Dress for success on a budget

Building a professional wardrobe, especially when you’re fresh out of school, can get expensive. Choosing versatile staple pieces, assembling items over time and frequenting the right stores is key to putting together a closet full of quality clothing that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Pick your staples

When starting your wardrobe, I recommend investing in the base pieces that can go with anything. Focus on solid patterns and stick to colors that suite you. Once you get started, you can always experiment and add more personality later. Several pairs of dress slacks, solid colored pumps, a dress blazer (short and long-sleeved), collared button-ups in several colors, a pencil skirt and a high cut black dress are my favorites. For the gentlemen, a good pair of dress shoes is always a good investment.

Build a budget

In some cases, it’s true that it takes money to make money. I believe looking your best helps you perform at your best, so don’t underestimate your appearance on the job. Resolve to cut extraneous expenses to fit some classier closet additions into your monthly budget. A good rule of thumb is to buy one outfit per month for at least one year. That splits the cost up a bit and gives you time to scout the best deals.

Set your shopping destinations

Where you shop can make or break your wardrobe- and wallet- success story. I’m actually a big fan of going used at first. Visiting second-hand stores is a great way to find basics at a steal. Beyond that, many people have good luck at outlet stores like Nordstrom Rack or warehouse-style stores like DSW that always have promising options on sale in a variety of sizes.

Quality over quantity

I’m in love with the idea of the capsule wardrobe, where you mix and match the same high-quality pieces to save money overall. When it comes to clothing, I’m willing to invest in a smaller amount of higher quality items. This doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive. Natural fibers and consistent, thick in-seam stitching are tell-tale signs of a good buy.

Love it or leave it

At the end of the day, if you don’t love it, it’s a waste of valuable space. I feel that way about personal possessions, home décor and certainly my wardrobe. If you’re questioning how much use you get out of some of your older wardrobe pieces, I’ve got an experiment for you. Turn all of your clothing hangers one direction, and as you rehang items, turn them in the opposite direction. Any items that haven’t been turned by the end of the year get donated!

Trust me, once you rid your closet of items that are no longer useful and invest in some classic, versatile pieces, you will look and feel like a million bucks! You’ll also establish yourself as a polished professional in the workplace, which is more than worth the effort.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit