Let’s go back to 2013 shall we.  I’m fresh out of college, degree in hand, offer from my first big girl job accepted and a U-Haul stuffed to the brim ready to head to Michigan.  I was eager for this new chapter in my life, it’s what I’d been waiting for since as far back as I can remember.  In my over eagerness my mother and I headed to the mall because she insisted I absolutely NEEDED some professional suits to go with my grown up job. Fast forward to my first day as an engineer.  I show up in my fancy new Calvin Klein pants suit waiting to meet my boss who greets me in a polo and jeans, a quizzical look on his face.  “Why are you so dressed up,” he asks, “you already got the job”.  As you can imagine that’s not quite the response I was expecting.  After touring the campus and seeing my building it became apparent that my company heavily embraced the casual side of the business casual dress code.  Which for me unfortunately meant quite a lot of money wasted on pieces I didn’t need, or quite frankly want.  To save you new graduates from suffering the same fate I am sharing where and why you should buy work clothes on a budget.  Keep scrolling for my tips and best places to find affordable work wear!

What I’m Wearing

Forever 21 Suit|ALDO Heels|Forever 21 Purse 

After starting at my new job and getting a feel for the work environment I was able to get a better sense of how my style fit in the our dress code.  That’s why I always recommend to recent grads to work with the clothes they own before investing in new pieces for their 9-5.  That’s where fast fashion retailers come in.  While this would seem to go against building a sustainable wardrobe, here are some reasons I suggest started at fast fashion stores:

1. You probably have everything you need to get by from interning.  These days internships are pretty much mandatory to land that dream job post college.  So odds are you already bought some pieces to rock to your temporary position.  Most of these items will most likely be acceptable to wear to your new gig when you’re first starting.

2. You don’t know your work environment. That is unless you interned there first.  If you haven’t then you don’t want to spend a ton of money on business professional work clothes only to get to your office and find out everyone is always in jeans. Trust me on this, been there, done that. You also don’t want to be wearing expensive clothes if your job is more hands on and might require you to get a little dirty.

3. With your mountains of student loan debt, you probably don’t have a large budget to work with. Fast fashion retailers are a great place to find affordable work clothes and with a discerning eye as well as the right care these pieces can last you years.  I have a pair of plain high waist black pants I bought from Forever 21 over 5 years ago that I still wear to this day!

4. Your personal style isn’t probably fully developed. Just like coming to college is an opportunity for self reinvention, starting your career can be the same.  For those of you who don’t have a solid personal style, it doesn’t pay to spend large amounts of money on generic “wardrobe essentials” that turn out not to be your taste.

5.  Not all higher priced items are worth the splurge. In theory we’d all rock kick-ass tailored power suits to work but for a lot of us that’s just not realistic. And many times a higher price tag doesn’t equal higher quality.  When it comes to work clothes it’s best to spend on what makes you feel comfortable and confident! Being confident in your clothes is key for awesome style and a take charge attitude at work. So take the time to really assess how a garment makes you feel even before you decide if it’s appropriate for work.

With that being said here are my favorite places to find work wear on a budget, in no particular order:

  • Forever 21
  • H&M
  • Topshop
  • Mango
  • ASOS

To get the full break down of why I like these places as well as what pieces I look for when I shop there check out my most viewed video on YouTube, Where to Find Work Clothes on a Budget.  Be sure to comment below on your favorite places to score work wear!

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Photos by Jordan Bowens

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