It is difficult for college students to begin to develop a professional wardrobe. There is no class or seminar that will break down what business casual truly entails. In addition, college students do not have the budget to purchase a ton of new professional clothing. From a nice business suit that can be worn during interviews to different selections of business casual attire, expenses add up. At the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), our staff is working to provide students with the opportunity to learn about and gain access to business attire before graduating and entering the workforce. For the past few years, our office has run a Business Attire Fashion Show with the help of IUP students who serve as models. This semester, we are also offering our third Suit-Up event - a partnership with JCPenney in which students have the chance to purchase discounted business attire. As our passion is to equip and empower students with the resources necessary to be successful citizens, our hope is that these opportunities prepare students to take the next step in their professional career.
Since it typically takes about seven seconds or less to form a first impression, it is vital to ensure that your outfit is on point in order to nail that first introduction. One of the ways that the CPDC at IUP educates students on proper attire is through our annual Spring Business Attire Fashion Show. There is no better way to demonstrate appropriate, professional attire than having students volunteer their time to get dressed up and show off their outfits for their peers. To educate students on the various types of workplace attire, our student models showcase both “bad” and “good” examples of formal, business, interview, business casual, and office social event attire. Our goal is to give clarification on these different categories and prepare students for a wide variety of events they may encounter during their career.
In order to make this event more inclusive, we removed all genders from the outfits and categories. When describing an outfit that a model is wearing, we are refraining from using gender specific terms for each outfit. When providing students with descriptions of each category, we developed a list of traditional masculine and feminine outfits, and we combined them into one gender-neutral outfit description. Doing this allowed a student to pick what type of clothing they would be most comfortable in. In addition, as we began to review the categories that students would sign up for, we were conscious of including multiple options in contrast to listing specifically a pencil skirt or khaki pants. Instead, we included what multiple business casual outfits might look like, giving the students the flexibility to decide what they personally feel comfortable wearing in front of others.
As we collected information from student models, we asked them to provide their preferred pronouns to ensure inclusivity as our department announces models at the event. When a student walks down the runway, we will be introducing them with their name, pronouns, class year, major and a fun fact about them. This provides more personal information to allow the audience to connect with the student volunteers. In addition, throughout the event, there will be a PowerPoint slideshow displaying other examples of these categories. Similar to the PowerPoint, we will be providing the audience with a pamphlet with written examples of appropriate attire so that students have something to refer to in the future.
For the past two years, we have been fortunate to partner with JCPenney in the Indiana Mall to provide realistic and affordable clothing options. JCPenney will be dressing our student models who are demonstrating outfits that are appropriate to wear in various settings. Following our Business Attire Fashion Show taking place on Monday, February 11th, JCPenney will be hosting our Suit-Up event for IUP students on Sunday, February 17th. During the Suit-Up event, JCPenney will close the store to the public, and IUP students will have exclusive access to the entire store. At this time, all business attire will be discounted at 40%. In addition, there will be pop-up dressing room tents that allow students to try on clothing and personally get fitted by the staff. Various IUP faculty and staff members will be helping students by providing professional advice on attire.
As the CPDC’s sixth annual Business Attire Fashion Show approaches we are excited to see the adjustments we have made to ensure we are making this a positive learning experience for our students. We look forward to sharing our ideas and experiences with you in upcoming professional development events and conferences.