Small Budget, Big Impact: Building a Killer Work Wardrobe without Breaking the Bank

Updated: May 30, 2019

Congratulations! You just landed that new job. But, what? You have nothing to wear? And a very limited budget for a new wardrobe? Fear not. Here are some ideas to build a million-dollar look without breaking the bank.


1. Take a look at pieces you already have. You may have more in your closet than you realize. Enlist the assistance of a friend to help guide you on what is business attire, business casual, etc. A good place to get photo examples is the Brooks Brothers website.


2. Look at what colors you have. Black, navy, and gray are all good for business. White blouses, light blue or green or lilac tops are good choices. For your wardrobe foundation, you'll want to stick to basics. You can accessorize with jewelry and scarves.


3. See if you can put together a few outfits from your existing clothing. Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to assemble pieces in a different way.


4. Take stock of what's missing. Might you need some classic blazers in black, blue, and gray? Maybe a black skirt that goes from work to after work with the change of a top? Heels in black and navy? Make a list.


5. Now for the shopping! I am a big fan of consignment stores for finding great deals on good quality clothing. Look for name brands. Don't worry if the garment might need slight alterations. Remember, you're getting a fantastic piece at the fraction of the cost of new. You can spend a few dollars on the tailor. I don't buy blouses or shoes secondhand, but that's personal preference. You may also be able to score a great handbag at consignment prices. Nice to have a snappy Kate Spade to complement your look.


6. Because I buy shoes new, my go-to is DSW. Excellent selection and good prices. I tend to be hard on shoes, so another reason to not invest a great deal of money. It's important to keep them in good repair, so find a cobbler you like.


7. Spend some time on Sundays putting together your outfits for the week. Plan to wear the suit that makes you feel confident on the day you have that important meeting. Doing this on Sunday will ensure you aren't rushed getting ready Monday through Friday.


8. Don't worry if your wardrobe is limited at first. Add pieces as your budget allows. Do some mixing and matching with what you have. And remember, you can change a look with accessories. Jewelry and scarves are your friends.


Enjoy the process of building your professional wardrobe. If you buy quality pieces and take care of them, they should last for years. If you look in my closet, you'll find a J.G. Hook navy blue blazer, circa 1985. And my favorite consignment store find -- a black Talbots cashmere blazer in the catalog for something like $700 that I got for, wait for it, $60. The great deals are out there. Happy shopping!