Business Casual on a Budget

There is nothing more exciting than getting that first ‘big girl’ job. Monday-Friday hours, weekends and holidays off, and benefits. What, you mean I actually get paid on days I take off? Don’t mind if I do. Of course, the newness wears off, the job starts to feel like just that, a job, and you realize that the three fabulous outfits you purchased and forked over big bucks for will only get you through half of the work week.

I have come to find that building a business professional wardrobe is not a task that you accomplish overnight. A select few of you may be lucky enough to go on a shopping spree to build said wardrobe, but most of us have no money before we start our first real job. Which makes sense, because real jobs are where you start to make a real living. Life before real jobs usually equal yoga pants and a hundred shirts from PINK, am I right. Ahh, those were the days. Nevertheless, I have found that there are certain places that have versatile pieces, at great prices, that last. There is nothing worse than investing in a new piece, only to have it fall apart less than a year later. If you are in your 20’s, chances are you will be working for many, many (I’ll stop at saying many twice, because when I look at how many years I have to work until retirement, I get mildly depressed) years, and you want your pieces to stay with you for as long as possible.

1. Sweater Dresses

These may or may not fly depending on how ‘strict’ your dress code is, but I cannot say enough about the value of a good sweater dress. Especially for those of us who live in the Midwest, a quality sweater dress is a staple piece in your wardrobe. I love this one here. It comes in regular and long (a tall girls favorite size), and is super comfortable. I wear it with a pair of thick tights, and don’t freeze my butt off when I walk outside on lovely subzero mornings. These are really great options to transition through seasons, because they go with tights, boots, heels, you name it. And if we are being honest, I am most comfortable at work on the days I am rocking a cozy sweater dress. I have also found great shift dresses and sweater dresses on the Target clearance racks. Seriously. Do not make a trip through Target without scouring the clearance rack. I have found some of my greatest pieces there.

2. Mid-heel Booties

Ok. I am 6 feet tall. I have avoided any heel greater than half of an inch my entire life because I get enough tall comments as it is. But, last year, I finally gave in. I ordered two pairs of booties with a two inch heel (gasp). Best purchases I have made. They are a nice alternative to my flimsy flats in the winter, and just make my outfits look and feel more polished. I scored both of mine on 6pm online. Zappos has a lot of great options too. The booties are the best.

3. Gap Premium Pants

I have tried many, many pairs of dress pants. Old Navy (I love you), but no. Their pants, at least dress pants, just don’t do it for me. Target has pants, but they aren’t made for us tall girls. And then I found my Gap pants. They are the best. pants. Ever. The quality is fantastic, they come in tall (again, YAY), and despite not being the cheapest pants around, those Gap coupons are heaven sent. I have found clearance pants that were an additional 40% off, that come to a whopping $21 after all was said and done. You really can’t beat that. If you are needing work clothes, sign up for those Gap e-mails. Just resist opening them when you really shouldn’t be doing any shopping (it’s not easy, but resist girls, resist!) And once you hit $50 shipping is free and all returns are free, so order a few sizes and styles to try out and then return what doesn’t work. I love The Gap. Period.

4. Pencil skirts
I love me a good pencil skirt. It just feels more professional and pulled together than just about any other outfit. My go to black pencil skirt was found on sale at, you guessed it, Target. In fact, all three of my favorite pencil skirts come from good ole Target. I also have found some fabulous pieces at Forever 21! It’s all about keeping your eyes open for the good pieces when they come. I tend to pair my pencil skirts with a portofino shirt from Express in the winter, and quite often I go pretty casual in the summer and pair them with a nice t-shirt and throw a cardigan on. They really are so versatile, and are a great option on those days when you want to look pulled together and impress the company VP. Because these are the real life things you have to think about now that you’re a grown up.
5. Blazers

Ok, a blazer is a must for the business casual lady. Pencil skirt with tucked in t-shirt=cute and casual. Add a blazer and BAM you are promotion material. Ok maybe it isn’t that easy, but I have heard more than once to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you feel more professional, that is going to show through and reflect in your performance, and you may just be kept in mind when those opportunities come along. I have found great blazers at Express, as well as The Limited. Many blazers are available in stretchier fabrics too, which I think is fabulous because they are less restricting and feel more like a sweater than a structured jacket.

6. Don’t be afraid of the clearance racks!!

Truly, my absolute favorite work pieces have come from the clearance rack. This girl never pays full price (ever), and I have found that a lot of items that I watch eventually end up on sale or clearance. I scooped up my most recent blazer at express for less than $30, when it originally rang in at close to $100. All of my Gap Premium pants have cost $30, or less. And, absolutely 100% hit up the clearance racks at Express. I love the portofino shirts, mentioned above, but full price I find them to be a bit steep. Typically on the clearance rack, these shirts (usually $50-60), ring up for less than $20. People will recognize that you are wearing quality clothing, but they will not recognize what you paid for it! The only thing better than scoring an adorable new piece for work, is scoring it for less!

I always love to hear where other people score great finds for their work wardrobe, so feel free to share any of your favorites!

 Linking up with Annie and Natalie for Thoughts on Thursday today!

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