Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reader Request: Budget Work Wardrobe (2011 Edition)

Every so often, I get requests from women who are entering (or re-entering) the work force and want help assembling a wardrobe without spending tons of money or looking like they only own 5 things.  Now that this year's class of college grads are getting jobs and starting to shop, I got a couple of emails from readers wanting suggestions on what to buy.  I love challenges like these, and decided it was time to update the list of staple pieces with items that are available now, fairly affordable,  and can be worn through the fall.

I'll start with tops and belts:

Work Tops

If you're starting out, I think the most important pieces to find are those on the left side: great white and black blouses and sleeveless tops with fun detail for layering.  These can be worn alone and underneath a jacket or cardigan, so you can get a lot of wear out of them.  Then, as you find the money, you can work in colorful cardigans and fun belts to add personality.  Finally, a great blazer will last you for years and is worth waiting until you find the perfect fit and good quality.

Here are my picks for bottoms:

Work Bottoms

A good pair of black and/or gray trousers will work with almost any top you have, and a pair of dark wash trouser jeans are great for Fridays (or every day in a casual office).  I also love adding a bold colored skirt or two in addition to basic black and blue, you know, for when you're feeling fancy.

And finally, the accessories to bring it all together:

Work Accessories

You should start with some well made, neutral colored "workhorse" shoes and then gradually add in some color and casual pairs for Friday.  Jewelry is where you'll add personality to the basic pieces you're wearing, so take time to find things you love and stock up on cheap options from H&M and Forever 21 if you don't think you'll wear them often.  I love brave, colorful necklaces and think they are totally appropriate for work so long as your office isn't full of old men in dark suits and no smiles.

Hopefully this collection of items was helpful to those of you in need of work wear.  If you have a shopping request you want help with, don't be shy!  Send me an email and I'll put together a post for you.  I love playing stylist and it's completely free. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to list more clothes on eBay so I can buy something from J. Crew.


  1. You go to ebay girl...hope you get something fab from Jcrew.

    Loving all your suggestions/choices here. Nuetrals, blazers, layering pieces are all essential for a woman entering the work force! And your accessory choices added the perfect amount of individuality and "punch" so it isn't boring! Great post.

  2. Haha--I need to sell/donate more clothes too to make room for fall. ;)

    Great choices. I've found I wear silk sleeveless blouses (mainly from J. Crew) under cardigans and blazers all the time. I have a ton, but they all get a ton of use.

  3. Wow, great choices! I'm in a new job and it's easy in the summer with sundresses and flowy skirts and all, but I'm getting quite nervous about what to wear when it gets cold, especially for my commute. Love the things you picked out here though, and it definitely gives me some good ideas!

  4. i totally need some fun skirt colors. mine are all very boring and tame!

  5. sound like me when I'm on a mission to get something...I'm always like "hmmm, what can I *sell*???" (c: This is such a fun and easy guide to work always seems a little overwhelming when you think of getting a work "wardrobe" and this breaks it into good little bite-sized pieces (c:

  6. This post has some really great advice that I wish I had when I was right out of school so that I stocked up on basics like this instead of trendy pieces. I especially lovee the accessories!

  7. great list. love how you broke it down.



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