MBA in style

by Aaron Leth

Some of you might have seen the article in Monday’s Daily about the business fashion show the Pre-Law Society and the Public Relations Student Society of America staged to educate the masses (well, 164 people) about how to properly dress postcollege, namely in business situations. I think it’s a great concept, and I’m glad the groups put on the event. But as the final anecdote of the story illustrates, the show failed to delineate its thesis: what’s business casual, and what’s more professional? Enter moi! I thought I’d take it upon myself to further illustrate this concept and pick up where the show clearly left off.

As I’ve stated before, people care about people who care about themselves. Looking polished, then, should be the first thing to remember when you’re entering a formal employment setting. Most establishments carry dress codes, but you’re now out of college and they expect, and would rather not have to dictate, a certain style of dress. It can get a little tricky to cleanly execute this idea, though, especially for women. Whereas this is one arena in which the men have fashion simplified for them – i.e., suit or no suit – women have it just the opposite. Let’s start with some rules, though, that apply to both groups:

Don’t ever wear flip-flops. Ever. No matter what kind of casual Friday guidelines any company might formulate. I unfortunately have firsthand experience with this footwear fiasco. At first, I was appalled and thought, flip-flops are totally stylish! You geriatric chupacabras can suck it! Then I was told about how it’s less of style question as it is an HR hazard. Apparently there were gads of nails I could potentially step on in the office Ö whatever.

Another one for both sexes – the more you cover, the better. This isn’t Dreamgirls downtown, nor is it a continuous beach vakay now that you’re out of school. It’s reality, and the facts of adulthood say you can’t be showing or risking showing your bits at any possible time. Keep those hotpants in the closet for, well, never. You shouldn’t have them in the first place, but I’ve seen what roams around these parts. One can never rule out ANYthing. Oh, and one other thing: no ripped jeans. Most offices are air-conditioned, so no need to frugally freeze your legs in those warm summer months.

Now for women the two most important things to remember are to put your twins away and keep your scrunchies at bay. That’s right! No floppy ponytails or slouchy half-up, half-down dos, s’il vous-plait. Also, keep those flashy accessories for after hours. In fact, accessories like belts, bangles or those super-fun DayGlo colors of shoes this season are some of the easiest ways to take an ensemble from day to night.

In my opinion the biggest things to remember for men are easy on the cologne and the Patron. The latter means “don’t go out on weekdays,” espesh if you’re one of those drinkers who can identify their last beverage of the night via the breath the following morning. There is nothing worse than a red-eyed boozebag stinking up the fifth floor of the IDS Center. The fashion show did a decent job of distinguishing for males how to go from business casual to more professional with clothing: the more suit layers, the more formal.

One of my former editors, a wise woman who knows dressing better than you and I ever will, told me a great rule to use: Dress for the office based on what kind of day you have planned. If you’re going to meetings or going to lunch with a high-profile client, dress it up. If it’s a workday in the office, creatively interpret casual. Ladies, try a simple dress and cardigan, and guys, a dress shirt, sweater vest and slacks, for example.

These rules address appropriateness but are by no means set in stone. If all else fails, whether you’re preparing for an interview or your first day, it’s better to overdo it than come up short. Stick to this idea and you’ll never get The Donald’s “You’re fired!”

-Have your own fashion question? Write me at [email protected], and you too could appear in “Where Life Meets Style!”