..7 Tips for Building Your Work Wardrobe on A Budget

April 6, 2017

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Let me begin this post by saying that when I say "budget" here I mean truly on a MF BUDGET. As in - keeping Top Ramen in the back of the pantry just in case, knowing exactly how many dranks you can buy yourself at the bar before you have to go home, learning how to trim your own hair (I did this for longer than I would like to admit) - kind of budget. I see bloggers make these lists all the time and once saw a certain glam gal put a $140 dollar pair of shoes on her list, which just...no biach...no. Home girl clearly did not have to buy herself two business suits for work and pay rent before her first paycheck even rolled in from her first non-profit job (ahh twenty-two was a magical year). I may be bougier than I once was but old habits die hard and I am still a girl that loves a bargain. Here I bestow my knowledge on to my girls out there who have ever had #toomuchmonthattheendofthemoney.

1. Keep a running list of things you need and a secondary list of things that are not necessities on your "wishlist." I do this to this day even though I have a pretty extensive work and play wardrobe.

Things that are on my "need" list are things I would reach for in the morning but didn't have, like a plain white blouse, professional suit for an interview, good fitting pair of jeans for "casual Friday" etc. The things on my "wishlist" are things I could manage without but wanted to replace or upgrade in the near future like my nude pumps that were getting old or the out of date orange leather bag that was no longer in style but still had utility left. 

2. Visit the stores you like often and really know your sizes because most bargains will be via internet shopping and non-refundable. 

I loved J.Crew for work and would try things on so often I was eventually able to just buy the right sizes without going in (this will come in handy later). I would try on a dress I loved (like this blue and silver one, or this pencil skirt) and I would wait for a sale and pounce on the "Extra 30% off sale" situation. NEVER buy full price at a retail store. Even in a department store, use the price matching to your advantage and always fully research a product for sales before purchasing (I was literally just at the Philosophy beauty counter at Nordstrom for my face wash and found out that the Philosophy website was having a sale and they matched it for me). I always nail down my size in brands I'm a fan of in store and then shop for those pieces elsewhere online (Rails flannel, J.Crew pencil skirts, Madewell denim, etc). I basically don't ever go into physical stores at all anymore to purchase things.

3. Referencing your list when you have shopping money, shop by item and don't just meander around stores and online shops waiting for something to pop out at you, that activity is for richer humans (sorry). 

If you know you need a white blouse, only search for a white blouse. SHOPSTYLE is a fabulous tool for this. Type in "white blouse" filter for your size and budget range (ahem..under $25) and see what your options are.

4. eBay and Poshmark are your friends. 

If you are on a super tight budget, the sad truth is that buying high end or designer at retail or even on sale is just not an option. You have one of two choices, referencing your handy list, when researching (keeping with the white blouse example) here are your options:

1. Buy new from a lesser expensive retailer like F21, ASOS, H&M. These will always have on trend affordable options for whatever it is that your heart desires (I know this might be a "DUH" option), here is a beautiful and simple option.

What's that you say? You are more of a fancy pants Equipment white blouse kind of girl over H&M? Worry not. You can have the brands you want with the second option but you need to be able to get over the whole brand new aspect of it.

2. Buy used or NWOT (new without tags) from eBay or a second hand retailer (Poshmark).  Here is the high end white blouse retailing full price for $214. Here is the same shirt, new, being sold for $70, which is less than half ladies! I do like to keep it real though and that price may still be too much for a truly tight budget, so here and here is the same top, used, going for under $45 (which you could offer less for since it would need a thorough trip to the cleaners). BAM. You can use this method for anything that you want that may be out of your grips, great for designer sunnies, bags, and accessories. 

5. When buying suits, if there is a pant and skirt option get both. 

You only need one jacket to match both the pants and skirt and no one in your workplace will be the wiser. It's more of an investment up front but you get more stretch out of your jacket. My current office is much more lax (as seen here, here, and here) but this trick got me through many a five day work trip at my first job. Swap out your blouse and slacks for the skirt and it looks like another suit entirely.

6. Mix your expensive stuff with your cheap stuff. 

If you stalked that gorgeous equipment top and decided to "splurge" on that $70 white blouse you can get away with wearing it with an inexpensive skirt like this one under $20 perhaps! This philosophy has gotten me everywhere. More often than not I am carrying a gorgeous Balenciaga bag in a sweater that I got from Gap on sale (here).

7. Get a white (or light) blazer for Summer.

You can throw it over all your regular summer dresses and appear semi-professional (here) basically doubling up your work wardrobe in the warmer seasons.

I hope this was helpful! I saw that someone requested it in my recent survey so I got right to it. Please if you haven't already filled it out, I kindly ask that you do (here). Taking all requests!

I'm ending this lengthy post with some awesome work wear finds that are super affordable!

Dresses under $50 (some require a code):

Bottoms and Blazers under $50:

Tops under $25:

Skirts under $35:

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xx E.