There are some great tips here for anyone who needs to look presentable without having lots of money to spend (e.g. new librarians). :)
Here are some quick and simple upgrades from an undergraduate to a graduate work wardrobe:
- Cleanliness is key: No more “off the floor, out the door.”
- If you sleep in it or wear it to the gym, it doesn’t go to work. No sweats, baggy tees, yoga pants, amorphous tank tops, hoodies, etc.
- Pay attention to fit: Cheaper clothes can look great if you find the right fit. Even expensive clothes look ridiculous if they are too tight or baggy.
- No visible bra straps/visible underwear/obvious cleavage/micro-miniskirts: This really should go without saying. Some would argue not baring your shoulders in a very conservative environment. Look at the culture around you for guidance. For skirts, two-three inches above the knee is as high as you need to go.
- Get some good shoes: Flats, pumps, boots, etc, as long as they are in good condition and walkable. Try to leave the gym shoes in the gym bag.
- Don’t be afraid of second hand when on a budget: Graduate stipends can be notoriously tight, so try curated second hand stores such as the Buffalo Exchange which often have great clothes at high discounts.
- Discount stores can be great: This is similar to the second hand advice. Stores such as Nordstrom Rack often have the same clothes as the primary store at a good discount. This is a great way to get more high-quality items with good construction that will last and won’t break your budget.
- The blazer is your friend: A good blazer thrown over a tee and jeans instantly upgrades a look. Try to find one that fits you well in a neutral color like black, navy or khaki; it will last forever.
- Upgrade your bag: Don’t be afraid to ditch your old backpack in favor of a functional messenger bag or multifunctional laptop case. Bonus points for natural materials like canvas or leather.
- Have a few “go-to” accessories: Having one or two good accessories such as a nice watch, earrings, or belt can tie together a very basic outfit that would be otherwise unremarkable
Of course, the norms for your situation may require more/less effort.