Building a Work Wardrobe

work wardrobe

Investing in a work wardrobe isn’t cheap. I spent about $400 on my first set of work clothes nearly two years ago. Some of the items I bought were great and I still use them today. Other items ended up not being great purchases as they either just didn’t really work for the office or they were low quality and have already worn out. I’ve learned a lot about office clothes and appearances since starting my first job out of school. Here are some tips for building a work wardrobe:

1. Make a List of what you need.

Shopping for clothes is not one of my favorite activities. When I started to shop for my work wardrobe I had no plan or list of what exactly I needed. I went into a few stores and spent hours just looking at all the different clothes. I was totally overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.

I wish that I would have made a list of clothing to buy before I started shopping. This would have helped me have a better understanding of what I needed and would have helped me to stay focused. I also ended up purchasing a few things that I now never wear. That money really ended up going wasted. Learn from my mistake. Take ten minutes to write down what you want in your work wardrobe. If I could write down my shopping list for the my first work wardrobe it would probably look something like this:

  • 2 pairs of black pants
  • 1 pair of grey pants
  • 1 dress
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 sweaters
  • 1 suit coat
  • 5 blouses
  • 2 pairs of shoes

2. Choose classic pieces that won’t go out of style.

High quality classics will always look professional and sophisticated. The great thing about buying classic style clothing is that you will be able to use these pieces for many years to come as they won’t go out of style. Investing in high quality clothing is important. These clothes may be a little more expensive upfront, but will last you many wears and end up actually saving you money over time.

Keep in mind most office dress codes tend to be fairly conservative. The office is considered a professional setting and the employees are expected to look like professionals. Avoid sleavless shirts, short skirts, too tight clothing, low cut tops, and sandals for the office. Just try to remember this while you are shopping. If you see a piece of clothing that leaves you guessing whether or not it would be appropriate for the office, be safe and assume it probably isn’t.

3. Limit: one statement piece per outfit only.

When I started at my firs job, we had two solid weeks of training. One day we had a seminar about wardrobe and how to dress at the office with an image consultant. One trick she gave us new hires (this point is especially geared towards women) is to only have one “statement piece” per outfit. What does this mean? It means you can have one fun piece for your outfit. Some statement piece examples include: a fun shoe, piece of jewelry or a handbag. For men the statement piece could be an interesting tie, shoe, or socks for example. Just remember only ONE statement piece per outfit. Even though you are buying clothes for your office job don’t feel like you can’t have a little fun with your wardrobe and express yourself. All things in moderation.

4. Decide what stores you will shop at and sign up for their email lists.

Sign up for store email lists so that you get coupons and sales alerts.  Just remember than in order to save money on your buying your work wardrobe, you need to plan ahead and be patient for the sales.  If you really want to save money, you can combine store promotions with an Ebate for additional savings if you order online.

For example, right now all full-priced items at Banana Republic are 35% off. Shipping is free after you spend $50. Ebates also has 7% cash back right now for all Banana Republic online purchases. That is an amazing deal! You can sign up for Ebates here.

5.  Update your wardrobe as needed.

As you start working you may realize that you need additional or different pieces for your wardrobe. Maybe after six months you notice one of your shirts is really beginning to wear out. Replace and add clothing as you need. Don’t wait until you only have a few wearable pieces left in your wardrobe before going shopping. As much as I dislike shopping for clothes, it’s much easier to replace one or two things occasionally than having to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes because you haven’t purchased anything in two years. I also find it’s much easier on your budget to slowly shop for clothes as needed.


What are your tips for buying and building a work wardrobe?


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  1. Funny thing is one of my “goals” for 2014 is to buy a new suit and get it tailored. It’s so much easier (and less expensive) to plan ahead versus rushing to update your wardrobe as needed. My wife is building her work wardrobe and she has just as much trouble as me spending money on work clothes.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…The Weekly Quick Hits RoundupMy Profile

    • A well tailored suit is a must-have for an office wardrobe. You are so right about planning ahead too. A lot of tailors will charge a hefty fee to have things tailored in a rush.

  2. Great tips. I agree that investing in quality, classic styles is key to building an office wardrobe. Some of my favorite suits I have worn for years. The style never goes out-of-date and they were well made. Understandably, you can’t always afford the highest quality of clothes when you are just starting out but buy the best you can afford. You can always add a statement or fun piece to accent the outfit and I keep more the “trendy” clothes for my non-work clothes. No skinny jeans at work for me, LOL!
    Shannon @ The Heavy PUrse recently posted…Blog Round-Up: Week of January 27, 2014My Profile

    • I think it is actually really fun to see what people come up with to make their outfits more fun and trendy. There are some really fun accessories that are office friendly.

  3. This is one of the perks of working in the creative industry and also working from home..I can work in my yoga pants. Or if I worked full time it’s pretty much jeans and a decent shirt. Very casual.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…My Frugal Year…My Profile