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A Guide for Graduates: Creating a Work Wardrobe on a Budget

A Guide for Graduates: Creating a Work Wardrobe on a Budget
Alison Storm

Most college grads don't have a wardrobe fit for corporate America. American Eagle sweats and collegiate tees far outnumber blazers and ties. Unfortunately that fancy new degree doesn't come with a new wardrobe. However, thanks to budget-friendly retailers creating a work wardrobe on a dime can be done.

Shop Discount Retailers like H&M, Express and Dress Barnbusiness woman

Avi Sudaley graduated from college in September and now works in a corporate office. "I had to find office environment clothes but didn't have much money to spend since I paid my way through college," she says. Her secret? "I found that H&M had some great button downs for like $14 and then Express would actually have some great deals during their 40% off clearance sale at the end of winter and summer. I got really nice slacks from there for about $17 and nice fitted button down shirts for $17 as well." Consider places you may not have shopped in college, like Dress Barn where suit separates are as little as $50.

Consider Tailoring Suitswork suit

Tailors aren't just for people with wads of cash to spend. They can actually be frugal-friendly. Stylist Nola Roller says young guys on a budget can find Prada and Paul Frank knock-offs at suit discount stores. But what can make it look even more expensive is a custom fit. "You can buy a suit at a discount store and then take it to the tailor for a perfect fit," says Nola. "A perfect fitting inexpensive suit look better than an expensive ill-fitting one. You will buy a better suit as soon as you make some money."

Stock Up on Basics

While you may find some crazy printed shirts or brightly colored pants on the clearance rack, you may want to consider pooling your money towards work wardrobe basics in traditional colors like black, brown and gray. You'll find that these stand the test of time and will hold a permanent place in your work wardrobe rather than a fleeting one. Stylist Shauna Nuckles says black is best. "Why black? Because what they say is true ­ it really does go with everything," she says. "And black pants also offer an easy way to dress up your outfit for occasions like holiday parties, important meetings or client lunches."

Take Care of What You Have

Perhaps even more important than what you initially spent on professional looking clothing or shoes is how you care for them. A button down shirt, no matter how much you paid for it, won't look very nice if it's plastered in wrinkles. Same goes with your shoes. Keep them polished and you'll keep them from looking cheap or old. "The condition of your clothing is so key to a polished look," says stylist JuliAnn Stitick. "When you wear something that is old and tired looking, you look… well, old and tired. You may be sending a message that you don't really care about your appearance when you really do!" Whatever you end up buying, JuliAnn suggests taking good care of your investments by hanging them to dry or using a clothing steamer to take out wrinkles.

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