Classroom to Corporate: 6 Fall Outfit Staples for the School-to-Work Transition.

Flashback to a typical school week (from left to right): Monday [Office Hours/Consultations], Tuesday [Lecture/Meetings], Wednesday [Research/Writing/Teaching Prep], Thursday [Lecture], Friday [Grading/Research].

For the past few years, September has signaled the start of the fall semester and gearing up for school responsibilities in full force: teaching, research, attending classes and meetings, prepping materials for my upcoming job search. While I do miss teaching and my colleagues, to be honest I am glad those days are finally behind me.

During grad school my teaching wardrobe fell somewhere between “dressy casual” and “business casual” (for rough definitions of these terms, check out my Note on Dress Codes)– probably more of the former than the latter, since I found myself wearing denim pretty often. At my current job the denim is now reserved for Casual Fridays, but during the work week I still find myself wearing several pieces that were always on heavy rotation when I taught in a classroom/lecture environment.

Here is a list of the fall outfit staples that I’ve carried over from the classroom to a more corporate setting. This list might be especially useful for current students who are looking to invest in some versatile, basic fall semester pieces that they could also wear while on the job market (yay, interviews!) and in their future careers. Enjoy…

Camel blazer: Trust, this goes with everything. I’ve thrown it over a sheath dress, worn it with dark trousers, dressed it down with jeans. The gold buttons keep it from falling into “boring” territory. I probably get more use out of my camel schoolboy blazer than my standard black version. For the more current version of J. Crew’s schoolboy blazer, check out the Rhodes blazer in Italian wool.

Black dress: You’ve probably heard it from everyone and their mama– every woman should have an LBD in their closet. I never really believed it until I added one to my teaching wardrobe; it’s just easy. I wear my black dress on days when I can’t figure out what else to wear to the office, out-of-town meetings, happy hours, bachelorette parties, etc. My jersey v-neck sheath is a couple years old but this sleek crepe version is a pretty good duplicate with good online reviews; this triacetate sheath is also an elegant option with figure-flattering seaming throughout.

Red dress: While the little black dress is considered the classic piece, I consider my little red dress the power piece. When I was teaching I wore this dress during my more serious and stressful (i.e., pre-midterm, pre-final) lectures. Now, I pair it with a blazer for client meetings and with a cardigan for less formal internal meetings. For a similar piece that will take you from the office to happy hour, I really love this dark burgundy ruffle-hem dress in Italian wool crepe.

Black skirt: The black pencil skirt is a work standard, but personally, when I’m not wearing dark trousers to the office I tend to get more use out of my full, black circle skirt. I prefer the comfortable feminine shape, and it pairs nicely with blazers and cardigans. I’ve also recently added this black midi skirt to my closet and highly recommend it; I really love the drape and fluidity of the fabric.

White shirt: A well-fitting white shirt goes a long way. You can easily pair one with anything– the black skirt and camel blazer, under sheath dresses when the weather is colder, denim and sneakers. I really like the fitted non-iron sateen shirts from Banana Republic and have a couple in my closet. They come in very standard colors (white, blue, black) and in regular, tall, and petite sizes. The best part is they come out pretty wrinkle-free from the wash.

Striped shirt: A striped button-up shirt also goes a long way and pairs easily with the other fall staples I’ve listed. Historically, I’ve thrown this shirt on most mornings when I haven’t had much time to get ready (i.e., I’ve slept in too much). That’s been a lot of mornings. That said, I get a lot of (weekly) wear from my striped poplin boy shirt and it’s held up surprisingly well over the years. J. Crew has consistently been selling this shirt for many seasons so if the time ever comes when it finally falls apart, I’m not too worried about finding a proper replacement.


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