Made over: From college to career path

Ellen Warren

Answer Angel

March 2, 2012


In today's rotten economy, college kids in their sweatshirts and yoga pants need all the help they can get to nail a job or an internship. For suggestions on going from slob to sleek, I talked to stylists and job experts, then collected firsthand tips by tracking three young people through their transformations. Here's how you can achieve a near-miraculous makeover.

The look: Initial job interview

Caitlyn Schmid, 21


"I wear a T-shirt and jeans most of the time." No makeup, and she hadn't had her hair cut in six or seven months.


Have you ever looked this professional? "No!"

•You can't go wrong with traditional business attire: a suit (for men and women).

•Invest the time to try on many, many options at the store. (She tried on nine.)

•Cover up; no cleavage or bare arms

•Department store personal shoppers can help, and they're usually free; call for an appointment.

•Makeup (with a light touch) shows you care about your appearance.

•Jewelry is good — but not flashy or jangly.

•Don't show your toes: No sandals; choose closed-toe basic pumps.

•Invest in alterations, especially for pants and sleeve length.

•Clean, manicured hands with no or classic (not bright) polish.

•Add a business case or no-logo tote to complete the look, hold your resume.

Her new outfit: Jacket, $128 reduced to $24.99; pants, $79.90; top, $39.90, all the Limited, thelimited.com; necklace and earrings, $25.65, Charter Club, Macy's, macys.com. Her own shoes. Total: $170.44

The look: Second interview

Rianne Coale, 20


"I'm a dancer, so I usually have my leotard on. I throw on yoga pants and my sweatshirt."


"I wanted to look more mature because I do have braces, so pretty much anything you put me in it's, 'Oh, she's 14.' The shorter hair makes me look a little older."

•Do your homework online (employee photos?) or in person to see what office wear is acceptable. Dress as formally as your would-be boss or the management team.

•Keep it professional and polished, but it's OK to show a little wardrobe personality.

Choose mix-and-match separates for versatility.

•Stay away from easy-to-wrinkle fabrics such as linen.

•Belting a cardigan gives it a more professional look.

•No minis. Skirts should be at or just above the knee.

•Hosiery is a must.

•Use a T-shirt or cami to fill in a revealing neckline.

•Scrutinize yourself in the mirror — front and back — before leaving the house.

•When choosing prints, keep them muted or classic.

•Tattoos should be covered; remove facial piercings..

•No perfume, but don't forget lipstick or gloss for a finished look.

Her new outfit: Cardigan, $59.50; T-shirt, $29.50; skirt, $89.50; belt, $34.50; necklace, $49.50, all Banana Republic, bananarepublic.com. Her own shoes and tights. Total: $262.50

The look: Got the internship

Juan "Gabe" Perez, 19


"I look like a scum. Pretty much lazy, shaggy."


"My friends walked right past me. They didn't know it was me."

•Shave! Or if you have a beard, trim it neatly.

•Look well-groomed; get a haircut.

Unless it's a highly creative job, flip-flops, jeans and gym shoes are out.

•Tuck in your shirt (men and women).

•Details count. Polished shoes, pressed shirt and pants; a belt.

•Suit and tie for the interview but then dress like your co-workers.

•If pants touch the ground, get them hemmed (most dry cleaners can help).

•Shirts look best when professionally laundered.

•Tattoos should be covered; remove facial piercings.

•When shopping, always ask if there's a discount with your student ID.

His new outfit: Pants, $98.50; shirt, $79.50; reversible black/brown belt, $59, all Banana Republic. His own shoes. Total: $237