(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: Newsroom Fashion

by - May 22, 2015

One of the toughest things for me to do after college was put together a work-appropriate outfit from clothes already hanging in my closet. Let's face it - what you wore to class, for your school's station or even for your internship probably isn't designed for a career.

Putting together a news-appropriate wardrobe can be difficult, especially when you're first starting out in this business. Revamping your closet can be expensive, especially if you don't have a clothing allowance, but it doesn't have to empty your wallet. It's all in how you approach it. I've reached out to my friends in the business and compiled their advice along with my own to offer some tips for dressing professionally without breaking the bank.

Getting started with your wardrobe makeover isn't as simple as heading to the mall or logging onto your favorite store online (I wish). Trust me when I say that you need to have a plan, or rather a budget. Figuring out how much money you can spend before you hit the stores is important. Chances are you're not exactly rolling in money with your first job. That can make building up your professional wardrobe seem like an impossible task financially, but I promise it can be done. I've been building up my professional wardrobe for years. Although I'm in a decent place financially now, it was slow going starting out. Setting aside money for clothes was the only way I was able to buy new pieces. I started out by setting aside $40 per payday, enough for one really nice piece at full retail or several pieces on sale.  (For more tips on budgeting, click HERE.)

Now that you've got a clothing budget figured out, what type of clothes should you be looking for? Most newsrooms are business casual, unless you're on the desk. Women no longer have to wear pants or skirt suits and can ditch the blazers in some places (we won't get into the whole sleeves vs. sleeveless debate), and it's acceptable for men to wear suit separates instead of a matching set, although a former professor of mine says you should always wear a tie. Reporters can even get away with jeans for some assignments. It all depends on your station's dress code. And ladies if you're looking to the section of your closet where your "going out" clothes from college are hanging for inspiration, stop. A pretty good rule of thumb to follow is if you would wear it to a club or bar, it probably isn't work appropriate.

Don't fill your closet with trendy pieces that will go out of style in a few months. Opt instead for classic, timeless pieces that will stand the test of time. Also look for quality pieces that you can wear over and over again without fear of it falling apart in the wash. Those pieces may cost you more up front but it makes sense for the long-term since you won't be constantly replacing things. Also, if you're like me and struggle mixing and matching your wardrobe to create different looks, I recommend checking out the Women's Fashion section on Pinterest and/or following fashion bloggers for inspiration on how to make more of what's in your closet (Check out a few of my favorites here, here and here).

Maybe the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to join your favorite stores' rewards programs. They'll let you know about sales and send you special offers you'd miss out on if you weren't a member. I'm a member of at least 20 rewards programs including The Limited (my fave), JCPenny, Old Navy and KMart/Sears.

I reached out on Facebook to my friends in the business about this topic. Below I've shared their favorite places to shop as well as any advice.

Stephanie: I think Ann Taylor, Loft and New York & Company are good for the young business woman. I think it's pretty appropriate for a wide range of ages.

Aaron: I tell my male students to go to thrift stores and see if they can find blazers in neutral colors that reflect current style (no 70's leisure suits). You can sometimes find suits but traditionally you can pair a black, navy or gray blazer with any variety of slacks which can be found a variety of prices at a variety of locations. The same advice might hold true for women but fashions change so much over the years for women it is hard to find current fashions in most thrift stores. I also tell my seniors to start asking for suits as a graduation present from relatives who don't know what to get you. Just make sure you know your size.

Nate: Kohls for cheap dress shirts in a bunch of colors. Tiecoon.com for $6 ties! They are great quality too!

Marcus: Ross' Dress for Less is a Godsend. Stock up there.

Madeleine: H&M ... Express has good blouses/work pants and their sales are usually pretty good. And well made so it will last.

Katrice: Ross....great for cheap, practical business appropriate sheath dresses.

Kevin: If you know your measurements and do a little seller research, you can score some nice name-brand suits (new with tags) on Ebay. I've bought 3 Jos A. Bank Sig Gold suits (Retail $1295) for $100 unaltered and with the tags. Per Nate, tiecoon is great and so is tiebar.com

Toneshia: I would say for essentials (black suit, grey suit) spend a little more money and shop at stores like Express or Ann Taylor. For your basic dress shirts, blouses, dresses, check places like Ross, Target, Charlotte Russe, Kohls.

Natasha: Ross!!!! And honestly when you first start out if you cannot afford anything expensive check out Goodwill for basics.

Rhiana: You can get some great separates and suit coats on the clearance racks at Macy's!

Jonathan: If you are weird shaped like myself, short with broad shoulders big neck, it's better to be fitted after signing up for Jos A Banks or Men's Warehouse bonuses and line them up with a sale. I got a suit jacket fitted and 7 shirts a pair of pants and a Blazer for cheap. They give you a birthday gift card that will get you a shirt plus buy one get one.

Scottie: Buy suit separates...not suits that way you can mix and match to create more looks with less.

Betsy: BANANA REPUBLIC!!! They have beautiful, well-made clothes & suits, for men AND women, that will hold up for YEARS. They have pieces that are easy to transition from day to night, & they have sales regularly. I love, love, love the BR!!!

What advice or tips would you offer to someone trying to build up a professional news wardrobe?

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