I’ve linked to The Politesse a few times already, but today I’m excited to be sharing this guest post from its co-founders, Allyson and Andrea. Both are fashion journalists who decided to launch The Politesse after noticing a lack of social skills, business protocol and basic etiquette amongst their female interns, assistants, and interviewees. The blog helps young women navigate the professional world with the amusing mantra, “You can climb the corporate ladder in heels, but we’re here to make sure you don’t flash us on the way up.” Using good-natured humor and grounded common sense, A + A provide answers to questions like “How do I follow up without being a stalker?,” “Is a crop top office appropriate?” and “Should I decorate my cubicle?”
Today, they’re going to share some tips for creating a work-appropriate wardrobe on a fresh college grad’s budget. Please welcome them both!
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Years ago, when we got our first jobs in the fashion industry, there were limited options for on-trend, wallet-friendly fashions. We’d eat Ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches for three solid weeks just to save up for a pair of shoes from Bloomingdales. It was a different time.
Today, there are endless options for fashion-forward, work appropriate wardrobe solutions—perhaps even too many to choose from! With the abundance of cheap, enticing styles popping up in your inbox, social media feeds or even your walk to and from work, it can be difficult to know when to splurge and when to save.
Not to worry! If you’re new to the workforce and/or have limited funds, read on for our tips on how to build an office-appropriate wardrobe on a budget.
When to spend
It’s best to set a budget for your work wardrobe, and we recommend spending roughly 60% of your budget on quality basics. While we love a bargain, your whole wardrobe should not be made up of disposable fast fashion. It’s just not economical, and here’s why: Imagine you purchase a black polyester blouse for $30. You wear it six times and then it falls apart—that’s $5 a wear. Instead, think about buying a silk blouse for $90, one that will last a whole year. If you wear the top once a week, that equals less than $1.75 a wear. You save money in the long run!
When to save
Though it can be tempting to buy trendy fashion from cute boutiques with beautiful visual merchandising, helpful sales associates and designer brands, resist the urge. When it comes to trendy, fashion-forward pieces, fast fashion retailers are your BFFs.
Want to buy 70s inspired flares and pussy-bow blouses for fall? Head to H&M for vintage color palettes and denim under $40. Interested in purchasing some statement chandelier earrings for a work event this spring? Check out the jewelry section of Forever 21 for unlimited options, most under $13.
Brands to know
One of the most amazing things about modern retail is the ease and availability of ecommerce. We can shop whatever brands we want, whenever we want with
hassle-free returns (most of the time) and free shipping. Since the choice can be overwhelming, here are our favorite brands for budget-friendly workwear, and the
best items they offer.
- Everlane: Producing designer items at wholesale prices, Everlane creates small capsule collections that often sell out within days, so we check their website regularly for new styles. Some of our favorites include their silk blouses (we’re loving their new mint color for spring) and perfect layering tanks.
- H&M: Shopping at H&M is all about separating the juniory, cheapy pieces from the higher-quality, European-inspired pieces. When shopping online, we click through to the “Trend” section, which offers pulled-from-the-runway, sophisticated separates (how chic is this crepe robe jacket?) In store, just ask a sales associate to direct you to the “Trend” section, and you’ll find amazing coats for under $75, well-made dresses for under $50 and colorful printed tops for under $35.
- Zara: Though Zara hasn’t made its way into every US city (yet), the Spanish brand’s ecommerce site is super inspirational and offers a flat shipping rate of $4.95. We turn to Zara for sleek basics like single-button blazers, French-girl stripes and effortless summer dresses. Did we mention that all returns are free?
- ASOS: UK-based ecommerce site ASOS is our go-to source for fun, fashion forward items—think coordinated separates, playful sandals and statement sunglasses. The best/most dangerous thing about ASOS? Completely free shipping and returns. Be careful, ladies.
- Gap: A little bit nostalgic, a little bit utilitarian, Gap’s product selection is perfect for building an affordable work wardrobe. We pick up staples like classic black pants and crisp oxford shirts, but every now and then we’ll spot a perfect shirtdress or a laid-back moto jacket. Trust us, Gap is still great.
For more advice on what to wear to work, or to ask us a question regarding career, etiquette or life in general, email us. We’d love to hear from you!
Images courtesy Everlane