The Right At-Work Looks for New Grads

If you're worried about how you're going to afford 10 suits, don't. Start off slowly and build up a collection, paycheck by paycheck. As long as you have two to four good suits in rotation, your clothes should remain looking fresh.

One key point: When it comes to fabric, Boehm says all suits should be wool. If you're looking for something lighter in the summer, try tropical wool, which has a looser weave that allows more air to flow through the fabric, keeping you cool. Leave the linen, seersucker and cotton suits to the older, established professionals in your firm. The upkeep for those fabrics is much more daunting.

As for casual Fridays, Boehm suggests wearing a suit the first week of work so you can gauge how others in the office dress. For men whose office allows khakis--and maybe even denim--pair them with a simple navy blazer and penny loafers. Ladies can do the same, but if you have a penchant for dresses, a casual shift works with a cardigan draped over the shoulders, worn with either pumps or sandals. (If you go with the latter, make sure your company doesn't have a policy prohibiting open-toe shoes.)

The question remains: If senior members of these colleges and firms already know how to dress, why do they need to call in an outsider to teach their students?

"Credibility," says Ken Hartun, executive director of the Ralph and Luci Schey Sales Centre at Ohio University. (Tom James happens to be one of the self-funded center's corporate members, which means it donates money to the university each year.) "These people come in very professionally dressed, and the students react to that."

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