In my old pre-frugal life, my favorite hobby was shopping for new clothes, new shoes, new makeup, etc. I love shopping and one of my biggest excuses for why it was ok for me to shop was that I had to "look the part" for my office job.
While it's true that you need to bring an air of professionalism with you (and your wardrobe) to an office job, that doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money. It is entirely possible to build your first work wardrobe on a budget, and the truth is that as long as you don't change sizes too much, these clothes should last you for years to come.
If you're wondering how that's possible, read on for some tips on how to build a work wardrobe on a budget.
Stick to One Family of Neutrals
Lots of articles about building a work wardrobe will suggest that you stick to neutrals. While neutrals are great, there is still such a thing as too many neutrals. After all, one of the often debated fashion faux pas of the work world is if it's okay to mix neutrals, like black and navy or black and brown in the same outfit. To avoid that problem altogether, stick to one family of neutrals. If you like black stick to black and shades of gray for your work wardrobe. But if you like earth tones, pick hues of brown, tan, and cream for your neutral base.
Spend More on Shoes
Don't try to save money by buying cheap shoes. When I worked in an office all I really wore were 2-3 pairs of basic shoes, flats, wedges, and heels. Instead of having lots of pairs of shoes that are low quality, keep the number down and spend more on them. Taking care of your feet is important, thus quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb for shoes. High quality shoes will be more comfortable and you'll be able to keep them in your wardrobe longer than cheap shoes.
Choose Trendy Accessories
If you love to follow fashion trends but don't have the money to replace your entire wardrobe every time something is "in" or "out" in the fashion world, stick to only buying trendy accessories. It's often a lot cheaper to replace a trendy scarf every year or two instead of having to replace a trendy dress or skirt. Colorful and trendy accessories are enough to make your wardrobe seem fun and current without having to spend too much money.
Take Advantage of Company "Branded" Clothing Budgets
The office I worked in would allow us to spend up to $100 or so on "branded" clothing with the company logo each year. If your company gives you a budget for "branded" work wear, take advantage of it.
Use your budget wisely to replace items that need replacing in your wardrobe. For example, one year I used my clothing budget to buy a nice softshell coat for winter. I chose to get the company logo embroidered in black on my black coat. Even though I no longer work for that company I still wear the coat because almost no one notices it has the company's logo stitched on it.
Limit the Number of Items You Own
The best tip of all when it comes to building a work wardrobe is to not go overboard. There are only 5 workdays in a week, which gives you 2 non-work days to launder your clothes. As long as you didn't buy clothes that need to be professionally cleaned, there's no reason why you can stick to only having about 2 weeks worth of work clothes. This will prevent you from wearing the exact same outfits every week, but you won't be overwhelmed with too many choices in your closet or by having overspent your budget. Less is more.
Did you make any mistakes when you built your work wardrobe? What tips do you have for building a work wardrobe?