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Style > Fashion

Business What? A Guide to Different Outfits in College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

As a someone who spends most of her time in the liberal arts buildings and classes on campus, I luckily get to wear cute exercise dresses to class most of the time. However, on the off-chance that I have an interview or presentation, this Barbie gets to play dress-up in her business casual. When I first came to TCU, I had no idea what to wear to interviews. I did speech and debate in high school, so luckily, I had some pants and blazers, but I didn’t know how to pair them together. I mean how am I supposed to know the difference between snappy casual and business casual? So, after extensive interviews (I texted my friends and asked what they had been told to wear that wasn’t athleisure), here’s my comprehensive guide to business attire, college edition.

Business Formal

Business formal is going to be your nicest clothes. This is going to be for a final presentation, a final-round interview, or a dinner. This attire usually includes a suit with pants or a skirt, a solid-colored blouse, closed-toe heels, and minimal jewels. Think polished and poised. My go-to college combo is a black pantsuit with a cream blouse and gold jewelry. However, I like a pop of color so I will usually wear my purple heels with this. In my experience, this is uncommon for college students unless you’re a business major. Example below!

Tip! Invest in a well-fitted blazer. You would be surprised at how many things you need a blazer for. A blazer makes a business outfit and can be used as a fun accessory.

business Casual

Business Casual is what I find myself wearing the most when I dress up in college. A little more relaxed than business formal, business casual allows you to place some personal touches on your outfit. This typically looks like dress pants, or a skirt paired with blouses, sweaters, or cardigans. My go-to are pink velvet pants, with a white sweater or blouse depending on the season, open-toed heels, and a fun hair accessory like a pear headband. You can also wear a dress (usually solid but a classy pattern looks great) and depending on the weather, accessorize with a blazer, jacket, or cardigan. Business casual also allows for a wider array of shoes ranging from open-toed heels, to closed toe flats or loafers, and fun jewelry. Example below!

Tip! Find a good pair of loafers. Loafers have become one of my favorite footwears in college. They can be used to elevate a casual outfit and pair perfectly with a good pair of trousers. I love wearing loafers on a day when I have multiple classes and need to dress up for one of them because they are so much easier to wear for me.

SnaPPy Casual

I don’t wear much snappy casual in college, but I have had several friends who wear this attire for the first round of interviews or meetings with professors. This is more of a playful casual look. This look entails jeans or trousers with a blouse or knit top. To accessorize, I recommend a chic blazer, or a jacket. Footwear is way more casual here, often encompassing sneakers, booties, or flats. This look is all about you so I would pair it with your favorite handbag, jewelry, or hair accessory. The one time I wore snappy casual, I wore leather pants, a white knit top, white sneakers, and a pink hair scarf. It was the perfect combination of stylish and professional. Example below!

Tip: Hair accessories!! When I realized that bows were back in style, I almost cried because I was so excited. Hair accessories are the easiest accessory in my opinion to change the vibes of an outfit. Whether it’s a bow, headband, French clip, or another decorative piece, I recommend having at least three staple hair accessories.

smart casual

Smart casual is almost the same as snazzy casual, but where snazzy casual allows for your own fun flair, smart causal sticks with the classics. This look entails jeans or trousers with a blouse or knit top but where it differs is usually in footwear. Pair smart casual with flats, booties, or a more neutral shoe. The emphasis here is on looking put-together and sophisticated but still having that underlying level of comfort.

Tip! Invest in a good pair of neutral sneakers. Neutral sneakers should be white or another basic color and only contain a small pop of color. I wear my sneakers almost every day in college and they are incredibly useful for class or for pairing with pants and a top for a meeting. Also, get a shoe cleaner if you wear them as much as I do.

“Nice” clothes

My least favorite email to get. “Please wear something nice to XYZ.” I had a dinner the other day where I was told to wear something nice and I showed up in business casual paired with sneakers. However, I had another meeting in the fall with the same dress code, and I wore a longer sundress and sneakers (example below!) I think context is huge on this. For a networking event or dinner, I would go either snappy casual or business casual (with sneakers or flats). If it’s a meeting with a professor, I would wear a dress with sneakers or a cute top, jeans, and sneakers. “Nice” clothes really depend on your judgement and what you’re going to.

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Hopefully, you now feel more prepared for meetings in college than I did. If you’re still feeling a bit lost, reach out to upperclassmen in your organization or that you know. Pinterest is also a huge help on inspiration. I type in “category” outfits and see so many outfits I want to replicate!

Hadley Whytlaw is a new writer for the Her Campus at TCU chapter. She loves to write about female empowerment, all of the latest reality show drama, and her music. Beyond Her Campus, Hadley is involved as a photographer and writer for TCU Yearbook, and a member of the Ignite Club which is an organization that works to increase the civic engagement, and leadership skills of its members. She is a freshman at Texas Christian University, double majoring in psychology and political science with a minor in Spanish. In her free time, Hadley enjoys running and pickle ball, and hanging out with friends in Fort Worth’s many parks. She is a reality television aficionado, and a large foodie who wants to try every Fort Worth restaurant.