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Wardrobe ‘Basic Load’

Male

  • Navy blue blazer*
    • Single breasted
  • Gray or Navy wool two-piece suit*, 2 ea.
    • Go with classic 2-button single breasted jacket
    • Middle or side vents on the jacket
    • Solid or pin-stripe pattern (no pencil or chalk stripes)
    • 1 ¼” or 1 ½” cuffs on the pants
    • Leave ¼” space at the end of the jacket sleeves to allow the shirt sleeve to show slightly
  • Khaki dress trousers* (not casual pants – there is a difference), 2 ea.
  • White cotton button down dress shirts*, 2 ea.
    • Long sleeve, collared only
  • Black or burgundy leather shoes and a matching color leather belt, 1 pair
    • Shined shoes will distinguish you; this is a skill learned in the military that you should continue to hone
    • Belt should not show signs of wear or weight gain or loss
  • Rep stripe ties, 2 ea.
    • Choose strong colors that complement your suit and blazer
    • When wearing, the tip of the tie should end at the top or middle of the belt buckle
  • Solid ties, 2 ea.
    • Choose strong colors that complement your suit and blazer
    • When wearing, the tip of the tie should end at the top or middle of the belt buckle
  • Undershirts, 4 ea.
    • Crew neck (wear with or without a tie)
    • V-neck (only wear without a tie)
  • Over-the-calf dress socks, 2 pairs per color of pants
    • Color should match the color of the pants with which you are wearing them
  • Accessories
    • Dark brown leather wallet, one each
    • White cotton handkerchiefs, one dozen
    • Jewelry – the less, the better. Try to limit to a wedding band and/or a class ring (if applicable)
    • Black umbrella or raincoat

Female

  • Navy blue blazer*
    • Single breasted
  • Dress pants*, 2 ea.
    • Choose from khaki, beige, navy, black, or gray colors
  • Black, Gray, Navy, or Beige wool or wool blend suit*, 2 ea.
    • Conservatively cut
    • Single-breasted
    • Middle or side vents on the jacket
    • Medium lapels
    • Solid or pin-stripe pattern (no pencil or chalk stripes)
    • Matching suit skirt or suit pants
      • Skirt length to the knee
      • Pants may be cuffed or plain
      • Pleats or plain front
  • Cotton button down dress shirts*, 2 ea.
    • Solid pattern
    • Choose from white, pale blue, beige, or light yellow colors
  • Silk crew neck blouse, 2 ea.
    • Solid pattern
    • Choose from white, pale blue, beige, or light yellow colors
  • Close-toed, black leather pumps with low-medium narrow heel, 1 pair
  • Leather belt
  • Sheer, nude or black hose, 5 pair
  • Accessories
    • Black leather purse or clutch to match your shoes
    • Silk scarf that compliments your chosen blazer and suit colors
    • Black umbrella or raincoat
    • Amount and type of jewelry should be minimal, understated, and complement your attire

*Use a reputable tailor to ensure proper fitting on these items. The tailor may or may not work in the store where you purchased the clothing. This is important because the proper fit of the clothing says more about you than the relative quality of the clothing. Get measured for all clothing (including the ties; some of you may require extra-long ties) before you purchase them. And once the clothing has been fitted by the tailor, make sure you try the clothing on again to ensure a good fit before taking ownership of the clothes. It is a good idea to have a knowledgeable civilian accompany you on your trips to both try on the clothing and for the final fitting. Before wearing the clothes, make sure that all are cleaned, neatly pressed, and devoid of any stains or loose strings (in the Army, we called these ‘ranger ropes’). Also make sure that any pockets or vents that were intended to be opened, actually are (many off-the-rack suits come with vents and pockets sewn shut).

An additional note on accessories for both men and women: Depending on the type of role you are targeting, your wardrobe should also include a leather folio of some sort, a nice pen and pencil set, and a nice computer bag, legal satchel, tote, or briefcase of some sort. The quality of these items should increase with the level of the role to which you are applying. JMOs and NCOs may do just fine with standard nylon. Career military professionals would be wise to invest in higher-end leather. If you wear a watch, make it plain and nondescript; career military professionals may elect for a slim gold-colored watch. If you wear glasses, choose from professional-looking frames that are either black, brown, or tortoiseshell in color. Wire rims or rimless frames are also acceptable. Avoid sunglasses or tinted lenses that would obscure others from seeing your eyes. To some, this advice may sound incredibly old fashioned today. But the higher up you get in the organization, the more these things matter.

If you must travel for an interview, men should pack the combination of the above ‘basic issue’ clothing items that corresponds to the type of dress your intelligence has identified as being required. Casual dress would mean a button-down shirt (with undershirt) and khakis. Business casual dress would mean the same coupled with the blue blazer and with or without a tie (technically, either is fine but I would lean towards including the tie; let your intelligence about the organization’s culture be your guide). Business formal dress means a suit, tie, and button-down shirt with undershirt. Women’s dress should parallel this guidance, but with the following exception: When the occasion calls for men to wear ties, women have two additional options: (1) Wear a button-down shirt with the top button either buttoned up with a scarf or unbuttoned with a necklace, or (2) Wear a crew neck blouse.

[1] See: John T. Molloy, John T. Molloy’s New Dress for Success (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1988). See also: Kim Johnson Gross & Jeff Stone, Dress Smart Women: Wardrobes That Win In the New Workplace (New York, NY: Warner Books, 2002).

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