It’s Spring Break this week, and I’m on a serious cleaning kick. With a cross-state move coming up in less than four months, it’s all about minimization. Clothing, papers, kitchen gadgets, toiletries–anything superfluous has been trashed or donated to Goodwill. My cupboards and closets look downright bare, like I should toss them a towel for modesty.
My inspiration is this book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Author Marie Kondo is an organizational consultant in Japan. Her philosophy is about surrounding yourself with things that “spark joy,” and aggressively purging anything that doesn’t. As someone who tends to hold on to things for overly logical reasons–“Oh, I couldn’t possibly donate that sweater I never wear, it was too expensive”–I found her approach strangely freeing. Gather all your things together and look at them one by one. If you don’t love it, thank it for serving a purpose in your life and let it go. It may sound corny, but I thanked that sweater for teaching me that the color grey makes me look like a corpse, and tossed it in the donation bag with no regrets. Magic, indeed.
As I trimmed my closet down to the essentials, I discovered that I had way more clothing than I actually needed. Two years ago I agonized over creating the perfect MBA wardrobe, and then only wore about half of it on a regular basis. If I had a time machine I would go back and teach my two-years-younger self a few things.
- Fit is everything. B-school students are placed in all sorts of agonizing situations on a daily basis, so we need all the confidence we can get. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit you like a glove, or be sure to get it custom tailored. I bought nice things that I never wore simply because they didn’t fit me well.
- Don’t be afraid of color. In a sea of grey, navy, and black, a pop of pink or green makes a big statement. Keep your suits neutral and then your blouses can be as wild as you are comfortable with.
- Dresses. This one surprised me, because I was never a dress-wearing gal before business school. But after months of living in androgynous trousers and jackets, it felt nice to be a little feminine. Dresses are versatile (pair with a jacket for business professional or a sweater for business casual), comfortable, and let’s face it, kinda hot. Plus they’re super fun to shop for.
- Pantyhose. Hey, if it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s good enough for me. Pantyhose makes your legs look smooth, keeps you warm in air-conditioned rooms, and covers for you when you don’t have time to shave. Truly a lady’s best friend.
- OMG, Sweaters. Maybe this is just me, but I am always cold. Air conditioners turn on full blast and tiny drafts turn into arctic gusts when I enter a room. So needless to say, I bring a sweater to school every day.
- Only wear shoes that make your feet sigh with delight. If women ran the world, all networking events would be conducted sitting while admiring each other’s cute five inch heels. Unfortunately b-school demands a lot of standing and walking, so wear the most comfortable shoes you can find. If they give you blisters or slide off your heels or pinch your toes, kindly thank them for their service and let them go.
- The rest of your wardrobe is fine. While professional clothing is important for business school, you’re actually going to be wearing normal clothes about 90% of the time. Don’t go overboard.
- You only need the following: 2 suits (one black, one grey), 4 blouses, 3 cardigans, 2 pairs of heels (1 black, 1 nude), 1 pair of boots, 2 pairs of pantyhose, 1 purse large enough to hold a padfolio, and as many dresses as you can justify.
There you go, two-years-younger self. Everything you need to know about dressing for success. You’ll thank me later.