By Susan Johnson
From sensible heels to pencil skirts, stocking your wardrobe with affordable buys for the office can be done. With some time and a little imagination, people will be describing your work-wear as hip, reliable and interesting! Read on for five ways to make the most of your closet and snag budget friendly office attire.
1. Shop your own closet
Photo by …love Maegan from Flickr
Chances are you already have tons of great, work-friendly clothes in your closet. The more you can master the art of mixing and matching your wardrobe, the further your fashion dollars will stretch. For example, try layering a sleeveless dress over a long-sleeve blouse or pair an embellished skirt over a basic LBD — all it takes is a little creativity. Maybe you’ve got a pair of shoes that can be shined and polished like new—don’t underestimate the clothes you already have and love. If you’re really interested in being more original in how you dress for work, check out Stylitics, an app that helps you organize better to keep things fresh.
2. Power of accessories
Photo by …love Maegan from Flickr
Generally pretty inexpensive, accessories can spice up any penny pincher’s wardrobe. Jewelry and scarves can completely change an outfit and make it pop with personality. An outfit is never truly complete without sprinkling on a few accessories (bracelets, watches, rings). For an online tutorial on the versatility of scarves and how to tie the twisted necklace, the side knot or the classic knot, visit Nordstrom.com. Or, try sporting a statement necklace over a basic tee for an instant yet work-appropriate update.
3. Make a list
If you must go shopping, make a list before you leave the house. Since you most likely have limited time and budget, stick to your list and be ruthless about quality and usability. Always choose quality over quantity. Instead of buying cheap clothes that fall apart after one wash, go for the designer duds on sale. Just remember, if that beautiful jacket doesn’t match anything in your closet—it’s not a bargain! Below are a few suggestions:
- Consignment shops: Try and hit locations in wealthy neighborhoods. Typically, wealthy people have better stuff to give away. Browse for jackets, bottoms and button-fronts. Call ahead to find out if they have a good selection of office wear because some shops will avoid it altogether.
Photo by pixeljones from Flickr
- Affordable retailers: Browse clothing and women’s shoes at places like Target. If an affordable store has a designer with a budget line coming in, run to the nearest location. Odds are, you’ll find something to add into your office mix.
- Mid-level department store: These retailers usually have big clearance racks to browse, but skip the overpriced merch at the front of the store.
Photo by Phillie Casablanca from Flickr
- Off-price retailers: Meccas for designer goods that couldn’t sell in their department store counterparts. Luckily, last season’s suit looks very much like this season’s classic. Although this option isn’t necessarily cheap, it’s still cheaper than paying full price at a department store.
Photo by ldhren from Flickr
Ask, how many different outfits can you create with this new article of clothing? What’s the cost per wear ratio? When shopping for work-appropriate “building blocks” (pants, skirts and jackets), it’s best to stick with a neutral palette (black, navy blue, gray, tan, cream and white) and classic shapes. Then, you can choose from a wider range of complementary colors for your shirts. Figure out which colors complement your skin tone best (take a quiz at Seventeen.com) and stock up on solids since there’s less chance someone will notice you’re repeating ‘fits. If you love a good print though, look for muted tones and smaller-scale patterns.
5. Care for your new wardrobe
Treat your old and new pieces well and they’ll turn out to be a great investment for your career.
Susan Johnson is a personal shopper who enjoys helping people make fashion choices.