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Grad Guide: 5 Post-College Essentials

May 18, 2017 | Filed in: Your Closet

‘Tis the season for college graduations, meaning ‘tis also the season for dispensing post-college life advice. While apartment hunting and interview prepping may be top-of-mind for newly-minted alumni, we’re here to help with a similarly daunting task: the initial steps of building a work wardrobe. Rather than stocking up on whatever’s cheapest, the key is to strategically invest in a few classic pieces that will give you years of mileage and value—they might cost more up front, but the price per wear (the cost of the item, divided by the number of times you wear it) will be much lower over time.

We tapped five MM stylists (all recent college grads themselves) to talk about the one starter item that got them through their first year in “the real world.” (Hint: These items make terrific graduation presents, but if you’re feeling extra generous, might we suggest gifting a Bento Box?)

Audrey: the Etsuko dress


Audrey wears the Etsuko dress in black.

Why: “As soon as I started my job at MM, I knew the Etsuko would be a great investment. It’s kind of famous in our office—it’s one of our oldest styles, and it’s still our best-selling dress. When it comes to creating a work wardrobe, it’s an ideal building block. It’s versatile; you can wear it in business formal and business casual offices, and the built-in belt means you don’t have to worry about accessorizing.”

Price per wear: “I wear my Etsuko every other week at least. The dress costs $195, which breaks down to $7.50 per wear over the course of one year. And if you stress sweat on the job (it’s bound to happen), the Etsuko is machine-washable, so you’ll save big-time on dry cleaning costs.”

Wardrobe-building wisdom: “For days where you forget to set your alarm clock and need to get ready in a pinch, try to have a dress or two in your repertoire that you can throw on and run out the door. Dresses with sleeves, like the Etsuko, are no-brainer, one-and-done pieces: You don’t have to spend time coordinating a matching top or accessories.”

Sara: the Morandi 2.0 sweater


Sara wears the Morandi 2.0 sweater in almond over the Gloria top in black and the Harlem skirt in navy.

Why: “I used to think of oversized sweaters as frumpy, but once I started working in an office all day, I changed my mind—they’re essential! Everyone in the MM office wears the Morandi 2.0—it’s the unofficial uniform around here. At my first job, every woman had some sort of jacket or sweatshirt at her desk because the office AC was so strong. I actually kept a blanket on my chair, but you can’t exactly walk into a meeting with a blanket; I wish I’d had the Morandi 2.0 sooner.”

Price per wear: “I wear my Morandi 2.0 two to three times per week. At $265, this ends up costing about $2.55 per wear over the course of a year. It has a permanent spot on my desk chair, so unless I’m wearing long sleeves already, I know I’m going to put it on at some point during the day.”

Wardrobe-building wisdom: “Internally, we joke about worshipping our desk sweaters, but it’s so true: A comfortable, versatile layer that can transition from conference room to happy hour will be the heroine of your work wardrobe. I’ve worn my Morandi 2.0 straight from the office to dinner with friends more times than I can count.”

Elecia: the Aditi dress


Elecia wears the Aditi dress in crackle with the Crossover belt.

Why: “The Aditi dress was the opposite of an impulse purchase: I admired it from afar for a few months, and finally, my fellow stylist Jessica told me to stop talking about it and just buy it. I was worried I would only be able to wear the printed fabric in the fall and winter, but once I tried it on, I realized the fabric is breathable enough to wear year-round. It works great for the office, but I’d also wear it to an alumni event or dinner at a nice restaurant.”

Price per wear: “I wear my Aditi dress once every two weeks. At $240, this breaks down to about $9.23 per wear over a one year period.”

Wardrobe-building wisdom: “When you invest in a piece, make sure you can get a lot of mileage out of it no matter the season. I wear the Aditi on its own in the summer, and over tights when it’s cold. Also, make sure it’s something that gives you confidence.”

Maddie: the Sant Ambroeus jardigan


Maddie wears the Sant Ambroeus jardigan in black with the Emma dress in cherrywood.

Why: “The Sant Ambroeus helps me continue to get mileage out of my pre-MM wardrobe. Before I started my job, I owned a lot of casual garments, like tank tops and jeans, and needed a more formal piece to make these outfits office-appropriate. The Sant Ambroeus is perfect: I can layer it over a dress on days when I’m dressing up, but it looks just as good with the sleeveless tops I already own. The Sant Ambroeus is my go-to when I’m running late and am scrambling to put together an outfit. It elevates your whole outfit, no matter what you’re wearing underneath. Since it’s wrinkle-resistant, I often just ball it up and stuff it in my bag for the commute, and put it on when I get to the office.”

Price per wear: “I wear my Sant Ambroeus once a week, and at $195, it costs $3.75 per wear over a one year span.”

Wardrobe-building wisdom: “Don’t buy things that aren’t your style just because you think they’re work-appropriate—you won’t end up wearing them. It’s much better to invest in dependable, high-quality, comfortable, versatile pieces you can grab in a pinch, and that you actually like!”

Annie: the Rachel dress

Annie wears the Rachel dress in boysenberry.

Why: “Fact: I hated the Rachel dress when I first tried it on. Compared to what I wore in college, it felt overly formal. The more I saw other people wear it, though, I realized it embodies a true power dress. When you’re starting a new job, it’s easy to agonize over whether you’re overdressed or underdressed, but the Rachel lets you focus on work itself, rather than your outfit.”

Price per wear: “I wear my Rachel dress once every two weeks. The dress costs $240, which breaks down to $9.23 per wear over the course of one year.”

Wardrobe-building wisdom: “Rather than spending your money on trendy pieces that you might not be able to wear a few months from now, look for timeless, classic styles. Not only will you get more long-term use out of them, but you can get away with wearing them to the office every week.”

Photographs by Yan Ruan.

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Alexandra Johnson is the brand manager at MM.LaFleur, where she started out as a summer intern. Her happy place is the room housing Monet's Water Lilies at MoMA. Read more of Alexandra's posts.

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