This post is for all of you who want to create an office wardrobe on a budget, but don’t have the budget to buy the wardrobe all at once. Because let’s face it, you can easily find the spring work capsule wardrobe: 15 pieces, 150 outfits or X stylish office outfit ideas. But if you are able to buy it all this season, you probably don’t need to work, hence aren’t in need of an office wardrobe. Lucky you! Even if you can afford a complete new office wardrobe, I wouldn’t recommend buying everything all at once for several reasons such as the environment and that a new style has to “grow on you”.
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 1: clear your closet
Remove every piece of clothing from your closets and dedicate part of it to your office wardrobe. Keeping your clothes for the office together will help you create appropriate outfits quicker.
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 2: sort your current clothes
Next is going through the pile of all your clothing and determining what is suitable for your workspace. Here are some tips that will help you sorting.
- If it is ripped, stained or faded it doesn’t belong in your office wardrobe. No, even not your fashionable “chic” destroyed/distressed skinny jeans that you paid a fortune to get. Keep those items for the weekend or get rid of them.
- Everything that is too small or too large can’t be part of your office look. If it’s too large and you can have it tailored, it can find its way back in, but until then it shouldn’t be part of this closet.
- Now we come to a touchy part: modesty. And yes I’ve erred on the wrong side as well. It’s up to you entirely but don’t wear clothes that show (parts of) your underwear, have too much cleavage, reveal your shoulders or could be considered a mini dress/skirt. You can wear a sleeveless dress, but in that case you should wear a blazer or cardigan as well.
- As for shoes… as long as they aren’t scuffed, in good condition, polished and you can walk comfortable in them you have a wide variety of options but consider the dress code at you workspace as well. From very conservative to creative, here is my list:
- Low to mid high pumps in black, dark blue, grey and nude colors. Closed toe and heel.
- Pumps in other colors and heights than mentioned above. Open toe, if the heel is closed or sling backs with closed toe.
- Ballet flats or loafers.
- Boots. Uggs are not boots, I’ve worn them once to the office when it was freezing and I had the beginning of a cold, but it was a big mistake…
- Closed low shoes.
- Sneakers. And no, not you running shoes or anything you wear to the gym. I love sneakers underneath a suit. But you have to know when you can pull this of.
Never appropriate: Uggs, Crocs, Birkenstocks, clogs, everything you exercise in, hiking or riding boots, Moonboots and flip-flops.
- Evening wear and everything you wear on a Saturday night out should be in another part of your wardrobe entirely.
- Consider the season and store your off-season clothes elsewhere.
- Leggings are not pants. If you want to include them you should at least wear a tunic over them.
I hope you’ve got some clothes left for your office wardrobe at this point. Otherwise you might have to buy more items to start with. Now hang or set everything in it’s place: blouses with blouses, pants with pants.
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 3: Determine you colors
Choosing your colors is very important. Wearing a color that suits you will make you look healthy and more beautiful. Wearing colors appropriate for the occasion will give you a professional air. Having a color scheme will minimize the amount of pieces you need for your wardrobe and gives you the ability to mix & match almost everything. Take the clothes that you already have in your office wardrobe as a starting point. What are your current basic/neutral colors?
Then consider your workplace, the Brits have a saying: no brown in town. In a conservative space you should stick to black, grey or navy. Burgundy, cream and white can be also very chic, but let the dress code guide your choice of neutrals.
Choose a color scheme. When your current basics are for example predominantly navy and black, choose the color that suits you most, add another neutral that matches your skin tone and choose two accent colors. With the accent colors you can play a little bit, even in the most conservative offices. Choose colors that are really you. If you are a fashion junky, this is how you can express it. Thus enter rose quartz and Serenity. If you need inspiration on color schemes you can take a look at The Vivienne files.
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 4: Set a monthly budget
As a professional wardrobe is part of earning your salary each month, it is worth investing in. Therefore I recommend that you set yourself separate budgets for your work and leisure outfits. Depending on your position in a company, you are also expected to dress for that position. Or if you’re looking for a promotion: for the next position that you aspire. On the other hand, if you only have a small salary, your bosses can’t expect you to have a very extensive or luxurious wardrobe. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to look put together at all times and that your work results and your business savvy in the end determine your rise through the ranks. Thus back to your office wardrobe budget: 5 to 8% of your net income is about what I would recommend.
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 5: Buy a blazer to give structure to your wardrobe
Finally, time to shop! You probably thought we wouldn’t be getting there. But yes, you have extracted from your wardrobe an amount of clothes that are office appropriate. You have determined a color scheme and set yourself a budget. The first month you are going to buy yourself a blazer and pumps of the highest quality you can afford. Throwing a blazer on and adding pumps will make almost anything that’s in your office wardrobe office worthy.
Choose a blazer in one of your neutrals from your color scheme. Don’t listen to advice such as: every business woman should own a black blazer. No, stick to your color scheme. If your colors are brown (if you don’t work in the City, Londen, or in banking it is a perfectly acceptable color), camel, cream and turquoise you need a blazer in brown or camel. And if you already own those, than you can add either one in cream or in turquoise or in a tweed / textured version of those colors. No matter what color you choose, the blazer should fit well and give you a powerful feeling.
Buy a pair of classic pumps in your color scheme. They have to fit, because you’re going to wear them often. I love suede pumps, because the material will give a little and makes them comfortable.
To bridge the period between the start of your new wardrobe and the completion you need to buy the most versatile pieces first. Above pictures show that without any doubt a blazer and a pair of appropriate pumps will make your current clothes office worthy enough. If you have the budget, you can also buy a complete suit, thus including trousers or skirt. But remember: quality over quantity!
How to create an office wardobe on a budget, step 6: Take care of your clothes and shoes
If you take good care of your clothes, you don’t need to replace them soon and you get more wear for your money. For both blazers and shoes: don’t wear them two days in a row. The material needs to breath.
Follow cleaning instructions, but clean your blazers as little as possible. If you pack blazers on a business trip hang them on a clothes hanger in the bathroom as soon as you arrive. The steam from the shower or bath, will unwrinkle it.
Impregnate your shoes before you start wearing them and take regular care of the material and the soles.
And where are the handbags? Well, although I really love them and you probably too, you’ll have to await the next post on how to create an office wardrobe on a budget.