I have been out of the go-to-the-office-daily workforce for a long time. There were children, there were my other small businesses, part-time jobs and my blog but now I’m ready to get back on this horse. The problem is that all my Country Road suits were donated to charity about 10 years ago. Now I need to find things to wear … stat.
How to build a Work Wardrobe on a budget
I like to build up a wardrobe gradually. I think that if you buy everything in one go, then they wear out at the same time, plus if they go out of style or you change shape, then your entire wardrobe might need updating. Just a piece here and there is best. If you don’t believe me, then ask my husband. He decided to buy a complete casual wardrobe in one day. I explained that slim lined cargo pants might not be around for ever. Six months later, he needed to start replacing his pants again. Lesson learnt. Always listen to your wife.
First Shop your Existing Wardrobe
You might be surprised by what you can find hiding. You could have missed them because you were looking for other, cooler items.
- Nice fitting trousers
- Button up shirts
- Nice blouses
- Simple dresses
- Anything you’ve worn to a nightclub
- Items that are the wrong size. Even 1/2 a size too small will look bad
- Pieces with rips, stains or piling
- Clothes that show too much skin. No spaghetti straps, short skirts, low cut cleavage or see through fabric
- Too many sequins, glitter or sparkles
- Clothes that are too casual. i.e. jeans, shorts, sports wear
Build the Base
- Pick a colour, like black navy or grey. Stick close to this so you can mix and match your pieces
- Look for well fitting, clean lined pieces
- Avoid prints. This is because people will remember if you are wearing the same Pineapple print shirt 2 times a week but they won’t notice of you are re-wearing a simple white or black shirt. Of course you can add prints as your wardrobe builds but for the base, don’t do it!
- Find a pair of comfortable, understated, toe covered shoes. When I say comfortable, don’t think Grandma shoes, think cute and comfortable. I’m comfortable in heels and would be uncomfortable in super flat ballet shoes. They need to be understated for the same reason that you don’t buy prints, if you need to wear them everyday, then it won’t be as obvious. You can add the leopard print in the second round
- A handbag. A ratty handbag will ruin any look. Make sure it’s big enough to carry everything but small enough that it doesn’t look like you’re moving in. This can be colour or printed. No one expects you to change your handbag daily, so it doesn’t matter if it stands out
What to Buy
First cross out anything you found while shopping your wardrobe.
- Pair of trousers in your base colour
- A blazer. It should match the trousers
- A skirt. I would suggest knee length either pencil fit or a-line but go with whatever skirt style you feel most comfortable in. Comfort is everything
- At least 3 simple tops. I like button down shirts because they are so freaking sexy
- A pair of comfortable shoes
- A mid sized handbag
- If you really wanted to go crazy, then add a simple dress and a cardigan
How to Accessorise
This is where you add the little bits of you. Finding great accessories is a cheap and fun way to change the appearance of your base outfit.
- Don’t wear too much jewellery. Sure a simple arm party is cute but an arm, finger, neck party will make it look and sound like a gypsy is wandering the halls. Plus it’s really distracting
- A watch screams “I’m serious about time, I will be everywhere on time and meet every deadline”
- Belts can make an outfit look done. I personally don’t like to see belt loops on pants or skirts without a belt threaded through. Either remove the loops, hide them, wear a belt or buy something without belt loops
- Scarves are great to add colour, personality but pick them well. Look for a soft, thin fabric and not too big. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing a blanket at your desk. It really gives the wrong impression.
- Do your hair in a style that will stay and you won’t be touching it all day. I like to wear my hair down, but I fiddle. So, my go-to style is a knot/bun/nest on top of my head. I know this stays and I know how to do it in 2 mins
- Clean nails. You don’t have to get a mani and gel nails, they just need to look neat and clean. I like to wear a nice polish but take it off if it’s chipped
- Light spritz of a non-overwhelming fragrance. Anything the opposite of Opium
- Light daytime makeup. Here is an easy 5 minute makeup tutorial if you need a little help
When you have a little spare cash, you can start on the second round. This is the best round!! Leopard print shoes, printed dresses or skirts but alway make sure they will go with your base wardrobe.
What else? I’d love to hear any other tips you have.