So you finally landed the job or internship of your dreams. The stage is set: you’ve completed all the necessary paperwork, found the fastest route to the office and planned your meals for the week to avoid munching on junk food — and then you remember that, unlike college classes, you can’t actually wear leggings and an oversized t-shirt to work. It’s time to dive into the world of career fashion.
But where to start? You’re not made of money. You haven’t even started making it yet! Not to worry. We’ve picked out five stores where you can buy some fun new work clothes without breaking your budget.
5.) H&M – Career Fashion
H&M is a great place to go for basics that you can mix and match to create multiple career fashion ensembles. Their button-downs and blouses tend to cost $19.99 or under. Their slacks are $14.99 and even come in a few fun prints, and their affordable blazers are sure to turn your favorite tank top into the base of any professional power outfit. (And don’t forget to check out the sale section. There may be something worth your attention at an even lower price than usual.)
And even though most of H&M’s business casual clothes are pretty classic, it also has some fun and trendy pieces you can use to spice up your usual office look — like this bright red cargo skirt. The big bow at the waist makes it more unique and feminine than your average business casual skirt, but it hits just above the knee to ensure a work-appropriate length regardless of any bend and snaps you may be performing.
Still, it’s important to remember that H&M’s prices are low for a reason. These clothes probably won’t last you a lifetime… but they’ll definitely work for now.
4.) Business Casual at Banana Republic
Okay, yes. Banana Republic is definitely expensive — but hear us out. Every once in a while they have an insane sale that brings their cute, classy and professional clothes down to an affordable price. For example, when the website takes an extra 50% off all of the items already on sale and suddenly a $98 dress becomes $39. You asked for high-end career fashion on a budget? We delivered. You’re welcome.
The key is to know when these sales are. As a rule, you should be signing up for email lists from every store you like to shop at. If you filter the emails into a different folder, they won’t clutter your inbox… and every time you need to go shopping, you can easily search for any relevant sales or promotion codes before you take your wallet out. Plus, shopping at Banana Republic will give you the perfect outfit for any day you need to put an extra pep in your step or dress up your look.
3.) Forever 21 – Business Casual
Career fashion doesn’t have to be only for the office… and Forever 21 is the best place to find work-appropriate tops that can double up as casual or nighttime wear when you’re not on the clock. You can tuck this cropped button-down into high-waisted pants for a professional look, and then untuck it when you stop by your local coffee shop. Or slide a blazer over this tank to add a fun print to your ensemble, but ditch it for some bare shoulders and an open back when you hit happy hour.
Like H&M, these clothes may wear out a little faster than some that costs more money. But that also means Forever 21 is the perfect place to buy your trendier work clothes — especially because it’s always adding new products as they come in style. The clothes are affordable, so you can justify buying something you may not be able to wear in six months… and by the time your clothes are too worn out to wear, the trend will probably be over anyway.
2.) Shopping at Nordstrom
Nordstrom is a department store, so it pulls in items from other stores like Topshop and J.Crew to supplement its own brands… meaning if you’re shopping at Nordstrom, you’re pretty much hitting dozens of stores in one place. Score.
Nordstrom generally isn’t as expensive as Banana Republic, but it’s definitely not as affordable as H&M or Forever 21 — so the key to really saving while shopping here is to buy during the anniversary and half-yearly sales (which are pretty heavily advertised and hard to miss if you’re paying attention). But honestly, Nordstrom puts some great career fashion items on sale during the rest of the year too. You just have to be looking.
Another advantage to shopping at Nordstrom: shipping is free. Always. So go crazy. It’s time unleash your inner online shopper.
1.) Career Fashion at Express
Express is full of the career fashion must-haves you’ve dreamed of wearing since you watched Mad Men. It has pencil skirts galore — you can go classic, try a bold color or pick a fun print. But…
Say it with me again: wait for the sale. So much of not saving money is strategically picking when to spend it and Express has some pretty big markdowns if you shop at the right time.
Still, if the item you’re obsessed with just won’t go on sale, BUY IT. The point is you’re saving when you can so you can splurge on the pricier items you really love. You won’t regret it.
Now that you’ve revamped your wardrobe with some business casual staples, you’re probably realizing you’d feel a little stupid wearing your backpack to the office. Career fashion includes your accessories, too.
Want a nicer bag to carry your laptop and other supplies to work? Kate Spade is another brand that usually has massive sales online — but you HAVE to sign up for the email list, or else you won’t know when to shop. The overwhelming influx of emails is worth the hundreds of dollars you’ll save when it matters. I promise.
Okay, so maybe you got a little carried away buying professional clothes before you actually… ahem… got a job. Don’t worry! Check out our job hunting tips for recent college grads. You’ll be wearing those clothes into an office before you know it.
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