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professional wardrobe

How to Build a Professional Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

August 27, 2015 : Carrie Smith - Guest Contributor

Editor’s Note: New job + new salary = professional wardrobe shopping spree! Don’t get caught in that trap. A new gig might be a good reason to invest in new clothes, but follow these tips to do without spending all that hard-earned cash. 

(This post was updated on Nov. 8, 2016.)

So you’re starting a new career and want a wardrobe to match. Awesome! Here are the essentials you’ll need as well as tips on finding quality clothes that last, without breaking bank.

Research The Workplace

When you interviewed for the job, did you get a good sense for what your colleagues wear? If not, do some research. Talk to new coworkers or network with others in a similar field. Knowing whether the office business casual 24/7 or suit-and-tie only will be important in determining where to spend your money.

Get Inspired

One of the most difficult aspects of assembling a professional wardrobe on a budget is coming up with ideas to pull the entire look together. The good news is you can get creative inspiration for free.

Look for outfit ideas on Pinterest or Polyvore, where users create their own inspiration boards and share trending ideas. They have ideas for both men and women that include any type of style you can imagine. This will give you a chance to mix up your wardrobe and make it feel like new without purchasing more clothing.

Invest In the Basics

There are a few basic pieces that can be great to have in your professional wardrobe:

  • A nice suit
  • Neutral blouses and shirts
  • Comfortable but classy shoes
  • Good items for layering

Start with articles of clothing you’ll want to keep and wear over and over again. These will be your go-to picks for work-related events and daily wear. Don’t skimp on investing in quality pieces of clothing!

Sites like BananaRepublic.com and BlueFly.com offer high-quality clothes that cover basics like dresses, blazers and pants, while offering timeless style. Spend the bulk of your budget here, so you can start with a good foundation of professional clothes to build upon.

Find Quality Pieces for Less

Just because you want to invest in quality pieces for your professional wardrobe doesn’t mean you can’t score a good deal. Keep an eye out for well-made articles of clothing that are reduced in price.

A few places to find quality clothing for less include:

  • Gilt.com and Zulily.com are membership-only sites that offer huge discounts on name-brand clothing, accessories and other household items. They offer clothing for men, women and kids at up to 70% off regular retail prices. Best of all, membership is free!
  • Thrift stores are unique places to find vintage or timeless pieces of clothing if you’re willing to spend some time rummaging through the racks. Some well-known examples of thrift stores include Goodwill and The Salvation Army.
  • Consignment shops differ from thrift stores as they usually showcase higher quality pieces of clothing that are like-new or barely used. You can often score an amazing deal on brand-name purses, shoes and other articles of clothing.

 Supplement with Accessories

Nothing dresses up a basic wardrobe like fun accessories. Instead of spending a lot on a fancy blouse or new skirt, pick and choose inexpensive accessories to liven up your wardrobe.

Stores like Forever 21, TJ Maxx and Target have a wide variety of cheap accessories like purses, watches, belts and scarves to compliment your professional wardrobe. Since you won’t be spending a lot of money, you can change out your accessories each season to freshen up your basics.

Building a professional wardrobe doesn’t have to break the bank. Simply use these tips to get the most bang for your buck while looking super stylish.

Carrie Smith - Guest Contributor

Carrie Smith - Guest Contributor

Careful Cents

Carrie is a financial strategist, digital marketer and social media lover who enjoys traveling. She is the founder of Careful Cents, a blog designed to help freelancers, solopreneurs and go-getters how to get out of debt and organize their life, so they can create their dream business.

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