How to Build A Work Wardrobe On A Budget

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) always brings this dreaded thought to mind: “I have absolutely nothing to wear, and I hate all my clothes.” Take heart, though: while those models are working that runway, you’re working your career.
Some of those models won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, but you may not have that option—yet. If so, we offer some tips on how to build an amazing new work wardrobe on a budget.

Just keep this in mind before you star in that clothes-shopping/dressing-room montage: don’t expect to buy a complete wardrobe all at once. It’s going to take some time, planning, and smarts. You already have the smarts, but let’s work on the time and the planning.

Tips On Building A Closet With Trendy Work Clothes Within A Budget


Budget Specifically for a Wardrobe

Set aside a certain amount of your salary each week for buying just one component of your wardrobe. Start with the basics at first; later on you can get a little more creative.

Want to add a bit more to that budget? Try giving up the extra coffee (and brew your own), pack your lunch, cancel cable — you know the sacrifices. Another idea: refinance your student loans to free up some cash.

Think Quality, Not Quantity

It’s better to have a small wardrobe of items you know you’ll wear (and that fit you), rather than have a vast collection of rarely useable clothes that will go out of style.

Not So Fast with the Fast Fashion

Cheap, fast clothes are appealing, but it pays to invest a little more in clothes that will last, and will always stay in style: blazers, blouses, pencil skirts, and trousers for starters. Spend a little more on pieces that will endure, rather than trendy fashion that lives fast and dies young.

Achieving high quality is much easier than it appears — just check the tag. Choose high percentages of natural fibers (cotton, wool) over synthetics. Make sure the stitching looks strong, with no snags or loose ends. Be sure that the buttons are securely sewn.

Don’t Overspend

High-quality clothing does not have to come from a high-priced store or a well-known designer. Expensive does not always equate to high quality. Stores like Marshalls, Ross, and T.J. Maxx carry good clothes at discounted prices — you just may have to search a little harder, but it may be worth it.

Find Online Discounts

Many people will shop for almost anything online, with the exception of clothing. It’s true that it’s better to go brick-and-mortar when clothes shopping, so that you can try things on. However, the web is filled with flash sales, discount alerts, coupons, and newsletters (excuse our salivating).

Almost all retailers are more than happy to let you know what’s up. Start with Groupon and Deal News , and make sure you’re buying because you need the clothes and not because the sales are calling your name.

Consider Outlet Stores

This is an oasis of the deep discount. The clothes will be stylish, although they may be over a year old. That’s okay, though, if they’re basic and key to your wardrobe needs. This kind of heaven may not always be nearby; you may have to do a bit of research and travel.


Keeping your wardrobe basic will make your life easier, but you’ll also never have to worry about what’s in and what’s out. Buy clothes that go well together, and shoes that work with multiple outfits. Despite what you see on the runways during Fashion Week, basic styles will never fail you.

Sell Your Old Clothes, or Pay Them Forward

You’ll want to keep your closet simple and up-to-date, which means passing along your older clothes to a local church or Goodwill Industries . You also may want to try eBay , where you can profit from your past purchases. However, don’t discard clothes that may work in the office: your good dress shoes, blouses, blazers, button-down shirts, and sport coats may find a second life at the new job.

Be Patient

A fabulous wardrobe does not happen overnight; it evolves. Don’t feel pressure to buy anything that doesn’t give you all the feels. Trust your instinct. Walk away if you have to. The most perfect piece will present itself to you before too long. Have faith. Keep looking.

All eyes may be on New York Fashion Week, but we congratulate you for keeping your eyes on the prize.


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