Building an Office-Appropriate Wardrobe on a Budget

Date posted: July 13, 2016

Photo Credit: Benjamin Child

Moving into an office job and away from retail or service work can be a big step in your career and is often the first step towards building real wealth. But moving into an office job, especially if you’ve never held one before, requires preparation. You’ll need to research office culture norms, ask your coworkers about routines and protocols, and build an office-appropriate wardrobe.

While one workplace differs from the next regarding dress codes and appropriate attire, you can always build an office appropriate wardrobe on a budget. Whether you work in a high-powered law office or a casual tech startup, here are my top tips for building an office-friendly wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Wear Neutral Colours

When building your office wardrobe, look for staples in neutral colours. Your dress pants and blazers should be primarily gray, black, brown and navy. While this may sound boring, with a closet full of neutral clothing you can mix and match easily. You'll learn to assemble a variety of different looks with just a few pieces of clothing.

If you’re worried this will be too boring, try adding a brightly coloured top. It won’t break your budget, and you’ll be able to wear it many different ways with your neutral wardrobe staples.

Wear the Same Outfit Everyday

The trend of adopting a “work uniform” and wearing the same outfit every day has recently gained popularity as a way to emulate highly successful individuals like Mark Zuckerberg, the President of the United States and Steve Jobs. These high-profile people were known for never varying their outfits and instead focusing on their careers.

The concept behind this trend is that if you no longer spend time choosing your outfit every day, you’ll free up mental capacity to excel in your career.

From a personal finance perspective, wearing the same thing every day is also helpful for your wallet. For example, buying four cardigans when they are on sale will help you quickly build up an office appropriate wardrobe on a budget.

Personally, I wear a variation of jeans, a blazer, and a short sleeved top every day at work. I have three pairs of pants that I rotate, three blazers, and five tops. Having a small and unvaried wardrobe makes keeping track of my clothing a snap, and my whole wardrobe cost under $500 to build.

If You Must Go Trendy, Stick to Accessories

Trends are, by definition, a waste of your money. Tell me if this sounds familiar: one year you’ll buy an outfit that was on trend, and the next year it will be out of style, and you’ll feel like you've wasted $100.

To avoid this wasteful spending, limit your trend shopping to accessories only. It’s easy to make an outfit look up to date and trendy with a new scarf or necklace.

Personally, I don’t wear jewelry, scarves, or carry fancy bags. But, if you are dreading the thought of picking a new work uniform of neutrals, don’t worry. You can still go trendy, just do it with accessories.

Use Sale Alerts to Build Your Wardrobe, and Then Unsubscribe

When building your office appropriate wardrobe, shopping the sales is a great way to save money. Waiting for that email advertising 50% off at your favourite store will save you hundreds of dollars on your wardrobe.

But once you’ve built your office appropriate wardrobe, it is crucial to unsubscribe from those emails. If you don’t unsubscribe, you may be tempted to keep shopping, and that’s a great way to undo all of the good work you just did.

Focus on the Work

Many office workers, especially women, overestimate how much their coworkers care about their appearance. I can’t tell you how many of my friends have recently adopted a personal office work uniform and commented to me, almost incredulously, that no one has noticed they are wearing the same outfit every day!

Building your office wardrobe does not have to be stressful or expensive. Follow the tips above and you’ll look stylish and professional, and you will soon be on your way to having a reputation for the work you do, not the clothing you wear.

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