Guest Post: Business Attire by Dara

College Prepster Notes:  I’ve been receiving lots of emails and questions about what to wear to interviews and recruiting events and other events that require business attire.  I figured it was time to bring in an expert, someone who is well-versed, and could do a better job than me!  Thanks Dara!!!
If you are anywhere near a college campus at this time of year, you’ll know: it’s interview season. And whether you’re a junior in college applying to an internship or a junior in high school interviewing for college, it is smart to invest in some key pieces that will take you from BC to Barclay’s.
As you hop from recruiting event to recruiting event, interview to interview, you’ll notice two types of Career-Hunt Season dress: business casual & business formal. Here’s a description and list of key pieces to have for each: 
Business Casual

What: A type of smart casual dressing that is more relaxed than business formal.
When: Typically reserved for recruiting events, internship/career fairs, sophomore leadership programs, networking events, career/resume workshops with company recruiters, lunch with recruiters, college interviews
Look for: blazers, cardigans, shift dresses, medium length skirts, slacks, blouses, button-down shirts, heels, flats, or leather boots (weather permitting)
Where: J. Crew has a great selection of affordable business casual pieces that can be easily converted from a day of class to a networking social. Other key shops are: Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Zara, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren/Rugby.
Personal go-to favorites:
–Urban Outfitters blazer—you wouldn’t think you’d stumble across this gem at this typically urban, hipster-chic establishment but the Silence & Noise Boyfriend Blazer is affordable, well-made and the perfect length to wear over a shift dress and statement necklace or a J.Crew blouse and slacks.
–J.Crew cardigan—a key versatile piece in anyone’s closet. The J.Crew cardigan is great over a top & trouser, a dress, or a skirt and the perfect weight for any season. With the wide variety of color options, you can feel free the break the boring (though on occasion, crucial) neutral palette of Career-Hunt Season dress!
–J.Crew flats—comfortable and cute. The Classic Leather Ballet Flats come in a wide variety of fun colors (I’m loving the yellow!) that are affordable and fun to play with.
–Ralph Lauren/Rugby button-down shirts—a staple. Enough said. No one makes a classic button-down better than Ralph.
Anthropologie tops—pricey, but a go-to store for unique, preppy-chic blouses that will go great with slacks

Don’t forget:
–copies of your resume, printed on quality paper
–iron your clothes!
–to feel free to add in your own style, but remember you want your personality and credentials to catch more attention than what you are wearing!

Business Formal
What: A defined set of clothing consisting of suit jackets, matching skirt/trousers, long-sleeved button-downs/blouses in dark to neutral colors. Cuff links may be necessary in certain circumstances.
When: Business formal clothing is required of most interview situations, office visits, and (especially in the financial services industry) on the job.
Look for: a well-tailored suit & long-sleeved button-down shirt, heels, flats, a leather portfolio (to place copies of resumes, cover letters, or take notes). Seeing as to how a business suit never goes out of style, you may want to consider investing in a quality suit that will last.
Where: J.Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Theory, Thomas Pink, Ralph Lauren
Personal go-to favorites:
–My roommate swears by her white Thomas Pink shirt  that she loves to wear to her interviews with investment banks (she’s a Finance major). It’s crisp, of excellent quality, with its classic cocktail cuff. There are also excellent alternatives at J.Crew, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren (see above)
–Banana Republic, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and Theory all have great business suits at reasonable prices.
–J.Crew blouse: I love this J.Crew silk cami to go with a suit. The colors are gorgeous and are the perfect complement to the standard black or navy suit: enough color to stand out (in the best way possible) and yet understated enough to keep the focus on you. J.Crew silk blouses in general are perfect complements to a business suit.  
–Tory Burch heels and flats—a splurge but so worth it! (See also: J.Crew flats)
–Portfolio for notepad and resumes—my campus bookstore keeps leather portfolios stocked…in black, blue and red. To add a little color and fun to your life, I love these Vera Bradley folios in the designer’s signature colorful patterns. Just because your outfit is limited doesn’t mean your portfolio is!

Don’t forget!
–the most important tip I’ve received from a recruiter is to keep the attention to YOU, not your outfit. It is the profound realization for those who admire fashion (like all of us prepsters) to realize that when it comes to most job interviews (there are exceptions), people don’t care that your outfit stands out as much as they care that YOU (and your personality) do. While it is important to look professional and presentable, it is also important to make sure you choose pieces that will complement, not overshadow the person wearing it
–Do your homework!…and research the company you are interviewing for. Your portfolio’s notepad is a great place to take notes and jot down some questions to ask
–Accessories are great outfit complementers, especially modest necklaces or studs that will add a little energy to what is otherwise a plain black suit. Just be careful of point #1.
–Self-confidence… a priceless finishing touch.
Good luck to everyone on their internship, job, or college search!

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Great post!

You should try the blog, A Case for Alpha Females. It's a new blog that is geared towards young professionals and building a business casual wardrobe.

I'm in sports marketing and even in a more relaxed environment it’s still important to dress well.



Awesome post! I've been trying to retool my campus wardrobe to be more professional for interviews in the coming months and I appreciate it!


I would add to stay away from obvious logos. I know that this has been debated on many sites (such as corporette), but I stay clear of any marking of status in such a way. Save your big logo-ed totes for the weekend (or after you have the job). 🙂


As someone who sits on the other side of the interview desk, please be mindful of the corporate culture. Appropriate clothing for an interview isn't always suiting. Another word of advice is that you don't want to try to "out dress" the interviewer or in the case of a new job, your superior(s).


Great advice! I've actually found myself dressing relaxed professional quite a bit for leadership conferences and such.