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Dress to Impress

Building A Powerful Professional Wardrobe From Scratch.

How To Build A Professional Wardrobe On A Budget That Will Make You Feel Like A Boss

Frank Abagnale Sr.: You know why the Yankees always win, Frank?
Frank Abagnale, Jr.: 'Cause they have Mickey Mantle?
Frank Abagnale Sr.: No, it's 'cause the other teams can't stop staring at those damn pinstripes.

Catch Me If You Can offers some very interesting advice. As long as you look the part, that's what you are. 

A similar situation can be found with Superman. No one expects to see Superman in their everyday lives walking around in normal cloths. This allows Clark Kent to pass by, undetected. 

What can we learn from these stories? If you want to become something great, you must dress the part of someone great. 

Building a business wardrobe can be a daunting task. Personally, I'm a college student who's typical wardrobe consisted of jeans and a tee-shirt. I remember how out of place I felt walking into my first Investment Club meeting, everyone in blazers and business casual.

After never having anything to wear at the most inopportune times (and sending myself and sister into a panic trying to figure out what to do the night before an event), I knew it was time to revamp my wardrobe. No, not revamp.

Overhaul.

I could just pick up an outfit or two to get me through the next few years of college, but I want to work in finance. I'll need a professional wardrobe to look the part, so let's start early. An added difficulty comes from being a poor college student with a tiny budget. Here is how I started building my professional wardrobe.

Start Early

Like any investment, time is your most valuable asset. And trust me, a work wardrobe is an investment. Starting early gives you two benefits.

Less Stress: After college, you have so many things to think about, between getting a job and paying off student loans. Wouldn't it be great not to have to worry about outfits?

Saves You Money: "You got the job!" Those words you couldn't be happier to hear. "You start Monday!" Now you realize the only business attire you own is what you wore to the interview.

Time to buy a new wardrobe. Since you only have a few days, you don't have time to look for deals to save money. Giving yourself extra time allows you the option of finding things within your budget without a looming deadline. It's about price elasticity: if you have less time, you'll have to settle for whatever you find, whatever price it may be at, and whether you actually like it or not. Don't put yourself in that situation.

Simplicity Is Key


Otherwise known as building a foundation. This is a basic one that any advice article will tell you. While it's tempting to buy that gorgeous bright blue blazer, it probably won't match everything.

Your first goal should be buying the basics and pieces you can mix and match to create the maximum number of outfits. This will increase the use you can get from them until you've worked and can afford to buy more pieces.

Balance Quality and Quantity

Most advice will say buy quality pieces. And that's a great policy. At the same time, quality is expensive, and you need at least enough options to get you through the week.

It's a balancing act. Don't focus so much on quality that you can only afford one or two pieces. On the other hand, don't focus so much on quantity that your wardrobe only lasts a few weeks.

The best option is to buy more middle-line stuff that fits well. You can slowly start phasing pieces out for more quality as you work and make money, but first, you need to get to that point.

The one place you don't want to skimp on quality is shoes. You don't have to buy $500 designer heels, but buy a nice, solid pair of comfy black pumps to go with everything.

The "Conquer The World" Test

Think about your favorite outfit. Does it boost your confidence? Can you "Conquer The World" in it?

If the answer is no, you need a new favorite outfit.

Fashion is a weapon. It can make you feel powerful. Use that feeling! Don't buy anything you don't feel 120% confident in. Otherwise, you're just wasting your time.

Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have

This rule has limits. For example, if you work retail, you aren't going to wear a suit to work.

But how much of what we think of people is based on what we first see? Fashion is an expression of ourselves.

Imagine two people. One is dressed messily. Hair a mess, shirt wrinkled. The second is put together. Outfit impeccable, hair neat. Who are you going to introduce yourself to first? Assume they are exactly the same in personality, who do you want to talk to?

Always look put together, no matter what your uniform is. When buying clothing, think about where you're going, not where you are.

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile


As cheesy as it sounds, personality is a major part of your look.

I remember my first job, there was one young woman who was in a perpetual bad mood. I was convinced she didn't like me at first. I didn't want to be anywhere near her because of it. She just gave off a negative energy and while she was a pretty girl, her looks did nothing for me wanting to be her friend. A work wardrobe has a purpose: get you where you want to go. If people don't want to associate with you, it doesn't matter how good you look or how confident you feel.

A happy, friendly person will always be more attractive than a grumpy person, even if they are identical in looks and wardrobe. So be kind. Be happy. Radiate positive energy and you will look ten million times better.

You will be first judged on your appearance. In our culture, we like to act like that's shallow to base our opinions on looks. But that is the first impression you give. Start out on a good foot by building a strong professional wardrobe. No matter who you are or where you come from, you can do anything as long as you look the part.

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