For those new to the workforce, a closet is more likely to be filled with rugged jeans, sweatpants for those long night studies and a concert tee or two from summer breaks. But while you might love these clothes, they’re not going to cut it for your new job.
Even if you have one stellar ensemble for your interviews, you can’t wear it every day. It’s simply not enough. So as you venture out in a new career, it’s time to build a work wardrobe. But before you see your first paycheck, how exactly do you manage that?
Step into your new career looking polished and professional with affordable office attire. Discover how to build a work wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Build Your Wardrobe Gradually
Initially, as you build your wardrobe, go out and purchase the key pieces. Think slacks, pencil skirts, blazers, fitted blouses and a comfortable pair of flats or heels. You may even want to purchase affordable yet quality shapewear to present a more polished silhouette.
While it’s an upfront expense, invest in quality clothes that are going to last. Fast fashion stores might have affordable garments, but their fabrics are prone to pilling, losing buttons or even ripping at the seams. Choose a few rotational pieces to keep on hand and then reward yourself, spending some of your paychecks on more office attire. The beauty of building a wardrobe is that you don’t have to buy it all at once.
Keep It Simple
As you build your wardrobe, consider the style of clothes, but remember: Keep it simple. Avoid trendy patterns or colors, at least for now. You can incorporate them later with accessories, but the point is to purchase the key pieces as mentioned.
Black is timeless and always in style. You’ll come across professional, smart and chic to your colleagues and clients. It also looks amazing with any skin tone. If black is not your thing, think dark navy, neutrals or crisp whites.
When it comes to shoes, be mindful of how long you’ll be on your feet. Do you have to walk to the train and then work? Reconsider those high heels and stick to some flats or at least kitten heels instead.
Lastly, avoid clothes labeled “Dry Clean Only.” Since you’re on a budget, dry cleaning expenses are guaranteed to rack up the cost. Stick to apparel that you can wash at home on a gentle cycle.
Know Where to Find Deals
With an abundance of off-price department stores, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of these deals. Then, there are also outlet stores, which you can find a bargain at, too.
In other words, never pay full price for any piece of your wardrobe. If you find an apparel piece you absolutely love, you can decide to buy it then, or have a little patience and wait for the end of season sales. In the same vein, also shop these end of season sales to be one step ahead of next year. Again, trends change, but if you stick to the basics, you can never go wrong!
If you’re a first-time shopper of an online store, you may even find popup ads with a discount to entice you to be their customer. And if you end up loving the garment you purchased from them, be sure to sign up for their email for flash sales. You’ll usually receive discounts or deals throughout the month and year as well–so keep your eyes peeled for those!
Of course, if no obvious sales are being promoted, you can always try searching for the online shop at Retailmenot, which offers online coupons. Shop It To Me is an app that acts as a free personal shopper, providing alerts on your favorite brands. If you hate the idea of a crowded inbox of multiple brand sale alerts, this is the perfect solution for you!
When it comes to shopping online, the most critical piece of advice is to understand the site’s return policy. And sure, it may be free shipping, which saves you a few bucks, but will you have to pay return shipping? All good questions you need to look up before making a purchase. If it’s unclear, you can usually find a Return Policy listed at the site’s footer.
One way to make your work wardrobe more affordable is by offsetting the costs. Filter through your closet and perform a little KonMari method ritual, sorting through and asking yourself if an item “sparks joy” or if you should bid it farewell.
Once you have a decent stack of clothes, take photos and post them on selling sites such as eBay or thredUP. Not only will you make some extra cash, but you’ll prevent your clothes from potentially ending up in a landfill. The EPA estimated that in 2017, landfills received 11.2 million tons of textiles, most of which were clothes. But by passing that “bad date” dress to someone else who would genuinely enjoy it, your wallet–as well as the Earth–will thank you!
Read the Office
Ever heard of the phrase “read the room?” Well, when you arrive for your first day on the job, read the office. It’s tempting to purchase apparel that is 100 percent as unique as you; however, until you understand the office dynamics and level of professionalism they expect, it’s best to keep it as sophisticated as possible.
After your first week, however, you’ll be able to take note of how others in the office dress. It may be that your colleagues dress down a bit and avoid stuffy attire. At that point, and that point only, can you begin to introduce clothes that represent your personality.
With these tips, you should be able to build a work wardrobe without breaking the bank. It all comes down to seeking out professional yet affordable office attire.
And good luck with your new career! You got this!