Building a Professional Wardrobe on a Budget

wardrobe photo

Professional clothing can be expensive, especially for college students and recent graduates.  And if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, whether due to unemployment or other reasons, you may need to update your professional wardrobe. Building a wardrobe doesn’t have to cost a lot of money if you know where to look and learn how to maximize a small amount of pieces. Read on for some ideas to build your career wardrobe for little or no money.

Have a clothing swap. Get some of your friends and family members together for a clothing swap. They don’t have to be your size in order to participate, because you may also find accessories (ties, handbags, etc.) to bolster your wardrobe. With a clothing swap, you can unload some of your unwanted items while also picking up some much-needed professional clothing.

Scope out thrift stores. You might be surprised at the quality and selection of items at your local second-hand stores. Often people overlook thrift stores because they don’t tend to advertise and items aren’t well-organized. But if you take the time to look through everything and visit your local thrift stores regularly, you may find just the right outfit to start your career wardrobe.

Charitable organizations can help. Some places, like Goodwill, are akin to thrift stores. You simply browse low-priced items for what you want. Others, like Dress for Success, are specifically designed to help you find clothes for work. Also check with religious organizations to see if they have donated clothing items.

Inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality. You don’t have to shop department or specialty stores for a suit. You may find what you need at discount or mid-range stores. As with second-hand stores, you may need to work a little harder to find the right pieces. Even if the items don’t hold up as long as more expensive clothing, they can tide you over until you’re able to save up for more expensive clothes.

Invest in a few key pieces and go cheap with the rest. You don’t need a lot of items to create a good work wardrobe. One good suit and a few dress shirts can carry you through the work week if you switch things up. Pick up some inexpensive accessories and use them to create a new look each day. You may also buy some less expensive pants or tops for more casual work days.

Building a professional wardrobe can seem intimidating, particularly if you’ve lived in casual clothes your entire life. But if you focus on acquiring a just a few essential pieces and look into all of the inexpensive options, it can be a lot easier (and cheaper) than you might think.