7 Ways To Graduate To An Adult Wardrobe

by Tyler Atwood

Graduating from university is bittersweet for a number of reasons, not the least of which is abandoning that unique collegiate wardrobe which consists of yoga pants and branded team sweatshirts on weekdays, and faded jeans paired with some sort of strappy, club-appropriate top for weekend exploits. However, entering the adult work world doesn't have to consist of bland pantsuits and loafers if you happen to despise them. In fact, graduation is a fantastic time to embrace the styles and silhouettes you had no use for in college. Those beautiful patent leather pumps you've been craving since freshman year? You now have infinite excuses to buy them. And that fantastic pair of printed skinny trousers that just didn't seem appropriate for lectures or drinking at the university watering hole? They're likely perfect for your office and a chic brunch look for Sunday morning.

There's also no fashion dictum that states that you must give up your entire closet in order to make room for your new "adult life," or a miraculous occurrence which transforms you into a mature human being when you walk off your college campus for the last time. In fact, post-grad life will be infinitely more enjoyable if you continue to embrace your individuality after you leave school, regardless of what field of work you choose. Your adult wardrobe functions in much the same way, so instead of trying to suddenly dress like an adult, try dressing like a more sophisticated version of yourself. You'll have more fun, and you may discover a few sartorial ideas you'd never thought of before. Read on for seven ways to achieve a more refined, adult wardrobe.


Mike Pont/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

As Emma Stone clearly demonstrates with her tailored red shift dress, making alterations to create a more fitted ensemble can make a world of difference in your closet. Because (I'm assuming) most graduates will leave the world of Abercrombie and Hollister behind after receiving a diploma from their alma mater in favor of more work-friendly attire, it can be slightly more challenging to find a good fit in the world of adult clothing. If you don't want to appear as if you're playing dress-up in your office attire, take anything that doesn't fit quite right to a tailor. Even the most beautiful designer blouse can look frumpy if it isn't fit to your figure, and the extra expense will be worth it when your clothing accentuates your best assets.


Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You don't have to wear a head-to-toe pantsuits to look professional. This is perhaps the most important lesson a new graduate can learn about workwear. Imagine, if you will, that instead of just throwing on a pair of seersucker shorts for your weekend trip to the Hamptons, you added a seersucker jacket, and a seersucker vest with some color-coordinated shoes. If the image in your head makes you want to eschew the fabric completely, or to despise it more than you already do, apply the same logic to the grown-up suit. Try purchasing streamlined suiting separates in neutral shades of black, grey, cream, and white as a start to your work wardrobe — but make sure they can mix and match. Unless you're headed off to an international business meeting every morning, pairing patterned silk trousers with a black wool blazer looks more modern than wearing a matching black blazer and black pants day after day.

Theory Silk Trousers, $97.50, Amazon

Anne Klein Wool Blazer, $129, Amazon


Angela Weiss/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The little black dress is one of fashion's greatest triumphs, but your adult wardrobe doesn't have to include a black dress if your favorite color is, say, purple. However, owning a classic frock in a flattering silhouette will make your working life infinitely easier when you're running out the door late for a meeting and unsure of what to wear. Choose a classic shift dress with an unusual twist that you can pair with a plethora of accessories depending on the occasion. Gray, black, and white may be classic shades, but jewel tones tend to flatter most women if neutral colors are simply too bland for your taste.

CeCe by Cynthia Steffe Scalloped Collared Dress, $148, Amazon


Samir Hussein/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

By the time you've graduated from college, you have about two decades of fashion experimentation under your belt. It's likely that, even if you refuse to acknowledge the fact, you know if your shape is curvier or more lanky, and therefore which styles you can rock and which you should leave to Gisele and Kate Upton. One flattering dress is worth twenty tent-like/bodycon/voluminous items, so it may be time to say goodbye to some of your fashion fails, no matter how trendy they feel. Especially during interviews, first impressions are made before you can begin to discuss your many achievements, and a savvy businesswoman knows how to dress to impress, even if fashion isn't her favorite topic.


Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The perfect pointy-toe heels are the footwear equivalent of a truly fantastic pair of jeans: You'll wear them everywhere, and they somehow manage to make every other part of your ensemble sharper. Streamlined black or nude heels are especially versatile for the work world, but a textured leather in a subdued hue is also a safe bet for most offices. If the notion of walking in heels makes you cringe, invest in chic kitten heels or a good pair of flats to wear to and from work.

Vince Camuto Dress Pump, $85, Amazon


Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

There is a logical reason designer blouse company Equipment is so incredibly popular: Silk button-downs look good on nearly everyone — Angelina Jolie body not required. Silk skims over areas you aren't fond of, and subtly accentuates curves without the work-inappropriate fit of a body con silhouette. So choose your favorite shade (or shades) of the rainbow, and track down a silk blouse in the color, because the piece might well become your new, adult go-to for any occasion.

Equipment Adalyn Silk Blouse, $218, Amazon


Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Graduating from college doesn't mean completely abandoning your quirky, undergrad flair, it simply calls for several additions to your youthful sense of style (and perhaps letting go of the jeans you've inexplicably held on to since middle school despite the fact that they don't fit you). If you love vintage concert shirts, throw one under you blazer and add skinny jeans for casual Friday at the office. And for those who lived in their moccasins and sports jerseys during college, there's always a place for them at the local sports bar for a Saturday afternoon game viewing. Your closet should always be a reflection of your personal style, as long as it remains respectful of your office dress code and values.