How to Build Your (Affordable) Professional Wardrobe

By Ana Bailey

When making a good impression at your job, it is important to dress the part. The way that you dress can play a crucial role in how people perceive your ability to be professional, responsible, and trustworthy. 

Most jobs require a specific dress code that may not currently fit your closet. However, buying new clothes does not have to break the bank. There are various ways to achieve a professional yet sustainable look.

Evaluate Your Closet 

The first step to building your professional wardrobe is evaluating what kind of clothes is appropriate for your position. There are three main dress codes: casual, business casual, and business professional, which each have their own styles and expectations. If you find yourself struggling to understand what each dress code should look like, check out the Career Center’s Pinterest inspo board for guidance! 

Then, take a look into your closet. Grab all of your clothes and start sorting by whether they are appropriate to wear to work. Begin with basic shirts and pants, as they are a good foundation for any outfit. Then, you can elevate your look by adding blazers, jackets, or simple jewelry. Before buying new clothes, creating a list of what you already have can help you know where to start shopping. Avoid graphic tees, athleisure, shorts, and open-toed shoes, unless told otherwise by your job.

Search In Person

Second-hand stores are a great place to buy the basics at a discounted price. Thrift stores, like Plato’s Closet, Goodwill, Savers, and Salvation Army have a large selection of clothes that can fit your needs. You want well-made clothes, so it is important to check the tags of the clothes you buy. Factors like the brand, material, and stitching on the clothes can be a good indicator of how long the clothes may last.

Search Online

Alternatively, sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Depop, and eBay also have quality, second-hand clothing. It is important that If you are meeting up with a person online to practice safety tips, such as:

  • Meet in a public location, like at a coffee shop or a bank
  • Always buy from reputable and trusted accounts
  • Never pay before you see the clothing item

If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then disengage with the seller and do not meet up. 

Another way to shop online is with discount stores. Nordstrom Rack, Marshall’s, and Ross often have great deals when it comes to professional clothes that can ship right to your door. Sales often come and go, so be sure to look regularly and capitalize on holiday deals.

Mizzou Resources

If you  are needing formal business clothes for a specific event or conference, Truman’s Closet is a great place to borrow from. Mizzou students and staff are all welcome to search through the aisles to find your perfect outfit. Changing rooms are provided to ensure you are looking professional for your next career-related event.

Building a professional wardrobe takes time. Thrift stores and online stores add new clothing to their locations everyday. If you have any questions about dress codes, or have any questions visit the Career Center website or talk to a Career Specialist in-person or via Zoom.