Seven Tips for Building a Professional Wardrobe on a Budget
As a young professional trying to climb the ranks in your industry, you have to present a successful image and pay attention to the finer details. Like it or not, what you wear says a lot about you. You need a wardrobe that’s professional, flattering, and appropriate. Building such a wardrobe on a budget is challenging, yet possible.
Try These 7 Tips
You aren’t going to wake up one morning and magically have a collection of designer clothing hanging in your closet. Developing a professional wardrobe on a budget requires a strategy. The following suggestions will come in handy:
Develop a Budget
You should never walk into a store or browse your favorite online retailer without first having an idea of how much money you have to spend. A concrete budget that puts a hard cap on your clothing expenditures will help you make smart choices.
Financial planner Pete Dunn suggests using 5 percent of your monthly take-home pay as a guideline. While you’re certainly welcome to spend less, this is the absolute maximum you should ever spend. If you take home $3,000 per month, this means $150 is your limit.
Grow Your Wardrobe Over Time
When you create a monthly budget, you’ll realize that you can’t build an entire wardrobe in a month. It takes time and you have to be patient.
One of the benefits of having a budget is that it forces you to wait on purchases that you would have otherwise made immediately. The process of waiting gives you a chance to carefully consider whether you actually want it (or if it was just an impulse desire).
Invest in Versatile Pieces
When you’re on a budget, you don’t have the money to buy one-off pieces. You need the items in your wardrobe to be versatile, so that you can wear them multiple times and mix and match with other items in your collection.
Know Where to Shop
If you’re working with a budget that only allows you to spend a couple hundred dollars per month on clothing, you aren’t going to be able to shop at designer stores. You must learn to stretch your dollars further, which means being strategic with where you buy clothing and accessories.
Thrift stores might scare you away, but there are a number of upscale secondhand retailers that specialize in selling gently worn clothing. You’ll find them both in your neighborhood and online. Swap.com is a good example of what you can find online.
Use the Three F’s
When buying clothing for your professional wardrobe, you should follow the three F’s:
- You don’t have to get every item professionally tailored, but you should ensure that anything you buy properly fits your body type.
- Be wary of choosing high-maintenance fabrics that require lots of dry cleaning and other time-consuming care. Instead, opt for low-maintenance materials – such as wrinkle-free pieces.
- How does the item make you feel? There’s a direct correlation between how you feel in something and your self-confidence and performance in the workplace. Think about this as you shop.
Protect Your Investments
Building a wardrobe isn’t just about buying clothing. It’s also about properly maintaining your clothing so that it lasts for a long time. This means preventing clothes moths, properly cleaning stains, storing dresses the correct way, and getting business clothes dry-cleaned.
Accessorize for the Win
In the business world, you’re often limited in what you can wear. Dress codes – even the unspoken ones – tend to favor safe, conservative business suits and blouses. But this doesn’t mean your outfits have to be boring. You can always give your wardrobe an edge through bold, colorful accessories.
Statement jewelry – such as a chunky necklace or bright cuff bracelet – are always fun. However, don’t underestimate the impact a unique handbag can have. The key is to constantly mix things up so that your look isn’t predictable.
Putting it All Together
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars a year on clothing to climb the ranks in your career, but it does help to gradually build a professional wardrobe that ensures people see you in the right light. When you’re on a budget, practical tips like the ones highlighted in this article will help get you on track.