“Work Wardrobe Building, Part One: An Overview” is a post by Adina J, TimelessFinance columnist and author of Blue collar / Red lipstick.
PART ONE: An Overview of Building a Basic Work Wardrobe (HERE’S PART TWO)
For those not familiar with my other blogging incarnation, Blue Collar Red Lipstick, it’s a blog devoted to — among other things — the idea that style is for every body and every budget. Unlike fashion, style is a very egalitarian thing; you don’t need oodles of money, or Miranda Kerr’s body, to succeed. You just need a good stylist: you.
To build a work wardrobe, there are two things you need to know to get started: what your needs are (based on your body, your lifestyle, and your budget) and where to find clothes that fulfill those needs. In this series, I’m going to try to tackle both. More specifically, how to build a “work wardrobe” on a recent graduate budget – or how to get lots of style for not a lot of money.
This week (today and tomorrow), I will talk about the basics – the building blocks for a professional wardrobe. Next week I’ll share ways to expand the basic wardrobe that are style- and money-savvy. The following week I’ll wrap up with a post on accessories. It’s gonna be a thrill-a-minute kind of ride (Editor Joe’s note: sorry fellow men, every few months I’ve got to run a frugal fashion series to nurture TF’s presumably atrophied female readership. To aforementioned female readership, if you exist: you’re welcome).
What is a “Work Wardrobe”?
It depends. How is that for starting a post? But this is style, not finances. Even Joe admits that personal tastes are up for debate. Things are not black and white. Well, not unless you have a really boring closet.
What your “work wardrobe” looks like depends on your job description primarily and on your personal tastes to a lesser extent. In the interests of keeping this to a manageable length, I will focus on the former and assume that your job description involves working in an office where the appropriate dress code is somewhere between “business attire” and “business casual” – not so conservative that a suit is a mandatory requirement every day, and not so casual that jeans are an everyday occurrence, either. Most people whose jobs don’t involve uniforms or work-specific gear will likely fall somewhere on this spectrum and can hopefully use my suggestions as a starting point.
More importantly, a “work wardrobe” is not what you’ve been wearing for the last few years while attending school. Re-purpose those T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies for your weekend wear, and don’t for a second think that Lululemon pants, no matter how expensive, count as office-appropriate attire under any circumstances.
Building a Basic Work Wardrobe
In tomorrow’s post I’ll go over, in detail, the individual elements of a basic work wardrobe. They include:
- The suit
- Tops (shirts, blouses, etc.)
- Bottoms (skirts and pants)
- Cover-up options (blazers, cardigans, sweaters, etc.)
A bare bones work wardrobe might include as few as 14 pieces. If judiciously picked for maximum matchability (yeah, I just made up that word), those pieces can yield two dozen or more different outfits. For some people, that will be more than sufficient. Others will want additional opportunities to express their style and personality – I, for one, don’t blame them. Especially since expanding on the basic work wardrobe can be easy and budget-friendly. Next week’s post aims to convince you of that.
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A few general tips to keep in mind if you are building a small, starter wardrobe for work:
- The fewer elements your wardrobe contains, the more attention you must dedicate to selecting them. Versatility is an important consideration; you will want styles that are classic (and flattering), in colours that are neutral and, thus, easy to accessorize.
- Fit will be equally important; if you’re going to wear something a lot, it better be comfortable and flattering. Never buy something just because it’s the right size – or worse yet, the size you arbitrarily decide you must be.
- Quality is no less important; the more you wear an item, the more important it is that the item holds up over time. Thus, the fewer clothes you own, the more expensive each individual piece can be (Editor Joe’s note: ahem, expensive doesn’t necessarily equal good quality. A priori evidence here. A posteriori evidence here). But be honest with yourself – if you’re actually a quantity-above-all kind of gal, then buy inexpensive pieces. Don’t try to justify blowing your budget on something that constitutes less than, say, 5% of your wardrobe.
Don’t forget the “hidden” wardrobe expenses: tailoring and dry-cleaning costs. Tips for reducing these costs:
- As much as possible, avoid buying items that require either (duh).
- Educate yourself about which fabrics can withstand hand- or machine-washing, label warnings notwithstanding.
- Buy a garment steamer at XS Cargo for $40, pick up some Tide Stain Remover Sticks for $3.50 each, and get a bottle of Febreeze. Use these three tools so that you don’t need to dry-clean each item after just a couple wears.
- Pick up some basic sewing skills.
Check back tomorrow for an in-depth look at the basic work wardrobe essentials! (Editor Joe’s Note: if you’re a “Pinner”, I’ve posted Adina’s pictures from this week’s fashion articles on the TimelessFinance Pinterest account. Did I just die a little bit inside? Yeah.)