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Marquette University
Career Services Center

Holthusen Hall, First Floor
1324 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-7423
Fax: (414) 288-5302
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What To Expect

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your career wardrobe



It is important to project a professional image. Employers may assume that this is the best you will ever look.

Unfortunately, making your way into the world-of-work means that you may be judged on the way you look and how you present yourself. This may not always be fair. There are a number of things you can do to feel confident about yourself in an interviewing situation. Because, as you know, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. You’re trying to sell yourself.


ALWAYS wear a suit to an interview, even if the people who work at the organization are not wearing suits and the job for which you are interviewing doesn’t require it. Remember, the people there already have the job … you don’t!


  1. Always have fresh breath and clean body hygiene. This may seem obvious, but take a shower, use deodorant, and brush your teeth.
  2. Wear perfume, cologne, or aftershave that is subtle, as some people may be allergic. Your scent should
    leave the room when you do.
  3. Cover visible tattoos with makeup.
  4. Have clean, short nails without ragged edges. Women have unpolished nails or use clear polish or a
    neutral tone.
  5. Take out any piercings (nose, eyebrows, tongue, etc.). They can be put back in when you are not
    interviewing or at work.

Women’s Attire

Do wear:

  1. A conservative suit (navy, gray, black). Pants suits are acceptable with many companies. Check out the office culture to find out for sure. When in doubt, wear a skirt suit.
  2. Clothing that fits your body correctly. Clothing is too tight when it is pulling horizontally across your body or has gaping buttons. Clothing is too big when tops are falling off the shoulders or pins are used to hold waistbands.
  3. Appropriate undergarments at all times.
  4. A slip, if your skirt is unlined. It should be light or dark according to the color of the skirt and length should extend to hemline.
  5. Accessories (necklaces, earrings, and bracelets) in keeping with the fashion trends of the season. Wear only one ring per hand.
  6. An ironed blouse or shell.
  7. Clothing that is appropriate for the current season.
  8. Neat, pressed, clean clothing without tears, rips, hanging threads or pills. All buttons, snaps, or hooks.
    should be on the garment and hems sewn in place.
  9. Polished shoes with matching belt (if appropriate).
  10. Sleeve length for suit would fall between your wrists and the top knuckle of your thumb.

Don't wear:

  • Deep scoop necklines or deep V-necklines without a scarf or camisole.
  • Casual clothing (denim, casual twill, knit T-shirts).
  • Flashy, trendy, chunky shoes or accessories.
  • Shoes that are not polished or are in need of repair.
  • Large accessories around the head and neck, large hair bows, large drop/hoop earrings, or three or more earrings per ear.
  • More than one ring on each hand.

Hair and nails

  1. Neat, clean, free of oil and dandruff.
  2. Keep color-treated hair updated and without obvious root-growth.
  3. Wear only discreet hair accessories.
  4. Underarms and legs must always be shaved if visible.
  5. Fingernails should be well-groomed and an appropriate length. Generally, an acceptable nail length is to have nails no longer than ½ the length of your nail bed.
  6. Chipped nail polish is unacceptable.
  7. Decorated nails and nail jewelry are unacceptable.


  1. Makeup should be neat and refined.  Color application should be subtle and blended (less is more), avoid too bright or frosted colors.
  2. Makeup colors should compliment skin tone.
  3. Avoid line of demarcation at the jaw line, blend foundation into neck.
  4. Eyeliner should be smudged slightly, avoid color other than brown or black.
  5. Mascara should be brown or black, avoid colors.
  6. Eye shadow should be soft and blended, avoid bright colors or glitter.

Men’s Attire

Do wear:

  1. A conservative suit (navy, black, gray).
  2. Sleeve length for suit should fall between your wrists and the top knuckle of your thumb.
  3. A matching tie that extends below the belt line.
  4. An ironed long-sleeve cotton shirt.
  5. A white undershirt beneath your dress shirt.
  6. Clothing that is appropriate for the current season.
  7. Neat, pressed, clean clothing without tears, rips, hanging threads, or pills. All buttons, snaps, or hooks should be on the garment and hems sewn in place.
  8. Polished shoes with matching belt.

Don’t wear:

  1. Casual clothing (denim, casual twill, knit t-shirts).
  2. Flashy, trendy, cartoony tie.
  3. Casual suede or unpolished shoes.
  4. Earrings of any kind (ear, nose, or otherwise).
  5. Sports (tube) socks, your socks should match your pants.
  6. Distracting jewelry.


  1. Neat, clean, free of oil and dandruff. Combed, styled.
  2. Length should be no longer than below the collar in the back or below the eyebrows in the front.
  3. Beards and mustaches must be neat, trimmed, and complimentary to face. Some professionals would argue a beard is not acceptable; if you are not attached to it, go ahead and shave it off. You can always grow it back.


There are many interpretations of business casual. This is how we define it:

  • For women: A reasonable length skirt or dress pants of a non-jeans material combined with a top (such as a dress shirt, polo, or cardigan set) is considered acceptable. An informal dress with appropriate skirt length is also acceptable.
  • For men: A combination of collared shirt (such as a dress shirt or polo shirt), dress pants (such as khakis or blue, brown, or black trousers) with a belt. Jeans are not acceptable business casual attire. A blazer or business jacket can optionally be added.
  • Unacceptable for either gender: Rumpled or ripped clothing, T-shirts, miniskirts, underwear as outerwear, inappropriately revealing attire such as bare midriffs, and flip-flops.


There are a lot of things to think about when making the transition from college grad to career professional. Though you may have considered what to wear on your first day, you may not have thought about all that goes into building a career wardrobe. Before spending your entire first paycheck on trendy clothes that will only last you a season or two, take time to build a wardrobe that lasts.

There are a lot of resources to help you determine your style, your colors, and your “look.” Use those resources (some listed below) to compliment the following wardrobe basics. Also, I am providing information for both genders, separating men and women only for simplicity’s sake.

Shopping tips:

  • Only buy items that can be worn in at least three combinations (example: top with three different bottoms).
  • Try to avoid “outfits” that only allow you to wear each piece with the other pieces purchased together.
  • Don’t forget appropriate undergarments.
  • Steer clear of fashion trends that only last one or two seasons.

Basic Career Wardrobe Level One Women

  • Skirts: 2 all season
  • T-shirts: 1 white | 1 black
  • Tops: 6 work appropriate (blouse, button up, shell)
  • Dresses: 2 all season
  • Sweaters: 1 fitted pullover | 1 cardigans
  • Jeans: 1 work appropriate Pants: 3 pairs all season
  • Suits: 1 classic suit
  • Jackets: 2 all season
  • Outerwear: 1 classic trench
  • Bag: 1 leather shoulder | 1 tote
  • Shoes: 1 pair dark heels | 1 pair dark flats | 1 pair slingbacks | 1 pair neutral pumps

Basic Career Wardrobe Level One Men

  • Shirts: 6 work appropriate
  • Sweaters: 2 pullovers
  • Jeans: 1 work appropriate
  • Pants: 5 pairs all season
  • Suits: 1 classic suit
  • Jackets: 2 all season
  • Outerwear: 1 classic trench
  • Shoes: 1 pair dark | 1 pair neutral