casual and professional situations, but if you are comfortable wearing heels it can make your business professional look even more sophisticated.

Once you have the basics, you can expand your wardrobe and make it more fun and personalized. Especially in casual situations, colors, patterns and jewelry will make the seemingly boring thought of “business” clothing a lot more fun.

Some suggestions for next purchases:

  • A black and/or patterned skirt
  • Patterned ankle length pants
  • ¾ sleeved shirts
  • Short sleeved (at least three inch strap width) colored and/or patterned shirts
  • A nice, versatile watch

Skirts are great for warmer weather and for casual situations. You can get creative with the colors and patterns, just don’t get creative with the length; just above or to the knee is the most appropriate length.

When to Wear It

Business casual and business professional are worn during different occasions. Examples of business professional occasions include job interviews, career fairs and networking events of any type with potential employers. Business casual attire can be worn during club presentations, club meetings, school professional socials, award ceremonies and at most jobs on a daily basis. Usually you will be told whether you should wear casual or professional, but it’s always better to be overdressed than under.

Where to Get It

Business clothes can be expensive, but if you know where to look you can find some great deals. The only piece that it may be nice to splurge on is a suit, but you will get lots of use out of it and if it’s well made it will last. Below are some suggestions for stores to check out.

More Pricey:

  • Express*
  • Banana Republic
  • Calvin Klein
  • Ann Taylor
  • Asos

Mid Price:

  • Forever 21
  • H&M
  • Target*
  • Marshall’s
  • TJ Maxx
  • Ross
  • Gap
  • Old Navy*
  • Charlotte Russe

Most affordable:

  • Goodwill
  • Salvation Army*
  • Any second hand, or consignment store

*author’s picks

Last Tips:

  • Clothing
    • Open toe shoes are not appropriate in business professional occasions and should be worn with caution in casual situations.
  • Make Up
    • For those who wear make up regularly:
      • Make sure not to go overboard. Smoky eyeshadow, heavy highlighting and contouring, dark and dramatic eyeliner, or bright lipstick is attention catching, but not in the way you are looking for. You want your intelligence and skills to shine, not just your highlight.
    • For those who never wear it:
      • Adding a bit of mascara, blush, and chapstick can give you a more polished look. The main idea is to look like yourself, so if you don’t wear tons of makeup, don’t feel pressured to!
  • Accessories
    • If you wear rings or a necklace everyday don’t feel like you need to remove them for business casual or professional settings. A familiar piece of jewelry can help you feel more like yourself as well as be a conversation starter if it has a story behind it.
    • Remember to bring a padfolio to professional situations for note taking and to hold resumes and business cards. The university store sells plain black as well as ones with the Cal Poly logo. You can also find more adventurous ones on Amazon and at Target.

Click on the images below to see where to buy each outfit.

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