How to build a work wardrobe on a budget: Conservative office edition
By Brittany Anas
First, congrats on your new job or promotion. Now, let’s take a minute to mourn that really cute owl graphic sweater that is just too twee for a conservative office setting. (Fear not, you can still wear it on the weekends).
It’s time to come up with a shopping plan so that you can you look sharp and professional without spending your entire paycheck or bonus.
Here’s your 7-step game plan for building a work wardrobe that will give you the professional look you want to give off — all while incorporating the latest styles.
- Ask yourself: “What image do I want to project?” Do you work in a conservative setting where suits, blazers and dresses are the norm? Is Friday more business-casual? How can a bit of your personality come through — even in a sea of black, gray and navy?
- Take an audit of your closet. What shirts or dresses might not work alone, but would definitely make the dress code cut when paired with a tailored blazer? Are there any shoes or boots, that with a little bit of polish, would give off the professional look for which you’re aiming?
- Set a budget. Know how much you want to spend and keep in mind that it takes time to build up a wardrobe. You can easily start with a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched throughout the week. Here’s a good formula for how you can use one piece, for example, to create five very different looks over the course a few weeks.
Let’s take a classic black blazer. We found five pieces from JCPenney, a store that has a wide variety of polished work wardrobe pieces and at really budget-friendly price points. You’ll save even more with dozens of coupons and 4 percent Cash Back at JCPenney when you shop through ShopAtHome.com.
– Pair a black blazer over a modern dress, like this Allen B. Sleeveless Jacquard Dress and wear it with some boots and tights for a sharp and fashion-forward look. The conservative blazer will tone down the gold and jacquard. (Tip: While ankle boots are a popular cut this season, they’re a bit too casual for conservative settings. Look for boots that hit mid to upper calf).
– Wear it over a popular color. Pantone’s 2013 color of the year is emerald, and we’re loving this 9 & Co. Sleeveless emerald dress that has black accents. Another trending color this fall is cobalt blue. (Read about fall’s hottest colors here).
– Wear it with a tie neck blouse and a nice pair of black pants.
– Pair with a crisp white oxford and a faux leather trim skirt. Leather accents on pockets, sleeves and waistlines are a sophisticated trend this season. This skirt is a steal at $19.99.
– Incorporate some pattern play. When you’ve got a classic black and white palette, you can introduce a more exciting pattern — like this damask pencil skirt.
- Make a shopping list. Go in with a plan. What are the must-haves that you need to start your new job or that you want to start wearing immediately. Some key investment pieces this time of year might be a nice, professional jacket and some leather gloves to carry you in and out of the office.
- Set aside a contingency fund. You might have to splurge on some unexpected expenses — like tailoring, a new briefcase or laptop bag or a more professional, sturdy purse.
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