It’s hard to dress professionally — especially when you only have hoodies and jeans — without breaking the bank. Sure, every college student can make it through an interview or two. But, once you’ve landed your first internship or job and have to wear business attire five days a week, it can be hard to look professional constantly without going to the mall and going broke.
I found that out the hard way this semester. After years of waiting tables, I landed an internship at Central Michigan University in its public relations department. It’s my first foray into the business world and it has been a big wake-up call as to what it means to dress professionally on a regular basis. I love my job, but I think it’s safe to say that both my closet and bank account were not prepared for the reality of a corporate work setting.
Somehow, I’ve managed to show up for work every day looking good. And, I’ve done it without breaking the bank. Here are my secrets:
Invest in Some Quality Pieces
To get the most for your money, you first have to know where to spend it. A black business suit that fits you perfectly is worth shelling out for. But an outfit that’s super trendy? Not so much. Spend your money on classic pieces that are versatile and will last at least five years. We’re talking business suits, blazers and dress pants.
Try Secondhand Stores and Garage Sales
Stores like Goodwill are great places to pick up extra pieces to expand your wardrobe without spending much cash. This is where you can look for fun, trendy pieces to complement your staples. Make a game of it by only bringing $20-$30 with you and see what you can find.
You can wear the same black T-shirt twice a week if you pair it with different jewelry. On Monday, try a statement necklace. For Thursday, throw on a blazer and a scarf. You can find accessories everywhere and they will extend the life of your basic staples without costing a lot of money.
Gone are the days when you had summer and winter clothing. With a little creative dressing, you can extend the life of your wardrobe to cover all four seasons. The best way to do this is by re-using the same pieces for different seasons and adding season specific layers. Think about shoes, jackets, tights and other pieces.
Lastly, remember my golden rule: People who see you have no way of knowing where you bought your clothes. If you don’t feel comfortable shopping at Goodwill, take a road trip to another town where nobody will recognize you. Don’t let your pride be the reason you go broke.