By Emma Hackett, Staff Writer
When it comes to transitioning from college life to the adult world, there are a lot of difficult changes that need to be made, and one of the most difficult (and far reaching) ones is getting into the habit of dressing differently. The typical college girl’s wardrobe can seem infinite miles away from that of a classy, professional, cosmopolitan woman, but in actuality, transitioning from college to career is not as intimidating a task as it might appear at first. Here are four strategies to help you make that transition seamlessly and beautifully:
1. Start Building a Wardrobe Now
Sure, we all recognize that there is something delightfully free and easy about living in our sweats and Uggs while pursuing an undergrad - grunging down in an oversized sweatshirt and messy bun to study for that poli-sci final or write that paper makes you want to take to Instagram with #collegelife to prove your status as a hardworking intellectual. However, there is definitely a link between how we dress and how we perform. A 2012 study proves the theory of “enclothed cognition” - basically, if someone is dressed in a more conscious, professional way, they will produce better work than someone who is dressed casually. So it’s actually not such a bad idea to start dressing like a professional while still in college (don’t worry, it is possible to dress professionally and comfortably). If you are planning on pursuing a fabulous career, you can (and should!) think about purchasing good-quality clothing as making an investment in your future. While in college, think about investing in some career basics, which you’ll be able to wear to class as well. You can find a great, and pretty comprehensive, checklist of classics here.
2. Pair Down
For every typical collegiate article of clothing, there is a corresponding “adult” version. So tossing the college wear in favor of the career wear is a pretty foolproof way to not only pair down on the amount of clothing you have to store, but also to prepare for your career post-grad. Here are some examples:
· Those sweats or yoga pants can be replaced by a cool, casual pair of boyfriend jeans, which can be dressed up or down.
· That hoodie can be replaced by either a classic knit sweater, or a well-tailored blazer.
· Uggs as daily footwear can be replaced by a high-quality pair of leather boots - almost as comfortable, and yet acceptable in both casual and professional settings. And, they're becoming more popular by the minute. (F.Y.I. Uggs were originally made for surfers and slippers to keep your feet warm in the house.)
Now, there’s no way that you should throw out every grungy or super-casual thing you have, especially school spirit-wear, if even for nostalgic purposes. Plus, even Kate Middleton, the queen of class, knows that sweats are sometimes necessary. However, knowing what to keep and what to toss will streamline your life, save on space, and keep you looking professional and classy at all times. With that in mind…
3. Know What’s OK to Keep
Just because you’re gearing up to leave college life behind doesn’t mean that it’s necessary, or even prudent, to get rid of everything in your closet. I don’t know a college girl who doesn’t have at least a few items that will serve her well in her adult life, like a chambray shirt, a pair of skinny jeans, and some basic accessories. Knowing what to keep, and balancing this with what to toss, is key to saving both space and money in the long run. Here’s a basic rule of thumb to help in this balancing act: Put together one super-comfortable outfit, which includes all of those worn out old favorites - the sweats, tees, and flannels that saved your life during finals week, but which you would never see a classy, professional woman wearing. And, if it’s an article that you can’t conceivably fit it into that one outfit, it’s got to go.
4. Get in the Habit of Planning Your Outfits
One of the main differences between dressing for college life and dressing for career life is the level of forethought that goes into each. While in college, it’s (usually) perfectly acceptable to show up to class in your favorite pair of comfy jeans and a hoodie, looking polished and professional in the adult world takes a little more effort. As my grandmother always said: “A day is made by the night before”, and I always try to take her advice to heart when I want to look more put-together. It really is helpful to in to the habit of laying out your outfits the night before; it’s also a good idea to take a regular inventory of your closet, and keep in mind a few foolproof outfits - those ones that you know you can always throw on and look great in - for those super-early mornings. A great app for that is Stylebook. It allows you to add and categorize every item in your wardrobe, create outfits, and even schedule what days you’ll wear which ones. It also gives you feedback on what clothing you wear the most, so that you can weed out unnecessary items. Here are five other apps that can help with wardrobe organization.
Developing good habits early, keeping it simple, and staying true to yourself will ensure that you're dressed for success, both in college and beyond. Have fun!