Dress to impress

Maybe you’re an underclassman and looking for a respectable part-time job or summer internship. Maybe you’re a senior and looking for your big girl or boy job that hopefully aligns with your degree.

Either way, there are two words that every college student needs to hear when it comes to looking professional: do better. Whether it is wearing blue jeans for an interview or Nike shorts to the theater, most college students are unaware of the clothing etiquette that comes along with non-casual circumstances.

Cindy Ray, manager of Villa’s Fresh Italian Kitchen in the local mall, cringes when she thinks about some of her prospective employees from the university.

“A girl (came in) with a pair of tights on where you could see her underwear as well a see-through top with a neon bra,” she said. “It was completely unacceptable.” 

Melanie Hall, a senior accounting major, agrees. “You want to dress where it’s appropriate. Even if it’s a simple interview, you want to look your best,” she said.

When most people hear the words “professional attire,” they cringe and automatically assume that it’s boring, tasteless and uncomfortable.  That can be true, if you’ve got the creativity of a land tortoise. I fully encourage you to explore your individuality with your personal style, within the limits of business etiquette. 

Here are some business basics whether you’re casual or professional:

No visible tattoos or piercings other than in the earlobes.  I have a few of my own, I love them and they are a part of who I am.  However, until you know the culture of the company that you’re applying for, cover up that infinity tattoo and take out that Monroe piercing. 

The times are changing and so is the mainstream acceptance of tattoos and piercings. However, for now, cover them up. Better safe than sorry.

Skirts should be no higher than two or three inches above the knee.  Sorry ladies, but save your cute, short dresses for nights out with your friends or for strolling around on campus.

No unnatural hair color.  Once again, this is often an issue of company culture much like tattoos and piercings, but often it can be seen as more childish and unnecessary rather than spunky and rebellious.

With that said, let’s distinguish those mysterious code words: “business professional,” “business casual” and “campus casual.”

Business professional is the dressiest of them all. This is used in highly formal situations such as interviews or even job fairs where you want to look your professional best. For men, a well-fitted dark suit is expected with a conservative dress shirt and tie and shined dress shoes. 

For women, this means a dark skirt or pants suit, conservative dress shirt, pantyhose and dark, close toed pumps.  Jewelry and makeup should be kept to a minimum. 

Business casual is a little trickier, as many people have many definitions of what the term actually means.

A general consensus seems to be, “For men: trousers/khakis and a shirt with a collar. For women: trousers/knee-length skirt and a blouse or shirt with a collar. No jeans. No athletic wear,” according to Forbes magazine. 

Business casual is where, depending once again on company culture, it may be okay to show a little personal flair. Open-toed pumps and flats are a little more acceptable, ties are optional and cardigans are allowed to replace their stiffer cousin, the suit jacket.

Campus casual is what a student would wear in everyday life. When you’ve got some free time, look around the campus Starbucks for a veritable “What Not to Wear” to a business event. This includes but is not exclusive to: Polo shirts, sandals, jeans, stilettos, cargo anything, tank tops, anything tight-fitting, short skirts, shorts and anything with a logo or slogan.

Dressing to impress may seem a bit plain, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in pain. Make sure that all suits and outfits fit your body properly and are in flattering colors. For shoes, make sure that they are comfortable enough to walk in for a good long while. When you feel your best and are confident in what you’re wearing, it definitely shows.

With these guidelines in mind, don’t sweat the fashion and instead, rock that interview. Remember to smile and show your true self. The world’s going to love you.