The first week of 1L is awkward for a number of reasons: everyone wants to be considered “the smart one” of their class, no one fully understands how to brief a case yet, and about half the class will be wearing suits. Full-on suits–ties, cufflinks, undershirts, the works.
It’s difficult to know how to dress when you first start law school, and TV and movies certainly don’t help. Legally Blonde, Suits, and How to Get Away with Murder would have you believe that the inside of a classroom mirrors the inside of a courtroom, with everyone clean, proper, and well-dressed. That’s not entirely accurate.
In reality, law students dress like college students (pajama pants and all) with a few exceptions: during OnCampus Interview (OCI) weeks many students will dress up, individual students might dress up on days they have a presentation or interview, and some even wear a suit to the final! Below are some tips to help you secure a lawyer-ready wardrobe on a law student budget.
1. Goodwill is your new best friend. If there’s one thing Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” contributed to society, it’s an appreciation for Goodwill and other types of resale shops. While there are still quite a few people who avoid shopping secondhand at all cost, resale shops can be an excellent way to buy quality pieces at a low price. While it may take you a few trips (and a few different stores) to find a significant amount of clothes for your wardrobe, the savings are worth it. To find the best deals, consider shopping on a Saturday or any other day the store has a large sale or markdown.
2. And so are TJ Maxx and Marshalls. If you’re still missing some pieces, head to TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or other low-cost retailer. In many cases, the stores carry high-end brands at low prices—and some may even have much-needed professional footwear. As you sort through the racks, try and pick pieces in the same or similar color palette as the items you already have. Neutrals like black, grey, navy blue, and tan are always a safe bet.
3. It’s better to have a few quality pieces than a lot of cheap ones. This may seem counterintuitive to everything said above, but no one really cares about your outfit. As long as you look well-put together, clean, and like you made an effort, no one is really going to notice you’ve worn those black pants for three days in a row. For this reason, it is always better to have a small wardrobe full of quality, well-fitting pieces than a large collection of cheap clothes that barely fit.
4. Get it tailored. All those quality pieces you scoured for, get ‘em tailored. One of the reasons those “Makeover/Before and After” shows make the participant look so drastically different is the work of a skilled tailor. Paying to have your clothes altered may seem like an unnecessary expense—especially where you purchased the clothes for a low price at a resale shop—but it can truly make a difference in how you look, feel, and present yourself. Don’t believe me? Try it with just one or two pieces. Take before and after photos and follow the suggestions of your tailor—they will know how to fit the piece to your body.
Looking like a million bucks doesn’t have to cost a fortune. By following the suggestions above, you can get yourself ready for interviews, presentations, and even future practice on a budget; just be careful not to spill!