Graduation Investments: Shopping 101

- Career, Shopping

Since my older sister just graduated with her masters and some of my friends just graduated college, I decided it would be the perfect time to talk about some investment pieces straight out of college (or grad school). I was lost at first when I graduated because although I had a suit and collared shirts for interviewing, a lot of my wardrobe was still extremely casual. I have learned to incorporate a lot of those pieces into a more professional wardrobe, but there were still some pieces I needed to add to ensure that I was looking professional everyday. I was in a sales role at the time, so meeting with clients meant suits and looking as professional as possible. I had to learn to work my own style into some of these more professional looks, and it has taken some time but I finally feel good about my work wardrobe! Here are just some of my suggestions for shopping investments once you graduate!

The Suit

The suit: A suit is the most important investment you can make after graduation. #1 you should be wearing something extremely professional to your interviews and I have always worn my suit for the interview.  I just don’t think you can be too professional.  If you want to stand out more, use a bright colored blouse, bow blouse, necklaces and heels to make you stand out.  The suit screams “HIRE ME!” #2 If you are going into a job with professional wardrobe guidelines, a suit is going to save the day and make you look good as you are starting out in the real world.  Now you are probably asking, “Why do I need to invest in a suit if I am working in a more casual environment and don’t have to get dressed up everyday?” My answer: SEPARATES!  Whether or not you sit in a cube all day or meet with clients, having a blazer to dress up jeans or a pencil skirt/pair of slacks to wear on a daily basis with a more basic tee, the suit will serve you well.  If you are hesitating to invest, why don’t you ask Barney from How I Met Your Mother, perhaps he will change your mind about the suit!

The Pencil Skirt


The pencil skirt: In my two years outside of college, the pencil skirt has been my BEST FRIEND. I am not kidding, MY BEST FRIEND.  If you are like me, the snooze button is way more fun than spending hours getting ready in the morning.  What do you do when you wake up then?! GRAB your pencil skirt and it seriously goes with any and everything! A plain white tee with a nice necklace and basic pumps, a collared blouse, a fun printed blouse, ruffled shirts, blazers, you name it! I would say it is most important to own one neutral pencil skirt in gray or black, and if you already purchased a pencil skirt as a part of your suit, opt for bright colored pencil skirts, patterned pencil skirts or other great neutrals including white, beige and metallics.

The Slacks

The slacks: If you aren’t a skirt person, slacks are the other perfect staple for a work wardrobe.  They are sleek, comfy, and like a pencil skirt, go great with just about anything.  Keep your blouse untucked for a more casual look or tuck it in with a leopard print belt for a more sophisticated, polished look. Slacks are also great for work wardrobes for fall and winter.  As fun as tights can be, sometimes they become a pain to put on in the morning.  In a morning rush, slacks are chic and easy as one, two THREE! MY SLACKS SECRET: THRIFT THRIFT THRIFT!!!!!! Slacks can be pretty expensive and I would suggest investing that into a nice suit rather than some slacks. Why? Well because you can find these great brands at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. I have always found that Express, Banana Republic and Loft slacks fit me well and I have slacks from all of these places thanks to Goodwill. At $5- $8 a pair, you get to choose some great basic colors and then invest in more colorful, fun slacks (like the white trousers I got from Kohls). It is worth the trip to find some quality slacks at a low price!

The Collared Shirt

The collared shirt: Collared shirts are another staple for your work wardrobe that easily translate from day to night.  There are plenty of colors, materials and detailed collared shirts out there that will spice up your wardrobe and give you amazing pieces to wear out or on the weekends.  The collared shirt looks great under blazers, with the full suit, with a pencil skirt and layered with lots of necklaces or simply accented with a pair of studded earrings.  I personally love pastel colored blouses and bow blouses to make my work wardrobe more fun with color and details! Invest, invest, invest!!!!! For a going out look, nothing looks sleeker than an amazing collared blouse/shirt with a pair of skinny jeans, leather leggings or pair of shorts and a tall pair of pumps! Blouses are another great item to look for at Goodwill. I have found a ton of collared button up shirts from Express ranging from bright pink to teal, striped gorgeous vintage blouses, etc. from Goodwill. Some of them barely look like they have even been worn and it is even better when I have come across some with the tags still on! Blouses and collared shirts are another item you MUST do some thrifting for. Straight out of college on a budget you are going to be able to expand your work wardrobe, find pieces that suite your style and suite your budget!

The Cardigan

If you couldn’t tell by the photo, I think you should buy a cardigan in multiple colors, any and every color you like!  They are so versatile for a work wardrobe, can be worn anytime of the year, especially for air conditioned buildings during the summer and work over a tank, short sleeve blouse or long sleeve blouse.  They are the easiest way to add a pop of color to your wardrobe and can be worn with almost anything.  There are tons of great options at Target for $20 or less and if you want to invest in some nicer ones, JCrew always has the most adorable cardigans. When it comes to work wear, I honestly believe you can’t get enough cardigans!

The Pumps

And you can’t forget about the footwear! You can’t go wrong with investing in a great pair of black or nude pumps or Mary Janes. There are a lot of fun shoes out there that definitely are work appropriate, but first you need to start with the basics. Also, no matter what you throw on in the morning in a rush, if you leave these heels by the door or in your car, they are going to go with EVERYTHING. Plus, I don’t think there is anything more powerful than walking in with a great pair of basic black or nude pumps and feeling confident for the day!

I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to make some investments in a work wardrobe, please press the pink contact button on the right side of the page if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them! (This will be sent to my personal email). Happy Friday Eve!





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  • Reply
    Diana - City and Burbs
    May 31, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Hey Rachel, this is a great list! I would probably add a trench coat and a wool coat for those that live in a cooler climate 🙂


    • Reply
      May 31, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Diana, you are completely right! Where would I be without my trench and winter coat in Minnesota?! 🙂 Definitely a great add to this list!

  • Reply
    Hannah @ Tattoos and Pearls
    May 31, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Rachel this is a great list for someone starting out in the professional world! Even though my work environment is super casual, I loved reading your guidelines. And you know, I think I need a power suit now! 🙂


  • Reply
    May 31, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Pencil skirts and shirts are my favourites! Although I don’t have to look professional yet, I like wear this kind of clothes sometimes 🙂

    Have a nice day,

  • Reply
    May 31, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Great post! Love love love all the collared shirts you picked!


  • Reply
    May 31, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Love this post…I could live in pencil skirts 🙂 And what pretty blouses!

    The Other Side of Gray

  • Reply
    antonella c'est moi
    May 31, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    love this post my dear!!!kiss kiss

  • Reply
    The Leather Skirt
    May 31, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    All of this advice is “spot on”! You are exactly right!

    Take it from someone who does some interviewing and contributes to hiring decisions, please do not show up to my office in jeans… you will not get the job… not even as the recpetionist.

    My college mentor gave me some awesome advice many years ago… “Always dress for your bosses job, not the one you already have.” Sage advice.

    A suit is a must. Pencil skirts are invaluable. “Conservative” blouses & lightweight sweaters are life savers when you wish to add a little color or get a little creative with patterns. Oh… and the shoes. Keep them simple ladies but don’t be afraid to sneek in a little color or a unique pattern here either.

    • Reply
      May 31, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      Thank you so much! I love the advice you are giving and it is good to hear this coming from someone who does interviewing! I completely agree with adding in some color or pattern with the shoes!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    i HIGHLY recommend getting / investing in AT LEAST ONE power suit. every woman needs a power suit!

    • Reply
      May 31, 2012 at 9:26 PM

      Most certainly!!!!!

  • Reply
    Fashion By Alicia
    June 1, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Great tips! I highly recommend getting at least one nice suit. If you are in a more conservative field I would go with a skirt suit.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    If I could pin this entire post I would. I really want to go thrift shopping with you! Goodwill is where I have scored some of my most favorite pieces in my wardrobe. And for those that find goodwill scary, upscale consignment stores are often just as posh as boutiques these days. I find many over priced, but I’m just cheap I guess. This is great. Do one for accessories next!

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