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Dressing Smart On A Budget: How To Build Your First Professional Wardrobe

Whether you’re early in your college career and trying to snag an internship or headed towards graduation and the job market, you’ll need professional clothes that will make a great first impression. Unfortunately, college students aren’t known for having a lot of money to invest in clothes, which can pose a problem. Even by cutting down on nights out and entertaining at home, funds can still be tight. Luckily, there are ways to upgrade your wardrobe without without breaking the bank.


Assess Your Field

Before you splurge on a nice suit, consider the kinds of positions you’re planning to interview for. If you’re not interested in a corporate office job, for example, you may not need that suit and can get by with less expensive, less formal options. In some casual startups or in the music industry, you may not be out of place channeling Jay-Z in a pair of Air Jordans. You won’t improve your odds by overdressing, so dress for the job you want, not the job market as a concept.

Don’t Duplicate

One common clothing habit we all have is buying duplicates of things we like and wear a lot. While we may not buy duplicates of the same t-shirt design, when we find a great fit, we stock up. This is a poor move, however, when you’re investing in nicer items for interviews or the first weeks of your job. By duplicating favorites, you’ll start to feel like you’re wearing the same thing every day. Buy more diverse items instead – you’ll feel like you have more options.

Learn To Thrift

If you prefer to have a larger wardrobe and you’ve got some time to filter through the options, thrift stores can be a great way to find what you need for your job search while staying within your budget. The only problem with this stems from the old adage, “time is money.”

When it comes to thrifting, you’ll likely need to make repeat trips – often to multiple stores – in order to find the items you want and that fit correctly. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands or have friends who love to thrift with you, then this might be okay, but in a lot of cases, you could do something more worthwhile with all that time from a financial standpoint.

Consider The Season

Shopping is most affordable when you’re buying out of season clothes, but this tends to require planning ahead. However, if you know you’re interviewing for jobs in spring that won’t start until the fall, for example, you’re positioned well from a financial standpoint. Buy out of season fall clothes now to have more options when that time comes, or just to get a jump on your fall wardrobe even if your job starts sooner.

The one mistake you shouldn’t make when building your professional is buying cheap clothes that will wear out quickly. What’s more, even if you think people can’t tell the difference in quality, among your officemates, having the wrong clothes can set you apart. Instead, choose quality over quantity and acquire important items slowly to build the wardrobe you need with items you want.