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What to wear? Tips for a visit?

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Hey everyone! I was invited to visit the graduate program at Loyola Chicago next month. It'll be my first graduate school visit, so I'm understandably nervous. Basically, a couple of graduate students will be taking me out to lunch and talking about the department, then I'll tour the campus, meet professors, etc. I'm just not sure what would be appropriate to wear, what I should ask, etc. Any help would be great!

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I would recommend slacks or a skirt with a sweater, polo, cardigan, collared shirt, sports coat... that sort of thing. Chances are, the people you'll be meeting follow a casual or business-casual dress code. You want to be presentable and show that you take the opportunity seriously without being overdressed. For proper interviews, I would recommend something more formal, but for a visit you can stick with what I mentioned. The most important thing is to wear something comfortable that will allow you to be confident and free of distractions. And always err on the side of moderately conservative (no logos, slogans, short skirts, low necklines, etc.).

Edited by p287

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I'd go with business casual. You'd rather be a bit overdressed than underdressed. It's better to signal I take this very seriously hence my slightly overdressed outfit than sort of I didn't care. It will be appreciated if you took the effort to 'dress for the occasion' to say so.

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I am low-income and I am very worried that my appearance, even in my best clothes, will look sloppy. I don't have anything that is new, and plenty of my shirts and pants have patches. My only pair of slacks have snags. However, I have sweaters that I can wear over summer dresses, that is probably the best I can do. Would something like that be too casual? I don't know where I can find cheaper more "business" clothes.

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I get most of my dress clothes from thredup.com. Shipping is slow, though, so don’t wait til the last minute.

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I get most of my dress clothes from thredup.com. Shipping is slow, though, so don’t wait til the last minute.

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8 hours ago, virusologii said:

I am low-income and I am very worried that my appearance, even in my best clothes, will look sloppy. I don't have anything that is new, and plenty of my shirts and pants have patches. My only pair of slacks have snags. However, I have sweaters that I can wear over summer dresses, that is probably the best I can do. Would something like that be too casual? I don't know where I can find cheaper more "business" clothes.

I worked for several years on programs that supported low-income graduate students (and prospective graduate students), and you could say my role included 'wardrobe mentoring.' Regardless of where you live, if you wear a size 0-14 women's (XS-XL, 28-40 waist men's), you can probably find a thrift store where you can outfit yourself for interviews for $20-$30. If you wear a bigger or smaller size, it could be a bit more challenging at this budget, but it's still worthwhile to hit the thrift store first, and certain parts of your outfit can be found there either way. If you feel truly at a loss for where to start, I would say aim for something like the following.

[NOTE:  these suggestions are admittedly very gendered and conservative, and I am highly conscious of the fact that they provide nothing in the way of helping people to display their unique personal style, etc. Surely there are many individuals to whom these suggestions also do not well apply, probably including many students in the arts, as well as those who privilege ethnic/cultural expression in their dress, etc. Furthermore, I do not wish to reinforce the idea that there is (or should be) one way of dressing in academia. I strongly feel the opposite is true. But, alas, I also wish to help make accessible an "academic outfit" to those with limited resources, or to those who have a limited awareness of what is expected of them in this department in most disciplines. Finally, the stores I suggest below are purely motivated by awareness of budget, availability, and supply of clothing consistent with the status quo in academia. They are not my faves, and they might not be those that are most responsible with respect to clothing manufacturing, etc.]

These suggestions pertain to most non-professional masters and doctoral students doing routine visits to (or interviews with) graduate schools, etc., who wish to play it safe in their dress. For dress in professional school environments (law, business, medicine, etc.), as well as in the arts and other fields that might have different standards, I would ask a trusted mentor in the discipline for advice.

FOR WOMEN

PANTS/SKIRT/DRESS

Dark (black, navy, grey, etc.) pants or simple skirt (hits at mid-knee or just below, nothing shorter, and longer will be hard to pull off for most body types), or shift dress. Skirt can be pencil-style to just slightly flowing. Avoid skirts with excessive material that could look cutesy or like you're headed to the swing dance. In general, pants should go to (and not beyond) your shoes and should not be too "skinny." If you're aiming for safe, avoid overly trendy styles or prints for the purposes of interviews and visits. 

TOP/BLOUSE

If wearing a dress, skip this. If not: Light, solid (or very subtle pattern) neutral colored (white, light grey, light blue, etc) blouse. If you don't mind tucking-in, an ironed button-up collar shirt always looks great. I can't stand tucking and always feel it causes muffin top on me (eek!), so if you're like me, find a top that fits you well and feels comfortable and does not hit much below or above the hip bone. Do not show belly, and do not wear a long shirt that resembles a nightshirt. Your shirt should also not be frayed or wrinkled at the hem, if you're wearing it outside your pants/skirt. I like to wear a comfy, slightly flowing tank-top. It should reveal ZERO cleavage, even if you lean forward slightly, and it should not fit very tight at the chest or elsewhere. If your buttons are pulling, get another shirt, or use double-sided fabric tape to keep your shirt closed. Of course, too big and your clothes can look messy, so try to get something that fits somewhat closely but that reveals minimal contours (including belly rolls or pants/skirt cut-in). Reasonable fit is key to both neat appearance and comfort. Better if your clothes are just slightly on the spacious side than that they are slightly tight (other way around, of course, when you head to the clubs later that night). 

CARDIGAN/BLAZER

Cardigan sweater and/or structured jacket ("blazer") in either a solid, neutral color or a simple pattern. There are plenty of good choices for color/pattern combinations. I'm just trying to provide simple go-to pieces that will help you move through the thrift shop (or other shop) efficiently. 

SHOES

Simple flats, or low heal pumps, in black or other neutral color. No sparkles or excessive buckles, etc, or large flashy brand names pasted across shoes. If in a cold place, simple boots (if possible). Cheap black rain boots will work if you're from somewhere warm and don't have appropriate winter boots. You won't likely be walking outside for too long. Avoid giant, clompy, fur-everywhere boots that look like novelty slippers.

COAT: A trench coat or wool (style) button-down coat, if headed somewhere cold or rainy. Also, an umbrella for rainy places (particularly if you fear for your hair). 

SOCKS/TIGHTS: No "fun" or bright socks or tights. Lightweight, non-bulging socks, knee-highs, or tights in a neutral (probably dark) color. If wearing flats, fine to go without socks, but not in a snowy or cold place. In general, wear skirts or dresses with tights or nylons (very hot places, like Miami and Hawaii, could be exceptions if high temperature is 75+). Black matte is often best option for tights. 

SCARF: If you settle on the simplest option in each of the above categories, you might consider adding a lightweight, thin scarf around your neck, for a bit of flare, or to cover up unflattering imperfections in the fit of your shirt or sweater/jacket, or just for fun. Still, choose a simple pattern, that has at most one vibrant color. Also, the scarf should not crowd your face or cause a distraction. Look around the web for ways to tie your thin scarf. 

HAIR: For most other than Black women, in general, your hair should be kept tidy and simple, whether you wear it up or down. For Black women, your hair tends to look incredibly stylish no matter what; still, if you're not feeling it on interview day, pull it back, or wear it in a scarf, or in the fashion that is most comfortable for you. Ethnic women, in general, will enjoy more flexibility when it comes to hairstyle and accessories. A White woman in a head band or scarf might appear overly casual. It's typically less the case for non-white women. People have a tendency to fiddle with their hair when they wear it in new ways, so be sure you are comfortable and practiced with your hairdo. Likewise, wear your interview clothes around town (avoiding ketchup, etc.) in advance, so you can work out the kinks before interview day. 

JEWELRY: Simple, sparse jewelry, if any. Fitbit-type watches are ok, but best if without flashy wrist bands. 

MAKE-UP: Simple, daytime make-up, if any. 

HATS?: No hats, unless religious 

MULTIPLE DAY VISIT: you can wear the basics of your outfit for more than one day. Include two different shirts and/or change-up your scarf and hairdo for a totally different look on a second day. On a third day, change either sweater or blazer (to one of a different color) for a completely fresh look. 

SHOPS: shops to look for clothing (in the US): Any thrift shop, and especially the big ones (Goodwill, Savers, Value Village, St. Vincent's, etc.). Also, check the clearance areas of stores such as Ross, Old Navy, Kohls, Target, JC Penny, Sears, and even Forever 21, H&M, etc.

FOR MEN

Read over suggestions for the women. Your outfit will be nearly the same (pants, button-up shirt, cardigan and/or blazer, plus overcoat in cold places), with the exception that their scarf will be your neck tie. No, you don't need a neck tie, and in many places you might be the only one wearing one, but if your outfit is very simple, you might like to have one for a bit of flare). No joke-style or flashy neck-ties. No white socks. Shoes should be simple, probably black or brown, comfortable enough to walk a bit. If you're at a loss, I would suggest Oxford style, tie-up shoes. You can get these in all sizes and widths online (Amazon, etc.), and Walmart also usually carries some low-priced "dress" shoe options in various widths. For guarantee of fit and quality (if you have hard-to-fit-feet and/or a more flexible budget), go to a store that specializes in extended sizing options. You will not be sorry. No moccasins, and skinny little loafers can look like bedroom slippers (particularly to your 60 year old POI). Your hair should be freshly tidied (whether you wear it short or long), and your face groomed (whether you have a beard or not). 

Anyone is welcomed to PM me for more, including help identifying styles to fit your particular body type or aesthetic (I am sorry I provide little help here in terms of finding larger sized clothing beyond thrift stores) and good resources within your specific town.

Best of luck to all! 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Psygeek said:

Ugh, I miss Dutch business casual. So much more fun and 'open'.. ;_;

Dutch men win for best pants.

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4 hours ago, Psygeek said:

how so? 

Maybe it isn't the case generally, but last time I was in the Netherlands, I saw many men wearing colorful pants (mainly red, but also other colors, sometimes multi). I liked it. 

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Everyone has you covered on what to wear, so here are some tips on what to ask. Time with current grad students is huge – conversations with grad students helped me immensely in making my decision. It's a great opportunity to hear how a department really works. I'd ask about the quality of the course offerings, the department culture, how well the stipend stretches in the area, what non-stipend supports look like including travel funds, professional development funds, etc. I believe you are also an Americanist, correct? If you are talking to other Americanists ask how well the university supports American based archives trips. I've found that sometimes people can write off American trips as being cheap (and they are compared to international research!), but I still have to hole up somewhere for weeks/months at a time and that costs money. Feel free to DM me if you want to talk more!

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49 minutes ago, Midwester said:

Maybe it isn't the case generally, but last time I was in the Netherlands, I saw many men wearing colorful pants (mainly red, but also other colors, sometimes multi). I liked it. 

ahahahhaha. That's a specific 'breed' of people (i.e., certain subculture - predominantly considered white, upper class males from certain towns in the country). If you were in A'dam you also probably came across the colorful bell bottom pants for women (only in A'dam). When I was working in consulting, dark jeans were considered 'business enough' lolz.

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On 1/9/2019 at 5:39 PM, virusologii said:

I am low-income and I am very worried that my appearance, even in my best clothes, will look sloppy. I don't have anything that is new, and plenty of my shirts and pants have patches. My only pair of slacks have snags. However, I have sweaters that I can wear over summer dresses, that is probably the best I can do. Would something like that be too casual? I don't know where I can find cheaper more "business" clothes.

I do a combination of a dress and sweater/jacket quite a lot at my job with a business casual dress code and it's worked well for me. I would recommend getting a pair of opaque tights in a neutral color to wear with. Not only will this keep you warm during potentially chilly campus tours but this is a relatively cheap way to class up an outfit.

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