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Professional Clothing

What do you wear to your first professional job?

Norms can vary greatly from industry to industry and region to region, so it's important to ask a few people in your chosen field what the norms generally look like. For example, a tech company in California will have different standards of dress than a law firm in the Midwest. A preschool teacher is going to need a different everyday wardrobe than an accountant. Creative fields have more room for crazy patterns or colors. This page offers a place to start.

  • You will usually dress more professional for an interview than you will the actual job, usually with a suit or professional separates
  • Clothes should fit well, neither too loose nor too tight
  • Clothes should be free from large holes, rips, or stains
  • Your outfit should allow you to reasonably move around without riding up or bunching
  • Most offices now are business casual (sweaters, button-downs, pencil skirts), but you may find some offices that expect business professional (full suits almost every day)
  • You can't go wrong with neutrals - navy, black, white, beige, caramel, grey
  • You do not have to wear the same color on top and bottom! Grey pants can work well with a black blazer, for example
  • Fit, cut, and fabric will all have an impact on how "professional" a piece of clothing is perceived as
    • There are too many weird and arbitrary rules to list here, but keep this in mind. A cotton sundress is too casual for many industries, but a knit dress in the same length will read as more professional.
  • Err on the side of too conservative for the first few weeks at a new job
  • You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great professional wardrobe!
    • Check out thrift stores, department store sales, or organize a clothing swap with friends. 

Bottom line: Know your field. Ask your professors or a trusted mentor what you might expect!

salmon sweater, white button down, black pants female  mid-shin black dress with white polka dots – female  black shirt, black pants, white and black striped cardigan – female

white chiffon button-down, navy pants – female  light blue button-down, black pants, black belt, black jacket – male  red button-down, grey slacks – male

five individuals all wearing suits or blazers  five individuals all wearing a suit, blazer, or cardigan

black blazer, plum and pink checked button-down – male  female with grey suit and white shirt and male with black blazer, grey slacks, red tie  black knee-length dress - female