Work and Money
Making the Most of Your Office-Wear Budget
Over the last year and a half, a lot of us have gotten used to working at home, and our work outfits have become sweats, yoga pants, and the “dressy on top, gym shorts on the bottom” uniform for Zoom calls. But offices are beginning to open back up, and that means stepping up our weekday wardrobe game again.
If your work clothes are looking a little out-of-date after sitting out the pandemic in your closet, it's time for a refresh. We've got tips to help you go back to the office in style without breaking the bank.
- Invest in basics that never go out of style. Depending on your work environment, this may be a suit in a classic cut; a sheath dress; a few pairs of dressy trousers in black, charcoal, and navy; a few simple pencil skirts; or high-quality sweaters in solid colors that go with anything. In less formal workplaces, well-cut jeans and simple but tailored tops can take you well into your career before you need to consider a dressier look. Consider a pair of classic leather pumps or timeless boots — cared for well, these will last throughout your career.
- Layering can turn warm-weather pieces into year-round staples. Invest in cardigans and jackets that work well over a short-sleeve summer dress or chiffon top. Plus, wearing your favorite summer skirt with tights and boots in the blustery depths of winter is a welcome reminder that sunny days really will arrive eventually.
- Mixing and matching takes your wardrobe further. Basics in neutral colors or unobtrusive patterns like a pinstripe or muted plaid can appear repeatedly matched with different separates and accessories — no one will notice if your black wool trousers have already made an appearance this week. Black Mary Janes will get a lot more wear than red floral-patterned ones.
- For trendier items that will date quickly, or fun accessories, feel free to go cheap. A cute novelty top in this season's must-have print doesn't need to last forever, and you can get beautiful costume jewelry or colorful cotton scarves for well under $10. Discounters like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, or affordable chains like J.C. Penney and Target, are great sources for lively pieces that will add a pop to your wardrobe.
- Shop secondhand. Consignment and thrift shops are great places to find career clothes, if you're willing to invest the time to comb through the racks.
- Shop the sales. Fall and spring end-of-season sales often yield clothes that you can wear throughout the coming season if you mix up the accessories. Look for coupons to up your savings even further.
- Plan a clothes swap with a group of friends to get rid of pieces that no longer fit or that you've fallen out of love with.
- Consider the cost of garment care. Garments that can go in the laundry or be handwashed will save a fortune over their lifetimes compared to dry-clean-only items. And you can stretch the life of your wardrobe by being proactive: Store sweaters with moth repellents, clean stains at once before they set, and have shoes and boots re-heeled before they run down too far.