Build a Work Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

I vividly remember my first thoughts after receiving the phone call to schedule my first job interview. My thoughts werent “Im so excited! or “Im so nervous! but as you might expect, the first thing to pop into my head was “Oh no, what am I going to wear? As most college kids do, I had a couple go to pieces in my closet that I had used for presentations or school events but nothing screamed professional- isnt it funny how nothing in our own closets ever seems good enough? I thought about it for a while, what I wanted to wear to my first “real job interview. I had a picture in my head of a tailored pant suit with some sky high heels but lets get real here, there is no way as a college kid I could have pulled that off for my first interview. At the end of the day my glamorous self and my practical self  agreed to disagree and my practical self came out on top of this one. Looking back now, I’m happy thats how it worked out.  Dont get me wrong, Im not saying you cant be stylish and glamorous for an interview or first day on the new job but there are a couple things to consider. First and foremost, you want to be comfortable. Comfort, in this sense, doesnt mean frumpy. Comfort can equal confidence. If you buy a great pair of black pumps but you have a hard time walking in them or they give you a blister, you wont be walking into your workplace (or future workplace) with confidence and confidence is key!

Whether you want the job or got the job, these are my tips on building an office appropriate wardrobe without spending an arm and a leg.

1. Invest in a skirt or pant with matching blazer. Before my first interview I spent about $200 on a charcoal grey pant suit from Express. It worked perfectly for my interviews and by changing out the blouse I wore underneath, it was a completely different outfit. I dont wear it that often anymore but there are times that I need business formal attire and this is my go to. My first purchase was a pant suit but since then I have also purchased a matching skirt as well. Three pieces- 2 suits. I prefer the skirt now since I am short and it is more flattering on me. The skirt also is a bit more feminine than the pants.  Bonus, without the jacket this is an additional everyday office outfit. I work in a fairly conservative industry where black, grey and navy are standard. Even if you dont work in particularly conservative environment, I think it is a good idea to have one of these colors in your office attire arsenal.

2. A couple solid or not too busy button down shirts. I picked solid light pink, lightly striped pastel blue and a muted lavender. Some people may prefer white but I cant put on a white button down shirt without feeling like a waitress or caterer. These can be paired with skirt or pants and under your suit jacket.  They are practical and wearable to the office or in real life, as I like to call anything outside of work. I dont wear my button downs as much as I did when I first started but they are great for days I have meetings scheduled and want to look a little more polished.
3. A comfortable pair of heels or wedges. I cant stress this enough.  Your heels should be stable and easy to walk in, not too high or have a crazy amount of detail. Wear them a few times before ever deciding to wear them to an interview or work. There is nothing worse than breaking-in-new-shoes-blisters at work- definitely a rookie mistake. My first interview for my current position included a tour of our campus which would not have been good in some sky high stilettos I say stick with black and once you get a few paychecks incorporate a pair of nude.  Once you know how much you will walk in a typical day at the office, you can more easily determine what is appropriate for you.  I wear flats into the office, have about 5 pairs of neutral colored heels and wedges in my desk drawer that I coordinate with my outfit unless I have a particularly great pair at home that I carry in my bag into the office to wear that day.  If I get uncomfortable or decide to take a walk for lunch, I slip my flats back on and its no biggie.  These are something you can spend a little more on. They will become a staple of your wardrobe and you can wear them in real life. Its worth spending a little more for a higher quality shoe so you dont have to replace them by the time they are finally broken in and comfortable.
4. Stylish Outerwear. Ok, all of you college girls, its time to grow up and put away your North Face (is that still a college campus staple?).  Invest in some grown up outerwear for when it gets chilly or rainy.  Nothing cramps your work place style like a fleece jacket over your sexy new work clothes. I suggest a classic trench or form fitting jacket, which I think can take most outfits to the next level.
These 4 staples can last  you for a little while but once you get paid go out and get some pieces that show your personality. I didnt want to spend a ton of money when I first started working so every payday I rewarded myself (ya know for making it through a work week) with 1 or 2 additions to my work wardrobe. I try to pick things up that showcase my personal style that are still appropriate to wear to work.  It can take some time but it will happen before you know it. Trust me, it might feel like you are wearing the same 5 outfits for the first month or so but building up your closet gradually allows you to collect pieces you actually like instead of filler clothing items that you wont want to wear in 6 months.

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