Building a fashionable work wardrobe on a budget


We just had our Reunion celebration this weekend at Lake Forest Academy. One of my Inner Circle colleagues asked if she could borrow a dress. I have received many dresses from her and it made me think about how costly it is to build a work wardrobe when you are coming back to work full-time.

Working at the Academy, we have many events to attend like our Welcome Back Dinner, Reunion and Gala to name a few. These special events happen every year and require cocktail attire. There is also the day-to-day work attire that I did not have to wear to help kindergarteners get there wet snow suits off. With limited funds, I needed to look professional and be creative on how I obtained the professional look I wanted. Here are some of the ways that I upped my work attire for everyday office, board of trustee meetings and the special events held at our school.

dressbarn has been a favorite of mine for all of the wardrobe needs I have.  I like to wear dresses for my everyday work wardrobe and have found the majority of my dresses on the $19.99 clearance rack in the back of my local store. The dresses I purchase at this price usually are at the middle to the end of the season, but they wear great and have lasted for several years. My sister-in-law, Bertha, gives me coupons for purchasing items that are not on the clearance rack and they always seem to be having some sort of sale. I also purchase tops, blazers and work pants at dressbarn. To top it off, dressbarn has an educator discount. BONUS!!!! (Talbots has an educator discount as well)

TJMaxx is another favorite of mine. This summer I needed a few new dresses for the IAAP Summit in Austin, TX and I found beautiful Calvin Klein dresses for $29.99!  TJMaxx carries many designer brands at greatly reduced prices. I purchased three (3) dresses for less than I would have paid for one in a department store.

I normally would not shop at Macy’s because I find their pricing to be a little out of my range. However, they offer this free service called My Stylist to help you fill in the gaps of your work wardrobe. A fashion consultant met with me to see what my needs were. I asked for only pieces that were on sale. I had many complete outfits brought to the dressing room and I just tried on and picked what I wanted. It was a wonderful way to find what you need.

Goodwill and my local consignment shop in town have been a great source for cocktail fashion finds. I don’t think I have mentioned it yet, but I do not like to shop. I go in looking for something and then leave. This is very easy to do in these types of shops.

My last little fashion nugget is a necessity for those of us who live in the Midwest. My holy grail of fashion is  . . . Commando Ultimate Opaque Matte Tights. As I stated earlier, I like to wear dresses. Tights are a necessity during our cold season. I purchase mine at Nordstrom at the hefty price of $36 a pair. But before you think I have lost my mind, let me break it down for you. My current pair (which I will be replacing this fall) has lasted me two (2) entire years. In wearing these tights 2 to 3 times a week from October to March I calculated $.69 per wear (2 times a week for 26 weeks for 2 years). That is a significant return on my investment.

So if you are heading back to work full-time, or need to spruce up your current work wardrobe, give these ideas a try. If you have some great ways that you have frugally added to your closet, please share with us.

Have a wonderful and fashionable work week!


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