By Jamie Ducharme
Photos: Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Loft, Gap, Forever 21, Zara, Madewell, J. Crew
As Northeastern students, we’ve all got business casual dressing on lock. Between interviews, information sessions and, oh, working full-time for six months at a time, we’ve got a lot of practice dressing professionally. What’s a little harder is affording a co-op wardrobe in addition to your casual college student wardrobe. Luckily, it can be easier than you think to take your looks from office to class and back again.
Tip 1: Invest in jackets.
If you don’t have a blazer already, it’s time to go shopping. Even the most casual tank tops, t-shirts and dresses can be made work-appropriate with a blazer or jacket over them, which saves you from investing in tons of blouses and button-downs. Plus, a blazer can be paired with jeans, ballet flats and a striped shirt for a cute and polished class look. (Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Loft)
Tip 2: Choose your accessories wisely.
A good accessory can be your best friend when it comes to looking professional — and sparing your wallet. A watch or statement necklace makes you look polished and stylish; a scarf can cover up a shirt that’s a little too low-cut for work; a structured bag can elevate your look to professional status; and tights can make shorter dresses and skirts office-ready. The best part? It’s easy to find cheap accessories that look expensive.
Tip 3: Go for color and patterns.
If your workplace isn’t super conservative, buy colored and/or patterned work clothes whenever possible because they often transition better to casual looks. A pair of black dress pants sticks out in a classroom full of jeans and t-shirts, but chevron-print pants look fun and modern. (Gap, Forever 21, Zara)
Tip 4: Look for polished shapes in easy-to-wear fabrics.
When you’re doing the inevitable pre-employment shopping spree, repeat this mantra: “I will not buy anything dry-clean only.” There’s no point in buying your professional clothes in fabrics like silk and cashmere, because let’s be real — you’ll never find the motivation (not to mention money) to care for those pieces during the semesters you’re in class. Instead, look for classic silhouettes in no-thought-required fabrics like cotton and polyester. (Zara, Gap, Loft)
Tip 5: Rely on layering to make work clothes appropriate for day-to-day.
Creative pairings and layering can make business clothes fit right into your casual repertoire. A chunky cardigan can dress down a tweed skirt, and a chambray shirt and sweater makes skinny trousers into a weekend staple. It’s all about mixing vibes for a cool and casual look. (Madewell, Urban Outfitters, J. Crew)