The bare minimum of a professional wardrobe.
I stick to the basics in this list to keep costs down and this should be what you build your wardrobe around. Once you have all these items you can shop around for more trendy items that are less expensive.
1.) 3 Versatile work pants: Black, Gray, Navy Blue, Tan of any material.
a. Budget: 100 dollars/pant. I go a little high with the price because they pants should look excellent on you. They should flatter your curves and be the right size. No pinching, bulging, stretching. I also added a little wiggle room if you need to tailor them. The rule is: your pants should skim the floor. If you are wearing heels, the pants should cover the entire heel. That might mean you can only wear some pants with flats or heels. That’s ok.
2.) 1 Skirt: Black pencil skirt. Goes with everything.
a. Budget: 70 dollars.
3.) 1 Dress: Goes with everything and you can dress it up for something after work. You can also use it like a skirt.
a. Budget: 100 dollars
4.) 8 Button down work shirts: 1-3 white shirts, 1 black, 2 dark, 2 bright. You need more white button down shirts because they tend to wear out and get dirtier easier. I also say 2 dark, 1 light and 2 bright because certain colors go better in winter/fall (dark), and summer/spring (light). I say 2 bright because you should have a couple shirts that just make you happier wearing them.
a. Budget: 50 dollars/shirt. TIP: The best places to get these shirts are New York and Company, Express, Gap, and The Limited. These places tend to have sales a lot and when they do, stock up. I generally get these shirts for between 20 or 30 dollars/shirt.
5.) 1-5 cardigans: Cardigans are your best friend. They keep you warm in a cold office and keep you looking chic. I would say definitely have a black, gray, and white cardigan so you get the best value. But also throw in 1 or 2 funky colors or patterns again for the splash of color.
a. Budget: 40 dollars/cardigan. My favorite places to get cardigans are the Gap, New York and Company, and Forever21.
6.) 1-3 blazers: Same thing as above. Keep these neutral, but if you want to take advantage of a current trend like bright colors I say go for it. Red is actually a neutral color so if you’re going to value and trendy, get red.
a. Budget: 100 dollars/blazer. For some reason, well fitting blazers are incredibly hard to find. Maybe it’s because I have a petite frame, but so many blazers make my shoulders big and are too wide in the waist. Use the extra money and find a blazer that is fitted to your shoulders and shows that you have a waist. Every woman has a waist. If you need to have it tailored, do it. The best blazers I have are from H and M. I have also heard J. Crew and Banana Republic have good ones.
7.) 1-2 suits: I say more than one because you’re going to need it. Stick with neutrals and dark colors. If I was interviewing someone and they needed to come back for a second interview and they were wearing the same suit, I would definitely pass judgment on them. You don’t want to have one suit you always wear for a presentation or interview. You want to look professional and professionals have multiple suits.
a. Budget: 200 dollars. The two suits I have are both way under that because I got them at H and M, but I would say give yourself an allowance. You wear a suit when you want to impress someone and you are usually getting something out of it.
8.) 1-3 shirts that are not button downs: These blouses should be professional, but not quite as stiff as a button down. Use these slots for trendy items like a floral blouse, a tie blouse, or a sheer blouse. Budget: 30 dollars/shirt
9.) 1-4 shoes: 1 black heel, 1 nude heel, black flats, and trendy flat. Black goes with everything in your closet that is dark and nude goes with everything else. The trendy flat is to give you a little more style.
a. Budget: 60 dollars/pair of shoes. Again, with browsing sales, you can definitely find something nice. I like Kohls, DSW, or Nordstrom’s for work shoes.
10.) 1-2 Purses: Black and Brown: Goes with everything.
a. Budget: 50 dollars/purse. Just don’t go with designers and you will be fine. Almost every trendy young womenswear store has cute purses.
Total: If you max out the budget that puts you at 2000 dollars. If you shop for sales, than you are around 1500. This might seem like a lot, but we spend the majority of our lives at work and you must always present a positive image of yourself so why wouldn’t you spend the money to look good. 2000 dollars over 12 months is 167 dollars/month. Surely you could afford that which will be an investment into your future. My suggestion for a professional wardrobe is look often and smart. Don’t leave yourself the last minute to try and find a good fitting suit. You either won’t have time to get it tailored or you won’t find anything you like. There are a ton of websites that allow you to track sales and be alerted when something goes down in price. You can also sign up for store emails. Make a friend at the local department store and they would love to call you when they see something you might like especially if they work on commission.