Dress Code: Building The Basic Post-College Wardrobe


In this installment of Dress Code, we’re going to address the challenge of transitioning from college-casual to the grown-up world, where you’ll be expected to wear more than comfy pants 24-7.

When several readers wrote me and asked about the transition from collegiate to adult-world dressing, it got me thinking. “I’m not talking about work clothes,” said one reader, “just a day-to-day wardrobe that looks a little more mature.” With this in mind, I repaired to several college campuses around New York and spent an afternoon taking notes on what made some women look like students and others well, post-collegiate. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hoodies and backpacks — they’re practical when your life revolves around campus. But if you do want to make a decisive leap, I think the following changes definitely do help:

Sneakers into Shoes
Look, I’m not saying everyone doesn’t wear sneakers sometimes; of course we do. But if you’re looking to get a little more polished, a flat or an Oxford or a boot gets that job done.

Fleece into Jacket
There’s nothing cozier than fleece, and plenty of adult women live in it, too. But if you’re looking to add an alternative, this is an easy way. I’m not talking anything fancy, here: a denim jacket or a canvas throw-on works just fine – but is a little more versatile.

Backpack into Purse
Plenty of women need to carry backpacks, of course: if you’re carrying anything heavy, it makes the most sense. (And hang onto it no matter what.) But for day-to-day essentials, enjoy the luxury of being textbook free! A tote, a purse, or a satchel is a nice alternative.

PJs into Jeans
This one may be a no-brainer, but it’s still true: dark denim (or any well-cut jean) is a versatile, no-fuss uniform.

Random Vintage into Edited Vintage
One of the fun things about being in school is basically being able to get away with wearing anything. I remember a series of nurse’s capes, house-dresses, daytime crinolines…you get the idea. It’s just as fun, though, to edit vintage pieces into an adult day-to-day wardrobe, saving the more costumey and random acquisitions for special occasions.

Spirited Hoodie into Spirited Tote
Nothing wrong with day-to-day school spirit, but how about swapping that college hoodie into a college tote bag? Neatly solves the backpack issue, too!

Parka into Coat
Perhaps no one swap is as influential as that from cold-weather sleeping-bag to grown-up coat. This doesn’t mean “Expensive”; thridt shops and eBay are great for coats old and new. But something a little more tailored really pulls you together. Save the down, obviously: you’ll be glad you did.

Below are some basic ideas to visually inspire you. Click on the image for brands and prices.

Next up: The guest’s guide to dressing for weddings!

For all of our handy Dress Code guides, go here.

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