Hey Everyone! This post is the first of a three-part series “Fashionably Lawyered,” that will explore how to dress fashionably on a budget at each point of your professional legal career. I will be discussing how to appropriately dress for law school, interviews, internships and, finally, your first year associate position. I will also be discussing where you can purchase professional clothing and accessories on a budget. So stay tuned so that you can be ready to fashionably slay your way into the legal market.
During orientation week for law school, you probably heard something to the effect of, “you are now about to embark on a journey into the professional world.” In addition to being introduced to your professors and learning about what to expect for your upcoming courses, if your orientation was anything like mine, you may have had an entire session on dressing for success. I recall the student models dressed from head to toe in complete professional attire. Wearing everything from blazers to tailored suits, pencil skirts to button down shirts and dress pants. After watching this showcase, I felt like I had a much better understanding of my expected attire for an interview or law office position. However, I still struggled with the question of how exactly I should dress for my everyday classes, which stationery would be helpful to get me through each day and most importantly, how would I afford it all?
Once you become a law student, dressing for success should become a part of your daily routine. Now I don’t recommend that you wear a suit and tie for class each day. But there is a way that you can look your professional best while remaining comfortably clothed and not breaking the bank. In this piece I will go over how you can dress for success on a budget for your law school classes. I will provide some of my go-to sites where you can grab some of these items for very cheap. I will also be highlighting popular law school accessories that can help you to successfully get through each day and where to get these items on a budget.
How to Dress for Classes
How exactly does one dress their professional best for daily classes without being restricted to a suit and tie? I think the safest answer is, business casual. Business casual attire allows you to be the most flexible, as you will still be professional enough if a recruiter or networking contact is on campus, but also comfortable enough for the long eight-hour study shift you may have in the library after class. You never know who may show up on campus, so be prepared!
For the Women
The key to pulling off a variety of business casual outfits on a budget, is by stacking up on staple wardrobe items that you can frequently interchange. Some good staple items include: casual blazers, cropped pants, A-line/wrap dresses, ¾ blouses or buttoned up shirts, modest skirts and ballet flats.
As you purchase these items remember that you’re not dressing for a job interview, so feel free to turn things up a bit. You can take advantage of those extremely cute linen blazers or even a floral printed cropped pant. Also, by a modest skirt I don’t mean that this skirt needs to be at or below your knee. However, if you do go above the knee try your best to not go more than two inches.
Now keep in mind that in order to interchange these items and essentially “stretch your wardrobe,” it may be best to get some of these staples in plain colors so that a) it’s not as obvious when you repeat the item and b) you can easily pair this item with another piece of clothing. For example, purchasing a black, white or navy blouse allows you to easily pair this item with your cropped pants one day and completely switch up the look by pairing it with a skirt on another day.
For the Men
Some good staples include: slacks, chino shorts, polo shirts, casual blazers, buttoned up shirts, sweaters and boat shoes or loafers. As you grab these items, the same applies to you. Feel free to be a bit more adventurous with the styling of your selections, but still try to purchase more conservative/plain colored items that you can interchange. For example, you can’t go wrong with black, navy or khaki slacks. This is an item that you can frequently interchange with a different colored shirt or sweater.
Where to Locate these Items on a Budget
Now on to the important stuff, where can you get these items? But most importantly where can you get these items for really cheap? It’s already a given that stores like H&M and Forever 21 carry pretty much all of the above mentioned staples at reasonable prices. However, there’s another option that may allow you to snag these items for even cheaper, thrift shopping. This option may be a bit taboo for some people, but if you’re open to exploring a variety of options at low bargain prices, this may be your best choice. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to earn some extra cash or even free clothing by using this option. Both online and local consignment stores, usually allow customers to sell their pre-owned clothing in exchange for cash or to trade in their pre-owned clothing and gain new options from the store. So, as you put together your wardrobe for the upcoming school year, feel free to browse the below online and local consignment options.
Online Consignment Stores
Online consignment stores have recently become an extremely popular option for purchasing clothing. If you have a small budget, stores such as thredup.com and swap.com sell many of the staples I have listed above for under $15. Check out this navy A-line dress. Pairing this option with a cardigan and ballet flats would make for a perfect business casual look. This casual men’s blazer for $11 would certainly be a show-stopper and these cropped Ann-Taylor pants at only $15.99 are certainly a steal.
Local Consignment Stores
Local consignment stores are also a great thrifty option. These stores sometimes offer excellent business casual deals and they’re also my go to spot when I’m cleaning out my closet and looking to make some extra cash. My personal favorite is Buffalo Exchange. If you trade in your pre-owned clothes at this store, they offer a pretty nice store cash incentive. I oftentimes walk out of this store with several pieces of clothing while not spending a cent. There are also other options such as Plato’s Closet and Goodwill stores. I have surprisingly found some good clothing options at my local Goodwill store. These pieces may require some alteration but it’s definitely worth it for the low price point.
Must-Have Accessories on a Budget
Looking your professional best for law school is certainly not complete without the right accessories. By law school accessories, I’m referring to stationery such as notebooks, highlighters and even backpacks that you may utilize throughout your day. Below are some great ways to get these items on a budget.
Notebooks – If you opt to handwrite your notes during law school, having the right notebook is of key importance. One excellent option is the Circa notebook. These notebooks utilize a system that allows you to be flexible by moving around pages and interchanging notebook covers. Although some of the covers for this system can be pretty pricey, one great hack is to interchange the Circa notebook covers with the more affordable Arc system covers provided by Staples. This option allows you to frequently switch up your notebook covers at a much lower price.
Highlighters, Colored Pens, Tabs – I highly recommend purchasing highlighters, colored pens and notebook tabs in bulk at the beginning of the school year. You can get this option on Amazon or your local Staples. Once you begin briefing cases and outlining for final exams you will use these items in excess. Therefore, it works out a lot cheaper to have them on deck in the beginning.
Whether you prefer backpacks, a rolling bag or an oversized tote, having the right bag for law school is essential. Considering the fact that your case books feel like they weigh 100 lbs each, you will need a bag that’s extremely sturdy and large enough to hold your case books and laptop. As you think about purchasing the right bag, you should consider trading as an option. One excellent way to get the perfect professional bag on a budget is to trade in your old college backpack and get a new discounted option at ebags.com. This site allows you to trade in your old bags in exchange for a $25 credit that you can use towards a new purchase. They offer a variety of bag options that would be certain to fit your preferred law school style.
Dressing for law school can be somewhat confusing. I hope this post at least gave you a few ideas that you can add to your wardrobe.
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