Sharon, a recently retired Army veteran, tells this story about transition wardrobe:
When I left the Army, I had casual clothes and my uniform. As part of my job search, I knew I needed a professional wardrobe. I went to a local woman's clothing store and told the salesperson to set me up with a professional work wardrobe. That day, I left the store with several packages! I thought I was set.
I went on job interviews wearing those beautiful clothes. But they didn't feel like me. I dressed in the outfits exactly as the salesperson at the store had matched them up. Then, I secured a job and didn't feel confident wearing my outfits at the company. I felt like they were more of a costume rather than a wardrobe that felt like me.
Before my first day on the job, I went to another woman's store and picked out my own wardrobe: I chose four skirts (all black), two blazers (one black, one light gray), and four short sleeve dress blouses (two white, two ivory).
I felt more comfortable starting my new job in my new outfits. Things went well for a few weeks until one of my co-workers asked, "Are your black/gray/white suits your new uniform?" In a way, I'd reverted back to what I was most comfortable in – a wardrobe that required very little consideration and effort in the morning as I got dressed.
With that in mind, I still wear my black and gray suits but now I add a necklace, scarf or pin to express some style. I'm a simple person, so the colors and lack of creativity suit me. But I don't want to be seen as "plain" or "boring" so I add some color to show my approachability.
I wish I'd had more guidance about what to wear when taking off my Army uniform and joining the civilian workforce.
What Sharon discovered upon leaving the military, is that in the civilian workforce there are options galore when it comes to wardrobe. Some women prefer pants, some dresses, others wear skirts and blouses, and other women aren't seen without a blazer on. While the choices are invigorating and exciting, the lack of uniform or consistency in wardrobe is a struggle for veterans, men and women alike.
Some guidelines for female veterans to consider when choosing your first post-military wardrobe:
Finding that first wardrobe after the military can be confusing. If you can enlist the support or help of a knowledgeable salesperson, great! Give them background on who you are, the career you're pursuing, what you're comfortable spending, and what you need to feel good in the clothes. For every suggestion or outfit the salesperson presents to you, ask yourself: Does this feel like me? Does this feel appropriate to the work I want to do? Can I build on this outfit over time?