Building a Basic Work Wardrobe

With student loan payments, rent, gas, car insurance, and groceries to worry about, it is difficult to even think about shopping for non-essentials. Though as I’ve discussed, it is important to dress appropriately to establish your professionalism and be taken seriously in the work place. Many of us are just beginning our professional careers. We are not making very much money yet, but we are supposed to look like we are. How do we create an entire work wardrobe on a budget?

The key is to buy a handful of items that you can mix and match to create a variety of outfits to last you throughout the week. Follow my tips to build a basic work wardrobe to last you until your next promotion!

Before we discuss the fundamental garments, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, consider the job you have. What is the dress code? What sorts of things do your coworkers wear? Is your dress code business or business casual? Keep these things in mind when you go shopping.

Secondly, you want to stay within a broad color palette. For example, stick to either warm or cool colors so that your accessories and layering pieces can match with most of your outfits. This will help you create a multitude of looks using the same few articles of clothing.

With these considerations in mind, we can begin discussing the actual articles of clothing that your basic work wardrobe will be composed of.

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–  Choose a variety of blouses in various fits and styles. Keep them within the same broad color scheme though.

– The pair of pants that you choose should be the same color as the skirt and blazer. Go for either black or grey if you chose a cool color palette, and perhaps black or beige for a warm color scheme.

– As I mentioned, the pencil skirt should be the same color as the pants and blazer. Make sure the length is within two inches of the knee!

– You want to choose a dress that has structured, clean lines in a basic color that falls within your color palette.

– A few cardigans in different colors add a little something extra to your outfit. Avoid anything oversized or in a chunky fabric for a clean, professional look.

– The blazer should be the same color and fabric as the pants and skirt. You can use this blazer to dress up any combination of outfits for presentation days, interviews, or important meetings. Get measured for a blazer to ensure you purchase the correct size.

– At least two pairs of shoes are necessary to the beginnings of a work wardrobe. Choose simple styles in a color that will match with all of your other garments.

– Accessorizes complete your look, so pick a few necklaces, a belt, and a watch to bring your outfit together.

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Now that we have the basics of your wardrobe picked out, lets start building a few outfits. For this example, I chose clothes in cool colors that can be mixed to make a lot of different outfits. If you decide to wear a shirt + pants/skirt (as opposed to a dress), here are your options:

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For a dress, you can pair it with the following:

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Here are a few complete outfits to give you a better idea of how you can mix and match all of these pieces to create new outfits.

Now that you know what to look for, go out and get shopping! Good luck!