You know them when you see them: the middle-aged mom stealing her daughter’s clothes, the nostalgic over-the-hill guy wearing his old letterman jacket. They’re always just a little bit embarrassing. You can tell by looking at them that they have not come to terms with their status in life.
Obviously, these examples are somewhat rare and extreme, but there lies the question of when it’s time to get rid of your college clothes for good: those bright cardigans, horribly holed but unbelievably comfortable sweatpants, the 3-inch heels, crop tops, college sports sweatshirts, and jackets.
It’s natural to rep your school in college. Late nights combined with early classes can mean comfort comes first. But after graduation, it’s tough to find a good paying job you can dress down for. If you want adults to take you seriously, you’re going to have to start dressing the part.
As a college student, my mantra was “the tighter, the better.” I layered camis with low cut shirts and cardigans. My post-college body has started to move away from form-fitting clothing. I wore a bow in my hair just about every day. Now that I am dancing on the cusp of 27, the bows gotta go. Outside of the college campus, casual doesn’t always work in the professional setting.
Guys need to start thinking about dress pants, dress shoes, fitted jackets, tie clips, cufflinks, collar stays, some crazy thing my boyfriend wears that connects his shirt to his socks. Girls need to look at dress clothes too. The messy bun, oversized sweatshirt, and shredded-hem sweatpants may work for class but not for a job interview.
After that diploma, your whole body starts to catch up with you. Things are sagging where they never have before and it becomes harder to keep up with physical activity. Personally, I have been pitching things that get too old and stretched or have stopped looking good on my hips and choosing clothing a bit more forgiving.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to make judgments, even subconsciously about appearance. In the professional world, this could make a difference for an interview offer, a job offer, a raise, or a promotion. It’s shallow, but it’s a fact of life. Not everyone in the corporate world is ethical and makes decisions strictly on merit (though they should). As an adult, if you want to be treated like one, you not only have to act like one but look like one too.
I still love buying and wearing a lot of the same types of clothes. Rue 21 is still my favorite store, but I shop differently. I buy less for attention and more for professionalism. Fewer flip-flops (still the best shoe out there) and more close-toed shoes that are black or gray.
I still keep my comfy clothes for staying in, but they don’t see the light of day. As a person who spent many years wearing a uniform, I firmly believe that clothes are an expression that should be used to the fullest.
No one should be judged based on their clothing. The difference after college is that your professor couldn’t really tell you what to wear, but your boss definitely can, and that is not a conversation you want to have.
Featured image via Unsplash