Q. I started a new job last week. After the first couple of days, my supervisor told me to upgrade my wardrobe. She said they felt like I pulled a “bait and switch” since I wore a business suit to the interviews, but then had to revert to my more casual college wardrobe (I own one interview outfit and borrowed the other). I assumed casual was fine since the agency is full-time business casual unless we’re meeting with clients who might expect otherwise. Thought I should share this experience, knowing there isn’t much else I can do but go further in debt to upgrade my wardrobe. -FN
A. You’re doing the right thing by investing in your career wardrobe. I’ve written on the topic of Dress for Success in the past. Despite an increasingly relaxed workplace culture, individual organizations have their own expectations of business casual.
While I enjoy the freedom of wearing casual attire some days, I normally gravitate to a coat and tie since it’s an easier early-morning wardrobe decision. Business attire can be a good investment since it usually lasts longer than casual wear, although some people get their full money’s worth from casual clothes that should have been donated to Goodwill long ago. Most college apparel fits in the latter category, so it’s definitely worth investing in quality business casual.
Discount retailer Syms offers advice on business attire for marketing and PR jobs on a helpful website for job seekers and those at early stages of their careers. Over the years, I’ve purchased business apparel from Syms and other discounters. Although it’s fun to do, you don’t need to shop at Brooks Brothers or Saks to get quality business attire at decent prices.