What to Wear: Graduate School

What to Wear: Graduate School

Katie is about to embark on a big city adventure:

Here’s the scoop: May 26th, I start my Masters in Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University. I grew up in New Mexico, went to college in San Diego, put in some urban/euro time in Berlin, and am now back in New Mexico.

All of my jobs since undergrad have involved fieldwork, meaning jeans and hiking boots. Needless to say, I love the outdoors, am rather low maintenance, and have a pretty down to earth style (adore Keri Russell and that post of yours). Jeans, solid shirts, and fun, unique accessories have been my non-work tune. However, I’d like to think that I’m not totally inept at whipping up some decent outfits, but I need “looking cute and grown-up style endurance” as opposed to the occasional chance I get to wear something other than field clothes. I’ve got a few nice pieces, but they are more geared towards winter. In the summer, I’ve tended to just run around in flip flops or a long sleeve shirt to fend off the sun.

SO, what the heck is a girl to do for a) my first day of grad school (plus it’s Ivy League. Yikes!), b) New York, and c) an urban summer. Talk about a few things foreign.

I’ve got blonde hair, blue eyes, and olive coloring; I’m 24 years old, 5’5″, size 6, pretty straight-waisted and pretty intimidated by Manhattan and grad school, let alone the combination. You’ve seen Sabrina, right, original or remake? Where she goes off for a year and comes back fabulous, stylish, and that much wiser? Adored that film growing up. Well, my style certainly matured after living in Europe for a year, where I picked up most of those nice winter-y pieces, but I didn’t come back quite as chic as Miss Hepburn and just haven’t had much practice at dressing like a grown up. That’s where you come in!

Would you come up with a first day of school outfit that incorporates some good staples to wear into the season? Or cover some must-have pieces instead? Outfits for the first week have to be totally pre-meditated and in my suitcase as I’ll be at out of town the weekends before and after I start (for a graduation and wedding, both in NM. Yes, May=hectic). Oh right, and I’d be more than happy to make some solid investments for long-term pieces but am on a budget. No fashion stimulus package from this kid.

Doesn’t she sound like such a great person? If she were moving to San Francisco, I would totally invite her over for a welcome-to-the-city slice of cake:

Blazer – In super versatile dark denim from Club Monaco. A classic piece that you can wear with tons of things for many years.
Dress – A little black dress with a little draping detail. When it is cold, throw a long sleeved shirt underneath and wear tights with boots. When it is hot, pair it with a pair of sandals and some sunblock.
Necklace – Wearing your favorite hometown turquoise will be interpreted as boldly independent and stylish.
Scarf – Always helps me feel polished.
Shoes – Wedges from Kenneth Cole are professional with a fun twist thanks to the ankle strap. They’ll be comfortable but you’ll probably want to toss a pair of flip flops or flats in your purse for long hauls.
Sunglasses – Aviators.
Purse – From Urban Outfitters. Big enough to carry your books and pens.

Focus on classics as you build your wardrobe. Add a good pair of jeans, a great pair of trousers, a pencil skirt, a versatile belt, a white blouse and some colorful pieces and you’ll be ready for anything the city throws at you.

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There are 12 comments for this article
  1. AEO at 11:41 am

    Great girl, great post, great choices!!

    Good work on this on Emily!

  2. D&D at 3:55 pm

    as a nycer – who hangs out with many a grad students at columbia – this iws all you’ll need to fit right on in:

    a jersey dress from american apparel
    low top converse sneaks
    gray skinny jeans
    v neck tshirts

    and please check out beacons closet in williamsburg as soon as you arrive. great finds.

    and if you want to look polished, heed emilys advice! otherwise your summer wardrobe will be super casual and comfy!

  3. Katie at 4:38 pm

    Woohoo- thanks, Emily! That's definitely what I had in mind, only better. My sister will be going out of state for college so we already had a Santa Fe plaza jewelry shopping trip planned. And I'll have to check out Williamsburg altogether, D&D. Thanks!!

  4. kt at 9:21 am

    i’d say you can’t go wrong with dark or trouser jeans. nice accessories such as a print scarf, chunky necklace or sassy belt couldn’t hurt. and confidence goes a long way. have fun and good luck!

  5. Beth at 8:07 am

    Regarding “but you’ll probably want to toss a pair of flip flops or flats in your purse for long hauls,” you will probably learn quickly that unless you are taking taxis right and left (most grad students aren’t), then shoes you can walk long distances in become really important. Fashion and function are definitely in conflict in NYC.

  6. jaylista at 9:36 pm

    Also keep in mind when you head to NYC in September it will still be pretty warm so definitely pack some lighter weight clothes.

  7. Bethany Fischer at 10:21 pm

    I just finished grad school at Columbia and I was intimidated in the beginning, too. It’s an awesome place, but just keep reminding yourself that you belogn there. On the clothes front, as long as you don’t show up in a Columbia logo sweatshirt with a bunch of logo pens and notebooks like some geek in my class, you’ll be fine. 🙂

  8. Anonymous at 9:47 pm

    Loved the post!!! I was looking for grad school attire too. Hey, but I'm not an ivy-leager 🙂 so that makes my job a little easier 😉