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This question may be kind of strange, but what was the dress code at your grad schools? I'm nervous I'm not gonna have enough "clinic" clothes but I also don't want to break the bank. Good quality professional clothes is so expensive. I bought a couple of tops and slacks but I don't know if it's enough. Thank you!

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I definitely feel you on the pains of finding work clothes that aren't super pricy! I don't know if you have one near you but Burlington Coat Factory/Marshall's/TJ Maxx is where I get my work/clinic clothes! They have a lot of Calvin Klein and Tahari clothes super cheap (and even some comparable knockoffs). I'm not in grad school yet but at the lab, school visits, and observations, I usually go with slacks (ankle/capri cut for warmer days), close-toed shoes, and a top that's not jersey T-shirt material but also not necessarily button down either. I'd also say make use of cardigans as they immediately formal up an outfit! 

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Posted (edited)

I'd suggest outlet/factory stores if there are any near you (a lot of them have websites as well though!) This summer I've been accumulating clothes little by little from places like Loft outlet, Banana Republic Factory, Old Navy, etc. For example, I've found pairs of nice dress pants on clearance for $10-$15! That way I don't have to drop a ton of money in one lump sum. You don't need to break the bank! TJ Maxx & Marshalls are also really good. I think for women, the universal dress code would be tops with high necklines and long enough to cover your back fully even when bending down, full or ankle length dress pants, a few cardigans to throw over sleeveless tops. I think some schools allow you to wear knee-length dress shorts in the summer. For men, button ups or polos and dress pants.

Edited by JcSLP

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You don't need to break the bank! I have been buying cheap professional clothes for years but when I first had to buy them I wasted money at J Crew and Banana Republic because I didn't know any better. Try H&M, Target, Nordstrom Rack, thrift stores if you live in an area with good ones, Old Navy sales racks, sometimes Macy's sale racks, and Express. I'm sure TJ Maxx and Ross have great finds, too. I second the outlet comment. I think a couple pairs of slacks, some blouses, and a couple of cardigans will do the trick to start!

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Some additional considerations (relating to certain fashion trends): no shoulder cutouts, no shirts that have low fronts or backs (i'd also avoid ones that feature cut-outs in those areas), make sure you wear closed toes shoes that also cover your heel, no sheer tops that show your bra, dresses should fall at least to a couple inches above your knees. "From-fitting" professional pants are OK as long as they have pockets (or at least the illusion of), zipper, button, and belt loops. Leggings aren't okay alone unless you're wearing dress with it.

Honestly, I just bought a few things that I designated as my "clinic outfits" and wore them when I had clinic. Boring, yes, but it also saved me from the stress of putting together a variety of professional attire.

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If you are building a professional wardrobe from scratch, I recommend buying a couple of basics in the broad categories of slacks, sheath dresses, skirts, tops, and cardigans/blazers. You've gotten some good advice as to where to buy them, and don't forget that you can also go to second hand stores, etc, to get pieces as well. I agree with the poster above that you should avoid trendy pieces. Building your wardrobe by outfit is also a good idea. My work clothes are all in the same color palette, too, mostly black, dark blue, and raspberry with some tan thrown in. That makes it easy to mix and match.

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I received an email outlining a bunch of our basic clinic stuff at WSU/EWU and our basic dress code is:

solid color dress pants

polos

and shoes you can wear in an emergency

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For anyone looking for places to shop, I highly recommend Goodwill. I've gotten tons of new looking professional tops there for $3.99 each. I've never bought pants or shoes from there, but I love going for tops. You have to spend some time sifting through and maybe visit a few locations, but it's totally worth it. 

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