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Just starting out with first real job

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I am asking for advice for both dressing professionally and socially (dinner, theatre, music, just going out on a weekend).  I'll start with a little background so you guys can see where I am coming from.  Thanks for the help in advance. I am finishing up grad school soon and hopefully starting at my first 'real' job.  I have never worked where there was a real dress code (I am an engineer so the dress code was pretty much don't wear tank tops or sweat pants and try to look nice.  And yes they were decent paying jobs.  Mostly polo shirt and jeans) and I have always worn jeans, t-shirts or flannels and either sneakers or work boots.  Never dressed sloppy but never very nice either. Lately I have been trying to buy at least some more trendy/nicer clothes such as non-work jeans, striped button up shirts with coordinating sweaters, and some nicer sneakers.  In my office I am practically a fashion plate (yeah an office full of engineering graduate students is a pretty sad place) but I don't feel like I am dressing very professionally.  Trendy is nice and I think it has a place...but I feel like a 26 year old high schooler sometimes. Anyways, I am hopefully going to start working full time soon and everywhere I am looking is a pretty casual atmosphere.  Think jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.  I am pretty sure that if I wore a suit to work in most of these places they would think that I was going to court.  But I think that the khaki/blue shirt has been played out and back kinda makes me want to vomit.  I would rather wear jeans and a t-shirt to work.   So the first question:  What would look good in a casual environment?  I want to dress up to impress higher-ups without alienating people.  I was thinking dress trousers with a nice shirt and no tie.  Maybe a sport jacket that could double as outerwear?  Suggestions? Second question:  I have 3 suits.  1 3-button (charcoal gray)and 2 2-button (one is dark olive and the other gray/green tight-pattern deal that I actually kind of like the look of).  They are cheap.  They fit me okay (as well as a cheap suit can after alterations since I take a 44R Jacket and have 34 pants) and I don't need to wear a suit often; maybe once a month.  What can I do to make these cheap suits look a little nicer?  Accessories, shoes?   The problem is that I can't justify budgeting money for new suits AND new work clothes when the work clothes are going to be the highest priority.  Nice work clothes (and accessories) that could also dress up the suits would be a real plus.  Thanks for the advice.  I have hunted around and found a lot of great information on this forum.
post #2 of 27
Huge question.  First and foremost (isn't that redundant?) - since you are budgeting, I can only stress one thing - make your purchases count.  Buy what you will wear most and get the most use out of.  Like you said, you only wear suits once a month, and you have three - even if they're not very nice, you certainly don't need to purchase more.  You simply won't get the use out of them.  Purchase the casual clothes that you can wear often. Most importantly when buying clothing is fit.  If you are wearing a burlap sack that fits you perfectly, you will look better than the guy in the ill fitting Brioni suit.  It's true.  Fit goes a long way. Stick to purchasing button up shirts like you have been - these are staples.  They can be worn casually with jeans, or under a suit, and so you will get more mileage out of them. Hit some thrift shops and purchase stuff there.  Remember, if the pants are only five dollars, but they don't fit perfectly, buy them anyway and have them altered for the additional twenty or thirty.  You will end up with an excellent fitting pair of pants for not so much money.  Alterations are your friend. Buy lots of colors.  If there is one way to make a wardrobe go further, it is with color.  Buy owning many colors, you can mix and match pieces and come up with endless combinations using fewer pieces.  Contrasting colors often work very well - not everything has to match - and they will make your wardrobe go further and they will make you stand out. Look for bargains to, but purchase wisely.  Don't buy something because it's cheap.  If it's 99% off, and you don't wear it, you still purchased a losing endeavor; remember that. Buy the Brioni's and the Kitons when you aren't on a budget - until then, purchase what you will use most. For interesting ideas about mixing and matching colors and ways of combining seamingly unmatching colors/patterns, check out any Etro or Paul Smith runway show. Good luck, Dan Edit: With regard to making you suits you already own fit better, there isn't really anything you can do but have them altered. If after alterations they still aren't great, then perhaps you can take emphasis off the suit with an interesting shirt and tie or shoes - or all of the above. You are still young - I assume - 24, 25? - and so you can get away with a lot of stuff that someone older may not be able to. Purchase a pair of spectator shoes and you'll see how quickly people stop noticing your suit and start staring at your shoes. Just make sure they are nice spectator shoes. Also - become an ebay shark - there's plenty of great stuff on there - I recently got a $1900 Helmut Lang Blazer for $150 in a VERY VERY hard to find size. Dan
post #3 of 27
Hello and welcome, I am responding not because of my great knowledge, but because I work in a pretty casual enviroment. Some of the things I have done is started buying quality. First off, get rid of the sneakers and get a really nice pair of shoes. Really classes your whole look up. Quality shirts that fit makes a difference in how you look. Nice quality jeans, this has been a recent debate on the forum, but buy what you can. I like going with the nice tailored trouser and shirt without tie. I do like to also go with sport coats, tend to wear them with jeans and nice shirt. A few of my 2 cents.
post #4 of 27
To oversimplify, I would strongly suggest buying quality over quantity. Try on all of the higher end MTM clothing by the manufacturers you see here. See which ones fit you best. And then purchase them at deep discounts on Ebay or other internet sources. Try the buying and selling section of SF. The merchants on there are honest people and know and sell quality. The same goes for shoes. It is much better to have some several quality English or Italian made shoes than many shoes of questionable quality. Quality items last substantially more than cheaper ones. Their classic styling and long lives make them bargains, which is what you need, and what we all strive for. there is no pride in overpaying.
post #5 of 27
I may get hammered on here for this, but I actually think the Gap and Express have some good suggestions (and useful websites) for people in your position. The Gap or Express and to be honest, even Target has come out with a line of tailored slacks, nice shirts and ties that would suit your needs. You won't be helped if you start spending money on Italian suits, English hand-grade shoes or seven-fold ties because I doubt your bosses will even recognize the quality and your co-workers will think you're a stuffed shirt. Your instincts are correct, just upgrade slightly from the jeans and t-shirt look and you will set yourself apart from your co-workers, but you can easily do so without breaking the bank and without looking overly trendy. Bradford
post #6 of 27
Are there particular items in your wardrobe that you especially like? They might be a basis for expansion. You could buy some complementary pieces--pants, shirts, a sweater, whatever--and slowly build up some different looks. I find it easier to shop when I have some starting point. This could be something I know I need or some item that's either a favorite or a bit of an orphan in my wardrobe. Finally, buying the best shoes you can afford is always a good idea.
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the comments.  They are very helpful. amirrorcrackd, as for button-up shirts should I concentrate more on solids or patterns?  I don't have any solids so I guess that answers my question...The suits fit okay but not great and I think it has more to do with the style since they have been altered and the seamstress seems pretty knowledgable.  She took the jackets in from the front instead of from the front and back like the store guys wanted to do and it made a big difference in tightening up the torso without feeling tight in my back.  You are right on about my shoes with my current suits, they are a very plain pair of black wing tips.  What do you mean by spectator shoes? KevinR, I think the style you described is what I am thinking of. Bradford, a few of my button-up shirts are from the Gap.  They are some of the striped ones in bold colors.  One of them is a nice shirt my wife got me for Christmas but it is purple and comes pretty close to the color of my jeans. philosophe, I guess my favorite part of my wardrobe are my nicer button-up shirts with patterns.  They are mostly light and bright colors with the exception of the dark purple one that seems like it would look okay with either black pants or tan pants.  All of them are pretty trendy.  Some are nicer than others. I definitely want to try and avoid investing in too many trends which leads me to believe solid colors would be a bit safer.  I have only one pair of dress pants and they are black. Thanks again to everyone that has commented.
post #8 of 27
Wedge, With regard to button-up shirts, solids are staples, but stripes are nice. Look at it this way, solids are most versatile - will go with anything, and therefore you should have a nice base collection - a couple of blues, whites, pinks, a lavendar (beautiful color really - especially for clothing). These can be spruced up with interesting ties, sweaters, etc. But stripes are certainly more interesting. So as not to be entirely dull, when choosing solid shirts, you should look for fabrics with interesting textures, or nuances that make the shirt stand out - especially if for casual wear - (these can include triple-button cuffs, different colored button holes, etc.). Also, don't neglect to throw in a nice check every once in a while as well; something like the eigth one down: Beautiful shirt. Spectator shoes are these: They are most commonly found in black and white. You need to carry a good pimp fist around to pull them off though. There are other, less ostentacious options as well. Personally, I like boots: The Quorn boot (a jodhpur boot) is interesting, but still conservative enough. But it will certainly spruce up your wardrobe. Probably shouldn't wear it with a suit though - not that I wouldn't. Since you are starting out, and I guess looking to buy lots of stuff, go to check out their fall-winter stuff - it is all 80-85% off retail right now. Make sure you look at the "size on tag" and ignore the "yoox size". If you have a question about the size of an item, post here, and I'm sure someone will be able to help you. Dan
post #9 of 27
Just to follow up on what Amirrorcracked suggests, texture is as important as color. Count on it as a principle of variety. For example, adding a leather jacket is very different from adding a wool sportcoat. Come to think of it, do you have a nice leather jacket? It's a piece that might work well at work and for going out.
post #10 of 27
if i was in your position i would say invest any money you make into real estate or stocks. something thats going to earn you money, so that you can eventually afford high end cloths rather then being in debt or broke because of it. just my opinion. if you absolutly have to get some new gear for work, i would suggest a nice pair of loafers and some designer jeans (deisal,paper denim) and just a button up polo. keep it simple till you can afford to dress like a millionaire.
post #11 of 27
Personally in a casual environment I would go with some sort of charcoal trousers (which are also versatile and can be used for other activities) and some nice dress shirts or upscale polos, which are also versatile pieces of clothing. Some nice shoes would be good as well.
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks again.  Some great ideas.  I would have to see the spectator shoes in person...I think I would need a decent cane and a big hat to wear them.  Then again maybe not.  Those were some great looking shirts. I don't mind investing a little bit of money into some work clothes.  I don't have a solid number in my mind for the budget will be conservative but not completely limiting. I do have a leather jacket, but it is a bit dead (about 6 years old and starting to wear since I wear it just about everywhere once the temp is above 30 degrees).  I have thought of getting a new one at some point but I gotta go one step at a time. It seems like the general consensus is: - Ditch the sneakers and get a nice pair of shoes that can go with trousers and jeans. - Button-up shirts are important - Trousers are important - Color is important - Sport coat or leather jacket would make a nice addition but aren't essential to start out with
post #13 of 27
It depends on where you live. In warm weather you'll show your shirts more often. In Canada get a good wool hat, scarf and gloves, that's what people will see most often on you. You can try something a bit unusual. For instance French cuffs look dressier and need not be more expensive (however you may or may not want to wear them without a suit, your call). As far as stripes vs. solid goes, it is a matter of taste. I have purchased a dozen shirts recently, solids, checks, not a single one with stripes. I don't get spontaneously attracted to them. So choose whatever you prefer to wear (or do the opposite and try something you do not normally wear for a change). Mathieu
post #14 of 27
if i was in your position i would say invest any money you make into real estate or stocks. something thats going to earn you money, so that you can eventually afford high end cloths rather then being in debt or broke because of it. just my opinion.
... and you'll be able to buy yourself the best coffin ever.
post #15 of 27
Just don't do the stripes with black pants and chunky shoes look (also known as "Jackass at work").
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