How to dress professionally on a budget

How to dress professionally on a budget

Ah, the faithful admin … you work in the corporate world, have the corporate workload – but maybe not the corporate budget. So how do you manage to remain on par with your colleagues’ attire when your check isn’t quite as hefty? Don’t max out the credit card. Although it’s easy to panic and think you have to buy a closet full of designer suits like your manager wears, it’s completely unnecessary. There are ways to beef up your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Follow these simple tips and get the corporate wardrobe that will leave your colleagues impressed and your bank account full.

  1. Assess the office climate

    Before you pick out what to wear, you check the day’s weather. You need to do the same thing if you’re going to successfully build a savvy wardrobe. The corporate climate is critical in developing the professional look you want. See what others in the office are wearing – be it fellow admins, your supervisor or people in other departments. You don’t have to emulate exactly what others wear. In fact, it’s best that you don’t. But be aware of the general dress code. You don’t want to be the one in flip flops surrounded by patent leather loafers and business pumps.

  2. Get the staples

    • The little black dress. This is a well-known wardrobe staple for a reason – it works. Now, I don’t mean come into the office with a swanky night club number. But a professional, conservative black dress is a staple item that will give you instant polish. You may even want an alternate in another shade.
    • The cardigan. This is an easy, yet classy addition to your closet and is a simple way to dress up a conservative tank top or add flair to a dress. This item in two colors or patterns will ensure your cardi-collection is more than sufficient.
    • The blazer. The image of professionalism, the blazer is acceptable in any environment, be it corporate or business casual. Try a few styles to ensure the fit is polished. However, don’t be afraid to try the less expensive “stretch” blazers. These provide a tailored look without the price tag. Two of these will bring your wardrobe up a notch.
    • The midi-skirt. There is a certain sophistication about the midi-skirt that cannot be obtained in almost any other clothing article. Experiment with flared, pencil and rockabilly styles until you find the one that suits you.
    • The pump. The business pump (three inches or less) will add the final touch to your corporate look and a sleekness to your physique. Add two pairs of flats and you have a perfect repertoire of shoe alternates.
  3. Know before you go

    Most of us realize that many clothing items come at a higher price tag because they fit better and last longer. So how do you cut costs without ending up with quickly worn out, ill-fitting attire? Shop the mid-level stores when they’re having a sale. Don’t just go to out and hope something’s in your budget. Understand which stores are having sales, when they’re having them and who has the best deals. Don’t see a sale in the store? Try the junior’s section. Upscale stores often have cheaper priced clothing that’s still of decent quality for teens. Remember that you may need to go a size or two up.

  4. Customize the look

    Once you have your shopping list, it’s time to customize it to your taste and the specific office environment you work in. Experiment with colors and styles to see what looks best. Bring a friend with you. How you combine things is often what gives your look a unique flair. This is also where you need to consider the climate. Is your office lawyer-style corporate or a bit more laid back? For the more conservative office, you may opt to stick with solid colored pieces, with a heavy emphasis on neutral shades such as ivory, black, grey and navy blue. However, if you want to look polished while remaining within the realm of business casual, experiment with prints and bright shades.

  5. Build a strong foundation

    What lies beneath is important regardless of what you wear. However, when clothing is a bit less expensive, undergarments become even more important. Your dress or skirt doesn’t look so polished if your panty line is showing beneath it. Invest in a good stockings and a couple of slips, as well as nice, conservative tank tops (bypass ribbed and spaghetti strap t-shirts). Be sure the length of the slip matches your hemline, a petticoat peep show isn’t the best of impressions either.

  6. Mix and match

    Whatever you buy, don’t get stuck on the outfit you put together in the store, mix it up to refresh your wardrobe. Wear you’re your dress with a scarf tied at your neck. You’d be surprised how you can give the appearance of having purchased something new when you’ve only switched around separate pieces that you’ve worn ten times.

  7. Be confident

    No matter what you put on, if you don’t own it, you will not be seen as professional. It’s the person inside the clothing that makes the outfit. I have seen outfits that never should have worked look polished and stunning because the woman wearing it had an air of confidence that couldn’t be denied. If you’ve chosen a bold print skirt and bright top, be poised and assured.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your wardrobe won’t be either. Take your time, start with the basics and wear what you have with confidence while you build the professional closet you’ve been dreaming about.


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