For working professionals, the relaxed summer dress code is coming to an end. It’s time to start looking for suits, dresses and other professional clothing. This might be your first year as a frugalista, or maybe it’s just time to update the wardrobe. When it comes to career clothing, you need to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
But looking sharp doesn’t have to cut a hole in your wallet. You can get the clothes you like and project the image you seek without spending a fortune. It’s not so hard to be frugal and have nice clothes at the same time.
Before you start planning an enormous wardrobe, understand a few things about fashion and psychology. As it turns out, you’re the only one who notices what you wear every day. While the boss may notice that sharp suit one day, he won’t remember you just wore it when you pair it up differently the next day.
You Don’t Need That Much
In fact, some women have taken up the challenge of the “Six Items or Less” website, wearing only six items of clothing for a month. According to Stella Brennan, 31, an insurance sales executive from Kenosha, WI, she did just that and no one noticed…not even her husband. She got by on this “shopping diet” with just a black blazer and matching pants, two button-down shirts (a black one and a pink one), a pair of jeans and a pink t-shirt.
So if Stella can get by on just those six items, can’t you get by on less? Maybe just one black suit is a little extreme, but perhaps a grey pinstripe dress suit could be mixed and matched with the black one? Just these basic items could be mixed and matched with one or two trendy shirts to stay ahead of the fashion game while staying in the budget.
Mix and Match
By purchasing only a very limited number of pieces, you can wear several outfits and have options for work or going out at the end of the day. For instance, a skirt can be worn with:
- Tank/sweater combo
- Tank/t-shirt combo
- Tank/blouse combo
- T-shirt/sweater combo
- T-shirt/blouse combo
- Just the T-shirt
- Just the tank
- Just the sweater
You can also wear your dark jeans and black pants with each combination, for over 20 outfits with just 8 pieces of wisely purchased clothing. Throw in some accessories and the outfits can be easily changed up. Men can do the same with jeans, shorts and pants.
The trick to staying fashionable on a limited budget is to understand which items can be worn season after season, and which items will be useless in six months. Certain outfits are timeless. Think of the tall boots, knee-length skirt and turtleneck combo. It never goes out of style. Choose neutral shades and you have yourself an outfit that always works, no matter what.
Timeless clothing is worth paying extra for, but only if you cannot find it at a thrift store. Be patient and shop once a week at your local thrift store until you find the perfect high quality pieces you need. If necessary, buy items on sale at a retailer, but whatever you do, don’t skimp on quality for these pieces. You’ll wear them hundreds if not thousands of times, so you want them to be of lasting quality.
On the other hand, remember that blinding yellow a few seasons back? That color just couldn’t last. Because of the nature of trends, you won’t find the latest color or pattern in thrift stores. But you can buy them at places like Target or Wal-Mart for about $10. A basic t-shirt doesn’t look like a t-shirt when worn with a blazer. When you see those trendy looks in magazines, go get them cheap, knowing quality is less important. The trend usually wears out before the shirt does.
If you have nothing to start with and an extremely tight budget, get help. Some non-for-profit organizations exist that are designed to help unemployed individuals dress for the job they want, including "Dress for Success."
See if you can swap clothes with a career mom turned homemaker. Maybe you can borrow some clothes from a friend until you save enough for your first six pieces…because that’s all you really need to succeed.