On this campus, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wearing sweatpants and a comfy T-shirt to class everyday. I mean, come on; we’re in college. We dress to impress when we go out at night, but no one expects us to look decent in class, and that is totally fine.
As much as I know it hurts to hear this, soon we will all be out of this comfortable bubble we all call the University of Wisconsin. And as obvious as it sounds, that comfy cozy uniform simply won’t suffice in the real world.
I got the idea for this column walking home from class the day of the Career Fair. Students were dressed in their best, but I became a little worried as I saw the stream of students heading into the Kohl Center. We’ve got some work to do, people.
You might be thinking, “Does it really matter how put together my suit looks? It’s a suit.” My fellow Badgers, yes, it does matter. It can truly make a difference. I’m not just singling out guys or girls – both seemed to be having general issues in determining what was professional wear and how to pull it off.
Let’s start off with the gentlemen. I applaud the efforts, fellas, but I’m here to help. Can anyone tell the difference between a suit that fits and one that might be a little too big or a little too small? Yes. Yes, they absolutely can. For example, take a male celebrity on the red carpet. Why do they look so sharp and put together? It’s because their suits fit impeccably. And if you ask me, a well-fitting suit matters much, much more than how expensive it is. Yes, suits and dress clothes in general are quite a lot of cash, but if you can find one that fits right, people probably won’t even notice the price tag.
How do you go about accomplishing this goal? First, make sure your dress shirt and jacket fit your arm length. The jacket should stop right at your wrist line. However, if you want to show off a bit of the shirt at the cuff, have the jacket stop a little before. In addition, the jacket should fit your shoulders exactly. Any bigger and the suit looks huge and boxy, and if your suit doesn’t fit, it gives off an air of immaturity and inexperience. Yes, I’m being brutal today, but the good news is if your suit fits right it will also be comfortable. For the pants, make sure that they are long enough to cover your socks and part of your shoes when you walk.
As for the tie, the bottom tip should hit right at or right above your belt line. It is possible to accomplish, and again makes your look polished. But please, I beg you, do not wear a bow tie. It’s not quirky or whimsical, and it is very hard to pull off. If you’re wearing a tux, a black bow tie is acceptable, but then and only then.
For the more inexperienced suit-wearer, stick with more neutral-colored dress shirts. They will go with almost anything and work well with a black suit. I would also highly recommend investing in a navy suit as soon as you are able. Navy is extremely versatile and can be worn for multiple occasions. As for ties, I would err on the side of not wearing obnoxious patterns. A simple and classy tie (with perhaps a soft pattern) will ensure your outfit isn’t a topic of conversation after your job interview. How are we feeling now, guys? I hope I wasn’t too harsh. I’m doing this for your own good; believe me.
And ladies, you actually didn’t do too poorly. I just want to give you a few tips on how to make the most of your professional outfit. As far as the office goes, I would recommend staying on the side of looking too conservative. Especially when you first start out, you really don’t want your bosses and co-workers to be weary of your character due to clothes that may be a little too revealing. You can never go wrong with a clean, crisp white blouse – unless you forget to button it close enough to the neck. Blouses, buttoned properly, can be paired with dress pants and at least knee-length skirts.
While some may think the professional wardrobe is a little boring (I mean, I do), the best way to make it less so is to use jewelry and accessories to make it a bit more exciting. Boring white blouse and black skirt? Throw on a pair of red or patterned pumps and jazz it up a bit. Bags are also a fun and practical way to make your look a little more interesting. Larger, satchel-like bags can double as a purse and briefcase. Isn’t being a girl great?
Alright, I’ll stop being critical and leave the next move up to you. Go out there and make me proud, Badgers. And kill it when you enter the professional world – it will come calling sooner than you think.
Emma Ausin is a senior majoring in journalism. Send her your opinions or questions on the latest trends at firstname.lastname@example.org.