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How to Build Your Work Wardrobe Without the Hefty Price Tag

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

Key Takeaways

  • Buying clothes within the same color palette gives you a wider range of outfit combinations.
  • Offseason shopping takes patience, but the discounts make it a worthwhile practice.
  • Take stock of everything in your closet before shopping to avoid doubling up on items.

It may sound materialistic, but it’s true: how you dress at work matters.

Your work attire is an extension of you and your brand. How you dress tells your coworkers how you want to be perceived in the office. And for young professionals, it’s a chance to show your team that you’re a career-oriented person, not someone who only cares about avocado toast and Instagram. Plus, when you look good, you really do feel good!

Now, that doesn’t mean you need to fill your closet with top-of-the-line suits, dresses, or other uber-professional outfits (though for some professions, it does). You need to find the right balance between your company’s dress code, professionalism, your own style, and, of course, your budget.

But looking sharp at work doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. Here are some tried-and-true tips to build out your work wardrobe without breaking the bank.

1. Shop within the same color palette

This is a sure-fire way to make your small closet feel large. Having lots of matching items gives you more versatile, interchangeable pieces that will expand your outfit combinations without having to buy extra items.

2. Go offseason shopping

Do you have the patience to buy a new summer dress in January and put it on the shelf till May or June? Not many do. But when you’re on a budget, this level of discipline is necessary to score stylish items without paying full price.

3. Do a closet inventory

We’ve all been there. You go out shopping, get caught up in the excitement, and come back home to realize, “Wow — I already have a pair of those!”

So next time, before you go clothes shopping, go through your entire closet and take pictures of what you have, then list out what you need. You wouldn’t go grocery shopping without knowing what you already have, would you?

This will ensure that your clothes money goes to items you actually need. Plus, you'll know right away if you need pants to go along with the sweet new shirt you found, or if you already have something matching at home to round out the outfit.

4. Check out discount retailers

TJ Maxx, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom Rack are just a few retailers with top brand discounts that can help most young, budget-conscious professionals build out their work wardrobes. Outlet malls are also a popular destination for the brands you love at prices that’ll have you breathing a sigh of relief.

But remember…

5. Buying cheap can mean buying twice

There’s a delicate balance you need to strike between price and quality. If something is discounted, make sure it isn’t due to poor quality. If you buy a shirt at 50% off but have to replace it a month later, wouldn’t you have been better off buying the high-quality one at full price?

6. Don’t splurge on a watch

Can you really tell the difference between a $100 watch and one that’s $500? Didn’t think so.

A watch can be the missing piece that brings an entire outfit together. Plus, it’s more professional to check the time on your watch rather than checking your phone. Still, you don’t want to be the person who spent several hundred dollars on a watch that looks just like your coworker’s $99 one.

If you need a practical, yet stylish watch, retailers like MVMT have got your wrist covered.

What to remember

You’re at the point in your career when you’re trying to be professional, but operating on an entry-level salary. Therefore, to look professional, you’ll have to get creative and efficient with your clothes shopping. Remember, just because you’re bargain hunting now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing your winter shopping in July forever.

Stretch every dollar by putting your money towards items you actually need, and ones you’ll get the most out of. And just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should always go for the cheapest option. Do your own cost-benefit analysis to decide if the quality of a top-dollar item is worth the investment over cheaper alternatives.

More information

Upgrading your wardrobe can get pricy, but planning ahead by buying off-season bargains can make it an easier expense to stomach. Stop by your nearest Citizens Bank branch to learn how you could fit off-season shopping into your budget.

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