How to Build a Professional Wardrobe on a Budget

After I moved to Philadelphia it took me about a month to get a job. I now work at Carpenter’s Benefits Funds of Philadelphia in their Medical department. The dress code: business professional. I’ve never spent more than maybe $20 on a piece of clothing so I had a hard time figuring out what to wear. Luckily it comes in handy to have a fashion designer boyfriend willing to act as a personal stylist.

First I looked to see what I already had before shopping.

Shirt: Hollow Earth Club, Pants: Thrifted
Jacket: Calvin Klein (Thrifted)
Shirt: Forever 21, Cardigan: ?, Pants: Thrifted
Skirt: Thrifted
Skirt: Thrifted

After some research I realized I wanted to have the following items:

  1. 3-5 Tops
  2. 2-3 Jackets/Suit Jackets and cardigans
  3. 2-5 Pants
  4. At least 1 Dress
  5. 2-3 Skirts
  6. 1 Pair of Flats and one pair of Pumps
  7. 1 Bag or Briefcase

So far I had:

  1. 2 Tops
  2. 1 Suit Jacket and One Cardigan
  3. 2 Pairs of Pants
  4. No Appropriate Dresses
  5. 2 Skirts (none plain black)
  6. No Appropriate Shoes
  7. No Bag

So I set out to but more tops, a full pant suit, a dress, a black skirt, shoes and a bag. I started by looking up where the shops were centered where I live. As in most cities, all the major stores were close to each other spreading for about two blocks.

We first tried J. Crew where their clothes are specifically for professionals but of course they were a bit too much for my budget. Next we headed to Nordstrom Rack which turned out to be perfect, after some digging I found exactly what I needed.

Shirt: Calvin Klein, Skirt: Nordstrom Rack
Button-Up: Calvin Klein
Pant-Suit: Calvin Klein
Dress: Calvin Klein
Bag: Marc Jacobs

I would suggest taking someone with you shopping to tell you from an outside perspective how you look in the clothing, plus it doesn’t hurt to have someone to run and grab you another size!

One of the most important parts of shopping on a budget is taking your time, grab everything and anything that you think might work to try on and if its not perfect or almost perfect don’t get it. I also suggest looking online as well as in any store you think will work; T.J. Max and Marshall’s are always good, Macy’s, Zara and many more.

Along with this I wouldn’t go to places like H&M or Forever 21 because the quality is so below what anyone needs for a professional environment and people can tell.

Above all; have fun and keep in mind that you can always throw in a pop of color when appropriate!

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