By Nora Banks
Whether this is your first job or you’re trying to improve your image, a professional wardrobe is a must! Today’s professional wear is anything but boring, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to settle for stuffy or drab attire. While building a professional wardrobe from scratch can be challenging and pricey, it’s easier than you may think! Keep the following tips in mind when shopping and you’ll have a closet full of office attire without breaking the bank.
Build a capsule wardrobe
Building a professional wardrobe is a lot like building a house, you need a firm foundation that you can grow with. With that being said, start by building a capsule wardrobe — accessories and statement pieces can come later. Put an emphasis on timeless “foundation” pieces that never go out of style and neutral tones that you can mix and match for a variety of looks. This ensures that you’re making every cent of your budget count.
When shopping, focus on professional tops, fitted jackets, sweaters, and a combination of dress pants, professional skirts, and dresses. To start, invest in two or three of each item. As far as tops go, it’s a good idea to have at least four or five different options to choose from.
Know what works best for your body type
At this point in your life, you probably have about two decades (or more!) worth of experience when it comes to dressing yourself. With that being said, you probably have a good idea of what your assets are. You know whether you’re short or tall, curvy or lanky, etc. Keep this knowledge in mind as you start to put together your professional wardrobe. One really flattering blouse or dress is going to be worth more than a bunch of trendier pieces that don’t really suit your body type.
Building a new wardrobe can get pricey. Not to mention, if this is your first professional job, you may not be getting your first paycheck for a few weeks. Meanwhile, you can’t exactly wear yoga pants to work. Rather than splurging on work appropriate tops and blouses at big name stores, consider shopping secondhand. Not only does shopping secondhand save resources, thus protecting our planet, it also saves money.
Online clothing resellers, like thredUP, are a great option for work-appropriate tops and blouses. With affordable options from your favorite brands like Madewell, you’re bound to find tops in a variety of styles at reasonable prices. To mix up your look, choose tops in different colors and patterns to style with your “foundation” pieces.
Don’t shy away from your personal style
Don’t assume that building a professional wardrobe means leaving your personal style behind. Although you may be working in the corporate world, your employer likely wants someone who’s as unique as they are professional. Take this into consideration as your shop for office attire. Are you someone who loves color? Try pairing a black pencil skirt with a bright color blouse. Is your love of music a big part of who you are as a person? Layer one of your favorite band tees under a blazer on a dress-down Friday. As long as your fashion choices are respectful of your company’s dress code, there’s always room for creative expression!
Invest in good footwear
In a professional environment, what you choose to put on your feet says a lot about you. Make sure you have at least two pairs of flats or low heels in neutral, everyday colors (black, grey, or nude.) Choose styles from reliable brands so that they’re with you for years to come. You’ll also want to invest in some good shoe care supplies in order to care for your footwear properly. Take care of dirt and any stains promptly before they ruin your shoes – and use shoe trees so that your footwear retains their proper shape when not in use.