When I first started working and realized that I didn’t have a week’s worth of outfits to wear to the office, I panicked a little. I work in a fairly conservative environment where the dress code is business professional or business casual. So I went to the mall and picked up everything I could find in my size (which is challenging because of my petite frame). In the end I had a pile of hodgepodge of clothes in various colors, prints, and styles.
Once I actually started working I realized that I did it wrong in my panic, and needed to take a step back with my wardrobe. It can be extremely difficult to shop for work clothes on a budget but I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks on how to make your wardrobe versatile, stylish, and work appropriate.
1) Start with the basics before getting tempted by anything too crazy. Basics include:
- black pencil skirt
- 2-3 soft blouses (think silk shells, flowy tops, and button downs)
- black cardigan
- black blazer
- 1-2 straightforward dresses (my favorite are a-line / sheath)
This is where I would have invested a little bit more, buying a really nice blazer from J.Crew or a Theory pencil skirt. Start here so you have a week or two’s worth of outfits and then gradually build your wardrobe in the first 6 months of your job.
2) Find shoes that are comfortable first and then stylish. The biggest mistake I made was to buy heels that ultimately pinched my toes, hurt to stand / sit in for 10+ hours and cost way too much. My favorite pair of shoes right now are very similar to these black wedges.
3) Get creative with layering and jewelry. This is where I really feel like I am able to have fun in an otherwise simple wardrobe. Sometimes this means wearing a button down under a dress and a belt over it. Or statement necklaces paired with a blazer. My favorite in the winter is to wear tall boots with my outfits.
4) Lastly, know when and where to shop sales. Majority of my work clothes I buy on sale and that’s mainly because at $100 / dress I don’t have a lot of runway with my expenses. My favorite times to shop in store are in February / March when winter clearance hit its peak and October / November when summer clearance is peaking. It’s during these sales that I’ve often picked up Banana Republic dresses for $25 a pop and shoes from Cole Haan for $30. Another place I really like to shop sales is ASOS and the Spring app. ASOS requires some creativity for what is work appropriate vs. not but I have found some really fun pieces that I love to wear to work.
I am 2 years into building my work wardrobe and while there has been money wasted, I feel good about where I am right now. The 3 biggest questions I ask myself before buying something are:
1) Is it comfortable?
2) Would I wear this piece for non-work events? (aka on a Saturday with jeans or for a nice dinner)
3) Do I have something like it? If not, can I wear it with a few things in my wardrobe.
Pick a place to start and work your way up to a built out work wardrobe. If there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that I wear 20% of my closet 80% of the time, so shopping more carefully has become a priority. Any tips or ideas you’ve found helpful for workplace outfits?