10 Tips to Make a Career Wardrobe Work for You And Your Budget


We women want to be fashionable and still get ahead at work... But who wants to spend a fortune on work clothes? Invest in building a career wardrobe; it can help you achieve your career goals. Where to put the most money and where to skimp? Your work wardrobe will work for you if you remember these tips. And you can wear whatever you like to express yourself outside of work!
1.  Try to dress in a style that looks similar to what your boss wears.  This helps the boss feel comfortable working with you and you look like someone they will want to promote. If your boss is male, study how women at his level of management dress. If they don't wear pants at work, then neither should you. If they don't wear bright colors, you shouldn't either.  When in doubt, ask your supervisor for suggestions on how to dress appropriately.  Also, don't dress more expensively than your boss if you want to be promoted!

2.  Look for basic skirts, jackets, and pants in neutrals to form your core wardrobe. You'll want to buy good quality for these basics so that they will hold up well over time. Neutrals are hot right now, and it's one trend that is smart to follow.  It's easiest to choose black as your base color--after all, who can't make a great outfit with a black blazer? You might get tired of wearing black and gray all the time, but it makes for a very sophisticated look. I tend to spill coffee on myself, and black hides that and any other spills! You can add other colors like cream, white, tan, and red to this.  These colors mix and match pretty well even if you bought them at different times. Other options for your base color are dark brown and navy.  However, it's often difficult to find matching shades of those colors when shopping at different stores and different seasons. Black always works.

3. Invest in a good leather purse and simple pumps in your base color. This is where you need to put more of your wardrobe money. A good quality bag and pumps make an inexpensive outfit look good. An inexpensive purse and shoes makes an expensive outfit look cheap. You wear the shoes and purse every day, so it's a much better place to put your money. The rule of thumb is to spend on a purse about what you would pay for a dress.  The bag should not be too big, too small, or too trendy. Don't think you have to buy a designer bag no matter what you coworkers do. It's more important to buy quality leather than a designer name--leather lasts longer and looks good for years.Your shoes should be real leather, have covered toes, and, be rather plain. Keep the heels to a medium height.  Again, look to your supervisor as an example. 

4. Buy mostly solid colors at first. They give you more mix-and-match options than prints do and won't go out of style nearly as fast. Plus people remember a print, so it's more obvious if you are wearing an item fairly often. Scarves can add a lot of style to an otherwise plain outfit and are a place you can add an accent color. You don't need to buy expensive scarves to look posh and they multiply the looks you can get. Search online for tutorials on different ways to tie a scarf to get different looks.

5. You don't need much jewelry for work, so you can skimp on this category if you like. All you really need for work is a simple pair of silver hoops or other classic small earrings. In most work places they prefer earrings not larger than the size of a quarter. If you can afford it later, you could add some simple gold-plated hoops. These are often on sale at reasonable prices. That's all you really need for work, but you could add a nice pin to a jacket lapel or to hold a scarf in place. Avoid all cute jewelry like animals, hearts, stars, symbols, words, and items that are too sparkly. You want them to remember your professional  presentation, not your cute cat earrings. You don't need a watch since you can see the time on any number of devices. Also it's better to wear no watch than a cheap one.

6. You'll need to buy a good quality dress coat in a classic style. This is a major purchase, so watch the sales for a good deal. Sales on coats usually come in early November and in January and February. Even if your basic color is black, I wouldn't get an all-black coat. It shows lint and threads too much, so I'd look for something in a charcoal gray or a black coat with tiny white threads woven in for some camouflage. If you find a beautiful coat at a great price, but it doesn't fit you perfectly, you can get it altered for you at a tailor shop. 

7. If you want to be taken seriously at work, save the sexy looks for when you're not at work. Basically, if you could wear an item to a club, it's too sexy for the workplace. That includes anything too short, too tight, too sheer, too low-cut, or too clingy. Many people still think of animal prints as too sexy for the office. I know that sounds ridiculous, but you can wear whatever you like after office hours.

8.  Choose easy care clothes as much as possible. Dry cleaning bills multiply the cost of an item many times the original price. Items that need to be hand-washed are a pain to take care of and you just won't wear them as much. Items that need to be ironed are also a pain, but if they only take a little bit of touch up with an iron it's not too bad. Clothes that can be tossed into the washer and dryer are the best. Be sure to find out what kind of care an item requires before you buy  it!

9. Get to know which brands of clothing are well made and fit you well. Then it's easy to find deals on them online. I love a bargain and buy much of my clothing online. I always read any reviews of an item online before purchasing to be confident of the quality.

10. Follow trends, but in a limited way. Ruffles, pleats, and gathers are very on trend right now, but won't be in a year or two. You might include a top with a pleated detail or soft, small ruffle in a neutral color. An item with large ruffles all over it would not be appropriate as office wear unless you work in an industry known to be fashion forward. Trendy details work best for tops because they are usually less expensive than good quality pants, skirts, and jackets. When they go out of style you won't have invested a lot of money in them. 

After a while your work wardrobe will grow to be a versatile set of clothes that are easy to mix and match. As you are able to afford more clothes, think about buying a few pieces a year that are of really good quality and good fit in your chosen colors.  And when you are not at work, you can express your personal style to your heart's content! Kick back and enjoy it! 

Image thanks to The G on Flickr.

This guest post was written by Maggie from Square Pennies blog where she shares money-saving tips, easy recipes, and ways to have fun without breaking the budget. You can follow her on Twitter: @SquarePennies.



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