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Build a Professional Wardrobe on a Budget

by Ryan Guina

suitsFirst impressions are extremely important, especially in the business world. However, not everyone has the money to buy the latest fashions from designer stores. The good news is, designer clothes are not necessary to dress professionally. The most important thing is to present a clean cut, and professional image. And anyone can do that on a limited budget. All it takes is a little creativity.

How to build a professional wardrobe on a limited budget:

  • Buy simple, classic designs. The classics rarely, if ever, go out of style. Buy classic button down dress shirts without logos, designs, or textured cloth. Buy suits or sport coats in a solid color (navy, black, gray), and with medium sized collars. Classic tie designs are solid or with a minimal design.
  • Buy several white and blue dress shirts. These colors go well with a suit or dress pants of almost every color and are always in style. You can even wear them on “Casual Fridays” because they look great with khakis or jeans.
  • Buy a nice pair of quality shoes. Nice and quality do not mean expensive! I spent $50 on a pair of black dress shoes for 5 years ago and they are still in great shape (and I wear them at least 3 times a week). I recommend black or brown because they are the most versatile. Don’t forget to polish your shoes! Your shoes will look better and last longer when polished.
  • Buy quality items. Spending a little more money on quality is better than buying a cheap item and having to replace it sooner. Another tip – buy wrinkle free shirts. They look fresh longer and don’t require starch. You can buy wrinkle free shirts on sale for just a little more than the price of a regular shirt. Trust me – the convenience and quality is worth the extra money!
  • Mix and match. All you need for a complete wardrobe is a few items of interchangeable colors. It is very easy to change your look by wearing different color ties, belts, shoes, sport coats, or other accessories. You can do this by simply using items already in your wardrobe; it isn’t necessary to go out and spend several hundred dollars on a new suit and all the accessories.
  • Build your wardrobe over time. You don’t need to go out and buy everything at once. Add to your wardrobe as necessary, and buy quality clothing items during sales or out of season. It won’t take long before you have a full wardrobe.
  • Buy out of season. I bought a very nice Columbia winter jacket for $35 – in August. The list price was $120. Did I need a jacket in August? Nope. But I did that winter!
  • Look for outlet malls. Many outlet malls sell brand name clothing items at substantial discounts. These are often factory seconds, but many times, it is difficult to tell the difference.
  • Shop at consignment stores. You can find great deals on quality clothing at consignment stores. Many carry like new, brand name items at reasonable prices.

A professional wardrobe is essential for everyone in the business world – from the rookie right out of college, all the way to the CEO. But, you don’t have to have a CEO’s paycheck to be able to afford a nice wardrobe.

photo credit: len-k-a.


Published or updated January 7, 2009.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 plonkee

Another thing that helps is to work out which colours suit you and stick to them. It means that everything goes together and because they suit you they look more expensive.

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2 Ryan

Great tip, Plonkee. :)

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