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College [Business] Casual

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    College [Business] Casual

    So I've posted here asking about college style in general and you guys gave a bunch of great tips, so I was hoping you could do it again! Anyway, I'm on campus for the summer and just got a job on campus [essentially I'm a receptionist for a pretty busy office in the College of Business]. The dress is business casual.

    Luckily I have a few days until I start, and I do have a few shirts/pants that I can wear... but I want to go shopping.

    So a few questions:

    1) Where should I go to get pretty good quality shirts/pants that won't kill my wallet.

    2) I'll be working 5 days a week. How many shirts/pants do you think I'll need?

    3) Any suggestions on good pants/where to buy them?

    4) Any tips for dressing during the warmer months? It gets pretty hot on campus in the summer and usually I'm sweating even when I'm just wearing a short and t-shirt.

    Thanks in advance guys!


    Business casual can mean a ton of things. What do people typically wear? Also, what kind of budget are your working with?

    I'd say at a minimum you'll need 5-6 shirts and 3-4 slacks.

    Dress for style, live for results.



      Most undergrad business schools don't really seem to care what their admins wear. A Merona button-down and plain gray/navy/tan slacks would be fine.

      If time is on your side, why don't you just take a stroll in there one day to scope it out?



        Typically people wear nice slacks and a nice shirt [tie optional]. I want to stay under $200. With the numbers you suggested I'd probably buy 2 more shirts and maybe 2 more slacks.



          $200 is doable. Heat wise: cotton, cotton, cotton. Stay away from polyester. This is easy enough for shirts but will make it difficult for slacks.

          For shirts I think I'd recommend 1MX from Express. They can almost always be had for a deal, have a good fit and are cotton. The downside is there are questions about durability but you don't need these to last forever. The other advantage is they will transition well when you return to being a student.

          For pants maybe something like this a little casual but could work, Also I own a pair of these and would recommend them 02

          Again both of these will transition well when you return to being a student which I think is important as well.

          Dress for style, live for results.



            I think I might emphatically disagree about the 1MX shirts. I own a good half dozen or so, and while I like them in terms of fit and appearance, it seems paradoxical to me that the above poster would recommend breathable fabrics like cotton in the summer months while also suggesting 1MX shirts. They are... the opposite of breathable, in my experience (though note that this is something I've read in many others' reviews). The 3% spandex that lends them their useful stretchiness also seems to make them feel extremely stifling. I've never worn shirts that make me feel so "pent up" as 1MX shirts. I'd say I've learned to heavily restrict their use in warm weather, and even in winter they can lead to overheating for me.

            So yeah, I agree about the cotton thing, but definitely not about those shirts. That said, Express' non-1MX shirts are often 100% cotton and much better when it comes to breathability.

            As far as actual suggestions go, how serious is this position? Intern, or no? Even if it's a normal, full-time gig, I think the environment will probably be pretty forgiving. I don't think I'd bother with more than four or so dress shirts. White, light blue, and going by my tastes, a couple that are checked or gingham or something more exotic in color without giving up too much versatility. For slacks, I'd go with navy, gray, and probably a deeper shade of khaki (e.g. Dockers D1 in ghurka). I think if you go with sale shopping, you can easily find four shirts and a few pairs of slacks for around $200.



              You know me, I'm a 1MX fan. They're comfortable, look sharp, last longer than my attention span (I'm on a fit quest and have replaced my shirts a few times since last fall), on sale all the time (if you buy 4 this weekend, it works out to $32.50 each), come in a huge range of colors and fits, and are available in Express stores everywhere except for the Tall sizes.

              Then there are the downsides...particularly that they wrinkle easily.

              For a college student, I think a non-iron shirt is going to save you a killing on dry cleaning, but you can always throw a v-neck over a wrinkled shirt.

              Whatever you do, buy a fit that doesn't require tailoring. There are so many fit options out there from Express's Modern to Fitted to Extra Slim Fit. Or other brands going from Traditional to Slim or Tailored, etc. I really like the Nordstrom Slim Fits. Merona makes inexpensive shirts, but they have a fair amount of polyester which is something to shy away from. You can always buy one shirt, try it out for a while, and buy another if you like it.

              For pants, I'd encourage you to find 100% wool dress pants. They're spendy, but my God, they are the best. If it's gonna be hot, find really really lightweight wool like a worsted wool. They feel rich.



                As a recent college grad that's done work study in places like the one you described, I'm going to echo some of the excellent advice here.


                "For a college student, I think a non-iron shirt is going to save you a killing on dry cleaning, but you can always throw a v-neck over a wrinkled shirt. Whatever you do, buy a fit that doesn't require tailoring."

                You've got more important things (girls, classes, parties) to do than see a dry cleaner or tailor or heck, even iron your clothes! I know a lot of people are totally anti-non-iron (weird hyphenation there) but non-iron shirts are perfect for the college guy. You always look sharp, ready to go.

                Everybody here is saying the same thing, and I agree - get things you can wear when classes resume, and don't worry about dressing up for this job. The color suggestions (white, blue, checked/gingham, and I'd like to add a light pink to that list) are spot-on and very versatile. I owned a couple old 1MX shirts. They're not bad. You'll get through college wearing them and be happy with them. I liked them for college because they're short enough to wear casually, unlike the non-iron dress shirts at BR or anywhere else listed here.

                Cotton pants: Dockers D1 Soft (they still look pretty dressy and you can iron them to make them look better, but they're also great for class/going out with friends). I'd also get a pair of 100% wool dress pants in charcoal, as Nick said. Don't cheap out on the polyester stuff, I did and really regret it. You'd think wool is all warm and too hot for the summer, but it actually does breathe really well, and way better than a poly/synthetic material!



                  It sounds like I work in a similar environment to you. I'm around college-age kids a lot and the dress is really casual. As for your questions, here are my thoughts.

                  1. I've had good luck with shirts from Macy's, specifically Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein slim fits. They're 100% cotton, come in modern patterns, and actually fit pretty slim. They "retail" for about $60, but can often be found on sale for around $40. I've also heard really good things about Nordstrom's Calibrate brand and Neiman Marcus's Trim Fit shirts, though I don't have any personal experience.

                  2. I'm still building my wardrobe. I've got about 15 shirts that I wear regularly (plus a few others that I don't really love but wear anyway) and 8-10 pairs of pants. I really need another pair of khakis and some more dress pants (odd trousers), but I don't have a money tree. This rotation works pretty well for me, especially when I incorporate ties into the mix. They're a good piece to keep things different with a limited amount of options. I find myself wanting more shirts and pants not because I don't have enough to make a good rotation but rather because I want more color/pattern options.

                  3. So far, my favorite chinos are from Land's End, the tailored fit flat front. They come in a bunch of different colors. They're soft and comfortable yet they almost look like dress pants. They fit relatively slim, but could be slimmer. I have a pair of suit pants from Bar III (Macy's house brand) and they're great. I'm sure the quality isn't perfect, but the fit is fantastic. Find them on sale and they're a steal.

                  4. I live in Texas where the summers are literally as hot as hell. I kid you not: last summer we had 3 straight months of over 100 degree heat. In the heat if you want to stay comfy, some style will have to be compromised. Just make sure to find light weight fabric (wool, linen, cotton). Personally, I'm a fan of dress pants in the summer as they tend to be lighter and breezier then chinos or denim. Oh, and roll up your sleeves.



                    I've already gotten into a debate with Joe about the 1MX, so I won't keep pushing the issue, but if you want my opinion, I think 1MX is one of the worst shirts you can wear in the workplace.

                    To me, the 1MX is far more "dude who can't get into club that isn't even cool anymore" than "aspiring professional". In that price-range, I would go Merona or on-sale CK.



                      See, it's fine if you don't like how wrinkly a short gets or how it wears on the edges quickly. That's a valid criticism. But to say that someone in a crisp white 1MX looks like a loser? Come on. Let's be factual.

                      I forgot to mention colors, but pitseleh is right. Boring colors! White, light blue, gray, navy. THEN a subdued red, a tight gingham pattern or two, a windowpane. THEN the electric colors, the candy stripes, etc. =)

                      Point collar for a rounded face, spread collar for a narrow face. An oxford cloth button down collar in white or blue.



                        Sorry, I know I'm in the minority on my opinion, but with a few industry exceptions, you don't want to stray from tradition in the workplace. 1MX is a different texture, one that wrinkles and looks terrible at the end of the day, and looks more like a discounted weekend shirt than a professional one.

                        With that said, many reasonable people seem to disagree with me. That's fine. But I know that in my (admittedly conservative) workplace, I would get made fun of for wearing a shirt like that.



                          Point taken. Most of the Merona shirts are a cotton-poly blend. I just checked the tag on my Merona shirt - 60% cotton, 40% poly. Still a value considering the price, but what is it about that texture that your workplace would like?

                          I think of CT, Nordstrom, and BB as being the workhorses of conservative environments since they make 100% cotton, non-iron shirts.



                            I totally agree that BB non-iron is the ultimate workhorse for conservative environments, and that CT shirts do the trick. Nordstrom is nice as well, though I don't own any.

                            I was thinking that, given the original poster's budget, Merona shirts much better fall into the "safe bet" category. I think he'd also be fine with Land's End clearance stuff, though a lot of their oxford-heavy collection errs on the heavy side. J. Crew Factory can be a great source at the right time, too.

                            Given a reasonable, but not incredibly long window of time, my humble recommendation is checking out the sales racks at JC Penney (maybe Stafford makes a decent broadcloth) or Macy's, then maybe combing through a Marshall's or TJ Maxx for plain, cotton shirts in blue, white, and maybe one summery gingham for Fridays.

                            Contrary to how I am probably coming off, I am not a total snob about work attire. I think the Stafford and store-brand DSW shoes are every bit as respectable as AE for entry-level office work. My gripe is with the weirdo off-blues and awkward sheen of MX1 and Van Heusen type shirts or with non-traditional shoe styles at this stage.

                            I'll also leave open the possibility that I am downright wrong or that my industry has left me entire too closed-minded about taking sartorial risks.



                              Also, I could be wrong about the Merona. I remember it being much more subtle in texture than 1MX, and unfortunately, I don't have any on me to verify.