With warmer weather in sight, professionals across all industries are beginning to peer into their closets with concerns of what to do when the season changes. This winter may have left you a little strapped for cash, and stocking your wardrobe with professional apparel more suited for warm weather wasn’t really where you want your hard-earned money to go.
Never fear, there are many ways to build a versatile professional wardrobe while still maintaining a budget — it just involves a plan. Before you run out on your lunch break to grab some new suits, consider the art of strategic shopping and how it can benefit your bank account and your closet.
Follow these steps to build your professional wardrobe for less:
1. Create Your Budget. While you’d probably prefer to just head straight to the mall, it’s best to first take a look at the numbers. Without a budget, you won’t have any idea of what you can actually spend on your wardrobe. Set your number and only allow for wiggle room if you find a great deal. Sticking to your budget will keep you focused throughout your wardrobe search. Remember, this process doesn’t necessarily have to happen in one shopping trip.
2. Identify Your Needs. You may want new suits, blazers, and shoes — do you really need all of them? Spend some time in your closet to assess whether you really need a piece of clothing, or just want it. This will also help you adapt your budget to your needs. A suit costs more than a dress shirt, therefore you’ll need to allot the majority of your budget to it.
3. Know Where To Shop. There are a variety of retailers dedicated to providing deals on great clothing items. While you may be able to find a some great deals on the sale racks at your favorite department store, it’s best to avoid it altogether at first. Check out off-price and mid-level retailers first — TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Target, and Sears. If you’re not having the luck you’d hoped for, consider looking online or even heading to Goodwill.
4. Try To Ignore The Trends. Fashion trends move in and out faster than you think — don’t waste your money on a piece you might regret in a year. Instead, invest in classics and staple items for your wardrobe. A neutral-colored blazer with never go out of style, and neither will a simple dress or blouse. Since women’s fashion trends tend to change more drastically, career women can spice up basic professional outfits with accessories like scarves and jewelry.
5. Think Versatility. Mixing and matching is a simple and cost effective way to maintain your professional wardrobe. When you’re shopping, consider the versatility of every piece of clothing you’re interested in. Can you wear it through different seasons? What about after dinner to a networking cocktail hour? Casual shirts can be mixed with blazers, trousers, and pencil skirts. It’s also important to consider colors for your versatility. Black, gray, brown, and khaki separates are useful when pairing with other basic pieces of the same color.
Building your professional wardrobe doesn’t happen overnight. Consider purchasing one piece with every paycheck to put less stress on your wallet. Focus on developing an affordable, professional wardrobe that boosts your confidence.
Did you build your professional wardrobe on a budget? Share your story!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.