Colgate Couture – Real World Wardrobe

Katie Zarrella

A guide for dressing after Graduation

Congratulations! You’ve done it! Granted you don’t fail any of your finals, you’re graduating. No more exams. No more staying up all night trying to finish that 10 page paper. No more worrying about your thesis or senior project. It’s all over, but just because you’re saying “Ciao!” to college doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Brace yourself because you’re about to be thrown out into a place called “The Real World.”

Many students think this Real World is only a myth and are unable to wrap their minds around concepts like 9 to 5 or paying their own rent. I’m terribly sorry to burst your Colgate bubble, but the Real World is, in fact, an actual place. In this “Real World,” you may encounter something called “a job,” which usually involves working and having responsibilities. Now, when you go to this job, it is imperative that you show up sober, prepared and, most importantly, properly dressed. Unfortunately, you must leave your relaxed college wardrobe behind along with your Colgate ID and off-campus parking sticker. Flip-flops will become loafers, dirty jeans will be traded in for dress slacks and beer-stained tees will transform into pressed, button-down dress shirts. Start shopping while you still have your parents’ credit card because without a Real World Wardrobe, you won’t survive a week past graduation.

Unless your future career goals involve life-guarding at your local country club, flip-flops are never appropriate for work, especially if you are a boy. Sorry guys, but your Rainbows aren’t going to fly at that investment bank or accounting firm. The only truly appropriate work shoes for you are loafers. Black or brown suede or leather in black is optimal and your loafers should always match your belt. How can your boss trust you with that big account if you can’t even match two shades of leather?

Real World footwear is a little less clean cut for the ladies. A classic pair of pumps is always a good place to start. If you’re feeling a little rebellious or aren’t ready to entirely conform to the ways of The Man, try a pump with a pop of color. Red, dark blue, and deep purple are all fine but avoid brighter colors and pastels like orange, pink and even white; your shoes should say “I’m serious,” not “I enjoy sherbet.” Don’t wear sky high heels and stay away from those stylish stripper platforms (you know you have a pair). Trying to waddle around the office in five inch stilettos your first week probably won’t make the best first impression. If you want a little height, choose a thicker heel. This will reduce your chances of tripping and tossing that Starbucks you just got for your boss all over his dry-clean-only suit.

At this point in your life, you’ve interned, you’ve been through myriads of rounds of interviews, and what to wear to work should be common sense, but apparently Colgate needs to offer Business Fashion 101 because countless college grads show up to work in unacceptable attire. Boys: figuring out your work wardrobe is ten times easier than hitting the cup in beer pong, so pay attention. Unless you’re some kind of eccentric artist, you work in construction or it has been made blatantly clear that your work environment is casual, you should wear a suit on your first day. This is a great way of tricking people into believing that you’re a responsible, hard working go-getter. On another note, don’t wear an Armani suit, Gucci loafers and a pocket watch your first day. You graduated from Colgate; everyone already thinks you’re arrogant and obnoxious. There’s no need to validate their suspicions.

If you show up your first day and everyone’s dressed in slacks and a button down, feel free to follow suit, just remember a few simple rules: 1) Short sleeve button downs were created as a practical joke and no respectable human being should ever wear them; 2) A polo shirt does not qualify as a dress shirt, even if it has that cute little pony in the corner; 3) Just because your jeans have a crease doesn’t mean they can take the place of slacks or khakis; 4) Tennis and running shoes got their names because they are used for playing tennis and running. If they were meant to be worn to the office, they’d be called office shoes; 5) Unless you’re running a hotel in Nantucket or the Hamptons, Vineyard Vines and obnoxiously preppy pastels should be left at home.

Ladies, when it comes to business attire, you have your work cut out for you. The options are endless, but you have to be able to decipher what’s work appropriate and what isn’t. You also should wear a suit on your first day. A pant or skirt suit is fine, but make sure the skirt is at least knee length. After your first day, look around your office and see what other people are wearing. For example, if women are wearing day dresses, slacks or more casual outfits that’s fine, but you, like the boys, have your own set of rules: 1) Buy clothes that fit. Your blouse should not be busting open and no one wants to see your thong through your pants; 2) You’re not at a garden party; don’t wear Lilly Pulitzer; 3) Cleavage should be reserved for clubs and hot dates, not 9:00am meetings; 4) Just because you work with men doesn’t mean you have to dress like one. Don’t resort to khakis and button downs. It’s okay to be feminine; 5) Most importantly, if you think that you look ridiculous and wildly out of place, you probably do, so go home and change on your lunch break.

The Real World is a scary place but if you can survive the absurdity that is Colgate, you can do pretty much anything. Make us proud ’07! Work hard, be successful and please, dress responsibly.