By: Marissa Bell

There is nothing worse than showing up to a party and noticing that you are completely under-dressed. The same feeling of inferiority happens in the workplace when you can just tell that you aren’t dressed appropriately. But dressing professionally, while still maintaining your own sense of style, is getting harder and harder as prices for suits and other items of clothing rise. Thanks to certain websites and stores, however, buying professional clothing can be cheaper and easier. Oftentimes the biggest problem is trying to figure out what pieces to spend your money on, and which items are absolutely essential to have in one’s wardrobe. First things first, a quick list of things that must be in every woman’s closet:

  • Pant suit (black, navy, brown, charcoal gray)
  • Pencil skirt that can be worn with the your suit jacket
  • White collared button down
  • 4 or 5 colorful knit blouses with varying necklines
  • Professional dress that can be worn with your suit jacket
  • Comfortable heels (not too high of a heel)
  • Appropriate and professional handbag

From just having those seven basic items in your closet, you have months worth of different options to create unique outfits. And yet, looking at that list, it still seems as though all of those aspects are going to add up pretty quickly. So here are 3 rules to follow to keep the prices down:

Rule no. 1: Outline Expensive, Fill in Cheap:

While cryptic, what this rule basically means is that your outer layers should be where you spend the bulk of your budget. Your suit should be a quality suit, and while this doesn’t necessary mean that you need to spend 100 dollars on a suit, it also means that you shouldn’t be scrounging bargain bins for a jacket and pants that only match when its dark. You should be buying a suit, meaning that the pieces are made of the same fabric, are the same color, and are clearly meant to be worn together. And finding one that fits well might cost a little bit. But it’s worth it to find a suit you feel good in. So that’s the expensive outline. Fill in cheap means that you can buy less expensive items to wear under the suit. Feel free to shop the bargain bins for your blouses and button downs.

Rule no. 2: Borrow from Friends

The simple fact of the matter is that your employer won’t be paying close enough attention to keep track of each and every item of clothing you have, but sometimes the ones you do have just feel stale. To avoid spending more money on things you don’t necessarily need, branch out and ask you friends. If they have good style and are the same size as you, it’s like going shopping and having the sales person handing you the merchandise, no purchase necessary! A great way to give your wardrobe a breathe of life without breaking the bank.

Rule no. 3: Shop Those Discount Shops

The trick to staying under budget is looking at the right store. If you go into a store in Merrick Park looking to not spend a fortune, you’re going to be discouraged. Some of the best stores to shop at for those blouses and knit tops are ones you wouldn’t expect to find something professional. Some of my favorite stores to look at are:

  • Target
  • Kohl’s
  • Forever 21
  • Marshall’s
  • TJ Maxx
  • Ross: Dress for Less

The only caveat to shopping at stores like these are be cautious of looking too juvenile, and be wary of buying things that may look, for lack of better word, cheap. There is a fine line here to maintaining personal style and looking like a 17 year old at the mall, and you want to make sure you don’t cross it. One way to do that is bring a friend with you who can be a separate set of eyes.

Having a versatile, cute, professional wardrobe isn’t difficult to do. Doing it all on a budget can pose some challenges, but all it takes is perseverance and looking in the right places. But trust me, spending a little extra time making sure you look the part is well worth it when you feel confident and like you fit in at the work place.