When I was a business student at Baylor University I realized my senior year that I had about five business appropriate outfits that I could wear to professional events.  This consisted of job fairs, interviews, speaking events…etc.  I wondered how I was going to wear business clothes everyday when I graduated when I had like z-e-r-o dollars to spend on nice clothes?!  I am going to share just HOW I did that and WHERE the best places to shop for work clothes on a budget.  Creating a business wardrobe takes time, but it is so easy to mix an match the essentials I share below.  

The Essentials

These items are going to be your backbone for building any outfit.  With these, you can mix and match all kinds of classy combinations.

  1. The Classic Black Dress
  2. High Waist Black Slacks
  3. Black Blazer
  4. Grey or Black Pencil Skirt
  5. Black and Nude Heels
  6. Button Down Blouse

Tops

This is where you can save some money already by incorporating tops you already have into your work wardrobe.  You would be so surprised how much you can dress up a simple blouse that you would normally wear with jeans to now wearing with slacks and a blazer.   Here are some of my favorite work tops that are so versatile and can be worn with just about any combo.  Blouses will be your most budget friendly area of business dress where you can find great pieces at H&M and Forever21.

  1. The portofino chiffon blouse.  This top goes with everything and they have so many colors and prints and they’re machine washable which is huge for me and it doesn’t wrinkle in my suitcase when I pack for a business trip.  P.S. They have site wide 40% off sales or BOGO sales where you can get a great deal! Here’s a similar top that is a little more budget friendly.
  2. The classic white button-up (pictured below) – I love a classic top like this with some high waisted slacks and pumps.
  3. Solid color tanks under a blazer like pictured above or if it is spaghetti strap.  See how I styled my favorite cami in this post.
Business Wardrobe Outfit Ideas

Bottoms

You’re going to have to spend a little bit more here but I promise it will be worth it.  I have been working in the consulting industry for about three years now and I still wear some of my first pairs of slacks that I bought.  Your work wardrobe is an investment.  So you’ve already bought a great pair of black slacks so let’s see what else you will need.  Here is a great place to find unique work wear and they have petite, tall, and maternity options.

  1. Grey or Navy Slacks
  2. High Waisted Tie Pants (SO in this spring) here are some great styles.
  3. Appropriate Length Skirts
  4. White or Patterned Pants

Dresses

This is probably the most expensive category for professional dress.  I have found some incredible deals on designer dresses at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack.   Another great spot for chic work dresses is LOFT.  They occasionally have a 40% off site-wide sale that you should absolutely take advantage of.  I also love their outlet stores if you live near an outlet mall.  A work dress should be a little above or below your knee,  loose fitted, and whatever color makes you feel most confident.  Sweater dresses are also incredibly appropriate for work.  In the fall and winter, I love to pair them with tights and booties for a comfortable cute look.  Another way to transition between seasons is wearing a sweater over a dress.  

Dress | Bag | Heels | Earrings

Shoes

When it comes to work shoes, my first requirement is comfort and second is style and third is affordability.  I will not sacrifice my feet for a gorgeous shoe that is miserably uncomfortable, but I will also not sacrifice my style for a hideous comfy shoe.  Therefore when I find a shoe that is cute and comfortable…even if I don’t “need” it… I buy it.  Why?  Because when I do “need” a new pair of shoes, it can take me months to find something cute, comfy, and in my budget.

Some of my favorite brands for comfortable long lasting shoes are Nine West and Sam Edelman.  My top shoe stores for work are TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack.  I do love a good pair of booties in the fall and winter as well. You can find some of my favorite comfortable work shoes in this post.

Blazers, Coats & Sweaters

A great way to change up your look is with an over layer.  No matter what season it is, layering is always a good idea.  You never know when it is going to be freezing in your office and an over layer can add a chic dynamic to your outfit as well.  I love playing up printed coats or blazers with an all black under look.  Investing in a good wool coat is also worth your money because it will last for years and not go out of style.  Try to buy coats in the off season in order to get a great sale price!

Women's Business Fashion

The Big Takeaway

All you need is time… Start with the essentials and build from there.  You don’t have to go out and spend a thousand dollars at once to get all that you need.  Do contribute a little bit out of each of those first few paychecks to building your business wardrobe.  The way you present yourself in the working world is very important and this is a philosophy I live by…

“Dress for the job you WANT, not the job you HAVE.”

My Favorite Stores for a Business Wardrobe

LOFT

Nordstrom Rack

TJ Maxx

Marshalls

Express

LOFT Outlet

Banana Republic Outlet

H&M

Forever21

Dillard’s

If you’re going on a business trip soon, make sure you check out my post on “How To Pack for a Business Trip”.

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Business Wardrobe for women

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4 comments

Reply

I don’t have the figure for button downs unless I sew them down – even. Then, I look dowdy. However, I find sleeveless mock turtlenecks work great year round and have a classy, conservative touch for my workplace. I can dress them up or down and still look professional.

Reply

Hi Judith,

Great suggestion! I love a good turtleneck or high neck blouse! Thanks for the feedback.

XO,
Mattison

Reply

My daughter is also a business student at Baylor. She hates shopping for clothes unless it’s at the Nike store. That being said, she doesn’t have many, if any, business type clothes in her closet. Thank you for your suggestions. I will be passing them along to her on our shopping trip tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Reply

Hi Michelle,
That is so fun! I was the same way. If you’re going in person, I definitely recommend TJ Maxx and Marshall’s for some great work wear. I hope ya’ll have a fun shopping trip together. Sic ‘Em Bears!!

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