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Starting wardrobe

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
I meet with business/law students once a month in a mentoring program that the university has established. It is an attempt to give students a tie to the community and probably a way for the university to attempt to raise $. One of the most recent questions asked was advice on starting a career wardrobe. What pieces should they buy - colors/styles of suits, shirts, shoes... It has been a while since I was a university grad and in this position. (Actually I never was as I worked through school but.... I have to admit that I am horrified by much of what the classes wear.) I am tempted to advise the standards, a black or navy suit, grey flannel suit, navy blazer...black shoes. Perhaps somebody out there has better suggestions? For example in my day wearing a black suit would have been ill advised and today it seems to be the standard. Perhaps forum members would be able to suggest clothes that would transition into social settings for younger adults. I make it more often to the country club today than nightclubs. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 62
If you are looking to build a "career" wardrobe -- meaning that you wear suits to work everyday -- I would start with five suits: navy, navy w/ sublte pinstripe, charcoal, charcoal w/ subtle pinstripe, and then another dark suit of your choice. I would buy all my suits at outlets/Filene's basement, and would look to spend about $1600 - 2200 on those pieces, assuming I'm making at least 50K and have no other significant expenses that I would be unable to meet if I were to spend that on clothes. I would make sure that the retail prices of the suits were at least $800 each (in other words, that I'd be getting at least 50% off of retail). I'd go mainly for two buttons, but a three button that shows of some tie would be good too. For shirts, I would honestly go with Jantzen tailor. Although it might take about 2 months to receive 10 shirts or so (because the first one is a "tester"). I'd go with about 3 white shirts, two blues, and may 2 or 3 classic stripes. Then maybe a subtle check. For ties, I'd try to get about 15 ties, spread evenly throughly purples/blues, reds/burgundies, yellows/greens colors (in other words five ties for each of those shade regions). I'd mainly go with classic stripes, "dot" patterns (I particularly like small flowers), fine checks, and perhaps a conservative plaid (like a Burberry, but don't get the Burberry nova check please). For shoes, you are better off going to Bluefly or Ebay and spending $200 for Aldens, Moreschis, Polos, etc. Johnston and Murphy can be had for under $90 on Ebay as well, and some of the J and M lines are pretty good. Get two pair of black. All in all, that would put the bill at about $3000. It seems like a lot, but those clothes should last at least 2 years (the suits longer, perhaps the shirts a little shorter). For business casual, a nice pair of charcoal wool slacks (even from Banana Republic) will pair nicely with the shirts and shoes. Oh, and get a nice belt. You can find good ones at outlets/bluefly for $50.
post #3 of 62
The above poster pretty much covers it. The bare minimum would be navy, charcoal gray, and a pinstripe of either navy or gray. Some might argue the merits of black, but I would think a black pinstripe would be okay for daywear as the pinstripe suggests a business suit of sorts more than an evening suit IMHO. I would stick with 2 or 3 button suits with standard cuts. I'd also suggest a navy blazer and a patterned sportcoat of some kind. Get a pair of standalone tan and gray slacks (something that can fit the sportcoat). Two plain white shirts, two plain blue shirts. My personal preference is no button-down collars, as strictly speaking, they are somewhat casual, but they would fly in 90% of the business environments out there. Then two sportshirts that can fit with the navy blazer and/or sportcoat. You could stretch out the shirts by wearing them twice a week so you can alternate if you drop a pair off at the cleaners. For ties, I would recommend two per shirt color per suit so you can wear a white shirt with the navy suit two weeks in a row (or in the same week), but change ties to get a different look. One black belt, one brown belt. One pair of brown lace-up oxfords and one pair of black lace-up oxfords, either plain toe or cap toe. Obviously, buy the best you can afford, but when starting out, I would lean towards quantity, making sure your suits fit well before worrying about who's on the label.
post #4 of 62
Regularjoe, you would really go with quantity over quality? I'm not saying I disagree, but it sort of goes against a common adage on this board. I would say that the majority of posters on this board would, if pressed, opt for 3 high quality canvas suits than 6 mid-range suits like Boss. Do I agree? In theory yes, but in practice it is nice to have different looks without resorting to the old "change the tie" trick. I continue to agree with you that (1) fit, (2) fabric, and (3) construction are, in that order, what to look for. Ironically, it is sometimes construction that adds the most cost without giving the biggest short term gain of the three (the value of construction is amortized pretty well). For shirts, I really think that a great way to bust out of the norm is to add a light lavender or light pink shirt, a nice pinstripe or two, a herringbone here and there. For example, I've got 2 white Sea Islands from Jantzen -- great value there -- but for my next white shirt I'm thinking about going with a white on white herringbone or prince of wales check. And, for blue, a poster a while back had a great Jantzen blue on blue prince of wales that far outshone a normal blue shirt. For ties, you can go and spend $400 at Filenes Basement or thereabouts (even Marshalls and TJs sometimes) and get 15 ties that would retail for appx. $100 a piece. So, you are always better off going discount and getting a Talbott, a Polo Blue Label, etc. tie than going to a department store and dropping $40 on a CK or a DKNY.
post #5 of 62
budget? size?
post #6 of 62
Disco Stu brings up the point of the budget. I do stress to buy the best you can afford, but if you have to break a tie, variety is more important IMHO. Better to have 4 $150 suits to wear for the week than only 1 $600 one. No suit is nice enough to wear every day and get away with it.... Jantzen is nice, but you kind of have to know what you're doing and it's going to be daunting to someone who's first question is "What constitutes a business wardbrobe?"
post #7 of 62
Forget about Jantzen for the amateurs. Way, way too many options for them to have a clue what to do. As for quality versus quantity, I too favour quantity over quality, at least at first. Obviously, there is some quality threshold that one should meet (for instance, Boss or, if you like the potato sack look, HSM), but beyond that, it's probably a waste, especially if you don't know what you like in terms of color, cut, fabric, etc. Better to get four or five mediocre suits with which to learn some lessons - e.g., I don't like three buttons, I shouldn't dry clean my suit every week, I prefer cuffs, I shouldn't put stuff in my jacket pockets, I like double vents, I hate nailhead fabric, I like wool crepes - than one or two suits that will not only offer very limited versatility, but also get trashed because they're being worn every other day (and dry cleaned every week because the wearer hasn't yet learned any better). Similarly, with shoes, one should spend enough to get a proper pair - mostly because, unlike a bad suit, which just looks bad, bad shoes will hurt your feet - but needn't buy a great pair right away. Better to learn that you prefer captoes to loafers (or vice versa), and that square toes aren't as hip as you think before dropping $500 on a pair of shoes. Also, one thing about recommending deep-discount shopping to dress clothing neophytes: they will probably waste as much money as they save by way of bad choices. Sometimes - rarely, in my case, I think - it's worth spending the extra few bucks to buy at a reputable retailer (on sale.) and get some decent service and advice.
post #8 of 62
Quote:
Regularjoe,  you would really go with quantity over quality?  I'm not saying I disagree, but it sort of goes against a common adage on this board.   I would say that the majority of posters on this board would, if pressed, opt for 3 high quality canvas suits than 6 mid-range suits like Boss.  Do I agree?  In theory yes, but in practice it is nice to have different looks without resorting to the old "change the tie" trick.   I continue to agree with you that (1) fit, (2) fabric, and (3) construction are, in that order, what to look for.  Ironically, it is sometimes construction that adds the most cost without giving the biggest short term gain of the three (the value of construction is amortized pretty well).   For shirts, I really think that a great way to bust out of the norm is to add a light lavender or light pink shirt, a nice pinstripe or two, a herringbone here and there.  For example, I've got 2 white Sea Islands from Jantzen -- great value there -- but for my next white shirt I'm thinking about going with a white on white herringbone or prince of wales check.  And, for blue, a poster a while back had a great Jantzen blue on blue prince of wales that far outshone a normal blue shirt.   For ties, you can go and spend $400 at Filenes Basement or thereabouts (even Marshalls and TJs sometimes) and get 15 ties that would retail for appx. $100 a piece.  So, you are always better off going discount and getting a Talbott, a Polo Blue Label, etc. tie than going to a department store and dropping $40 on a CK or a DKNY.
The best is to mix nice quality with less good one. 3 convas and 2 fused (but cheaper than Boss which is overpriced) Shoes are the MOST important thing in your wardrobe. Not under 300 USD . 3 pairs is the minimum.
post #9 of 62
Quote:
Forget about Jantzen for the amateurs.  Way, way too many options for them to have a clue what to do.   As for quality versus quantity, I too favour quantity over quality, at least at first.  Obviously, there is some quality threshold that one should meet (for instance, Boss or, if you like the potato sack look, HSM), but beyond that, it's probably a waste, especially if you don't know what you like in terms of color, cut, fabric, etc.  Better to get four or five mediocre suits with which to learn some lessons - e.g., I don't like three buttons, I shouldn't dry clean my suit every week, I prefer cuffs, I shouldn't put stuff in my jacket pockets, I like double vents, I hate nailhead fabric, I like wool crepes - than one or two suits that will not only offer very limited versatility, but also get trashed because they're being worn every other day (and dry cleaned every week because the wearer hasn't yet learned any better). Similarly, with shoes, one should spend enough to get a proper pair - mostly because, unlike a bad suit, which just looks bad, bad shoes will hurt your feet - but needn't buy a great pair right away.  Better to learn that you prefer captoes to loafers (or vice versa), and that square toes aren't as hip as you think before dropping $500 on a pair of shoes. Also, one thing about recommending deep-discount shopping to dress clothing neophytes: they will probably waste as much money as they save by way of bad choices.  Sometimes - rarely, in my case, I think - it's worth spending the extra few bucks to buy at a reputable retailer (on sale.) and get some decent service and advice.
I agree but not for JAntzen because this is not a great deal to take a shirt with one type of collar and realize you prefer another one 12 mouth after...the problem would be the same on RTW but may be at a more expensive price.
post #10 of 62
It's more than just the collar, though. Trust me on this one. I've tried to get relatively competent people to order from Jantzen, and it's a disaster. They order the most hideous, distasteful shirts I've ever seen. Do you really think the average person knows better than to try box pleats/double pockets/no tail/etc. on his or her dress shirt?
post #11 of 62
Quote:
Disco Stu brings up the point of the budget.  I do stress to buy the best you can afford, but if you have to break a tie, variety is more important IMHO. Better to have 4 $150 suits to wear for the week than only 1 $600 one.  No suit is nice enough to wear every day and get away with it.... Jantzen is nice, but you kind of have to know what you're doing and it's going to be daunting to someone who's first question is "What constitutes a business wardbrobe?"
That's true about Jantzen. You know, I bet most guys don't even know their suit and shirt sizes. I really have to believe that almost NOBODY on earth -- or at least in America -- knows about Jantzen, because otherwise there is no way people would be drooling over Ralph Lauren sales at department stores where you can pick up a Polo shirt for $50. I like walking out of the store with a purchase as much as the next guy, but MAKING my own shirt is much more exciting -- even if it does take a month to get.
post #12 of 62
I think we should just call this the Style Forum, presented by Jantzen shirts.  
post #13 of 62
shhhhhhh... Please everyone, no more comments about Jantzen. If the word gets out, it'll take Ricky 2 months to make my shirts...plus, at some point he'll realize that he can jack up the price it'll still be bargin. So, for the sake of the-satorial-deal-that-is-too-good-to-b-true, no more posts about J a n t z e n.
post #14 of 62
Quote:
It's more than just the collar, though.  Trust me on this one.  I've tried to get relatively competent people to order from Jantzen, and it's a disaster.  They order the most hideous, distasteful shirts I've ever seen.  Do you really think the average person knows better than to try box pleats/double pockets/no tail/etc. on his or her dress shirt?
These people will do the same in a RTW shit, look around you. The guy you see in your office do NOT buy Jantzen...
post #15 of 62
I think the real question is into what setting these students will be going. In today's business casual world I would say one, perhaps two suits (either gray or navy will suffice), two sports jackets (one light and one heavy, assuming in a northern climate that has a winter), at least four pairs of pants (2 wool and 2 cotton), and a few shirts -- two of which should be conservative blue or white for the suit, a few ties (3?), and 2 pair shoes. Even in NYC, a young person can go out after work in these clothes, except for some neighborhoods that wouldn't like his kind anyway. Keep in mind, this is for a recent grad who won't have too many meetings that require a suit and who has a budget limit. If the person is going to a business formal setting, I would say three suits, about 10 shirts and ties, one sports jacket, and at least 2 pair of shoes. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone with a much larger wardrobe, but this is a starting point. My guess is that their question arises in the setting of "how often will I need to wear a suit?" or "do I need to wear a sports jacket everyday?" This will tell them how many of what they need. Of course, I can't answer that, but I'm a senior associate attorney in NYC who goes to court often and I don't wear one more than once a week. Given that, more than 2 suits is not necessary. On the other hand, if the young person will be involved in lots of closings, for example, where they need a suit, then more are needed. That is something you can guide them on somewhat. I don't think one ever really needs to wear a sports jacket, but it helps appear professional.
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