Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to work wardrobe on a budget

It's Friday afternoon and the phone rings.  "Can you start Monday?"  If you are a woman what's the first thing you might do after graciously accepting?  Run to the closet of course and exclaiming "I haven't a thing to wear!"  Okay two days to get a wardrobe together!  Ahhh.....

Recently I had this experience and it came after working in a strictly casual environment for years.  I hadn't been shopping in such a long time and my closet only contained some mismatched, no longer fits clothing and I had two days to put together a "BUSINESS CASUAL" wardrobe.  And, it had to be done on a limited budget!

Here's what I started with that I thought would work:

Black skirt
White blouse
Print skirt
Turquoise Blouse
Solid black blouse
Black print blouse
Black and White dress (not pictured)
Two piece jacket and pants navy purchased for the interview ( Evan Picone $30 :), not pictured)
A few of last resort blouses in red, purple, and white (not pictured)
Black sandals
Gold sandals
Camel colored shoes

Now to a man that might sound like a lot but to a woman that's practically an empty closet and certainly not enough to start a new career.  Ahhh again!....

So let the shopping begin!  My original goal was $100 dollar but I admit I raised the limit to $200 because it was one of those rare times when I actually really liked what they are selling.  There is a 50s flavor that I always loved but yes, was too young to wear. And, I was having so much fun.  To some this might seem extremely low and to others it might be far more than they have available.  You may not like my choices but I'm showing the pictures to provide an idea of how to put together a relatively few pieces with the potential of being able to mix and match them to provide more outfits.  The same idea can be changed to suit your own style.  Thrift stores can even bring the price far lower if necessary.  We are fortunate to live close to some very reasonably priced outlet stores that carry name brand clothing.  Ross Dress for Less and Burlington Coat Factory are my favorite but there are many more.

The first $100
2 piece coordinates consisting of black pants with printed black and white jacket $30
2 piece coordinates consisting of pants with solid black suede type jacket $30
Dress $14
Blouse $8
Shoes $12
The things I went back for:
Brown suede type jacket $20
Print skirt $14  (shades of browns and tans with gold thread running through)
Tan beaded cardigan $30  (The gold sandals look great with this because of the gold beads)
Moss green cardigan $10  (Just to add a different splash of color to the blacks)

I was able to purchase 10 pieces and have $25 left over to add a couple of blouses, shoes, or accessories.  Most of the items can be mixed and matched with each other and the pieces that I already owned.  Picking your primary color is the most important thing for beginning to build a cost effective wardrobe.  Because I already had some black and white I decided to go with that to start.  I also wanted things that would be appropriate for church and author events.  In a few months I would like to get some browns or dresses in a completely different color scheme.  Navy and grey are also my favorites for the basics.

I know some people enjoy picking up a piece of clothing here and there but I much prefer saving up the money and then picking up a number of pieces at one time.  To me it is more fun and productive to make a day of it and then be done for months.  This practice stems from my school days of the back to school wardrobe with a few added pieces at Christmas.  Shopping only once or twice a year also helps avoid impulse shopping that either costs too much or where you end up with odd ball pieces that get left in the closet with the price tags on just because it was a good deal.

So seeing what I have, any suggestions on the best way to spend the remaining $25?

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Everyday Tips said...

Oh my gosh, you did a fantastic job! I am so impressed. (And somewhat depressed at my own ability to put outfits together that look decent.)

Where did you shop?

Congrats on the new job too!

Carol said...

Thank you! I wasn't sure if the pictures would show that much. Burlington and Ross Dress for Less was where we went shopping. I'm sure there are outlet stores in most major cities. If not, the same thing can be done on the sale and clearance racks of the major department stores.

I think knowing your colors is the first step. If you're not sure the book Color Me Beautiful helps you know what works best for you. Here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Color-Me-Beautiful-Carole-Jackson/dp/0345345886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287629943&sr=8-1
Much of what sits in the closet are things we should not have bought in the first place. It might look great on someone else but not on us. Instintively we know this when the shopping buzz wears off. Always keep receipts so it can be returned if needed. A wasted $5 is $5 too much.

Practical Parsimony said...

Returning things can be the most satisfying part of clothes shopping. If I shop when tired or desperate, I don't make good choices because I don't find what I need and just "settle." I have more luck finding pieces on sale and at different times. Twin sets are my favorite pieces, not the fake ones where you cannot remove the sweater.

Congratulations on the job and a great shopping success.

Olivia said...

You asked what to spend the last $25 on, I'd say nylons. Those go fast in a work environment.

Carol said...

Thanks Oliva. That's a great idea.