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5 tips for building a professional wardrobe on a budget

In a job market that's increasingly dominated by tech startups and "sharing economy" gigs, the definition of business casual has become jeans, sneakers and hoodies. For many millennials, wearing sweatpants to work isn't an embarrassing dream - it's a (quite comfortable) reality.

If your workplace dress code is loose at best, you may not feel compelled to stock your closet with suits, ties and dresses appropriate for formal situations. Opportunity can come knocking at any time, however, and looking disheveled at a meeting or interview can cost you. As the old adage goes, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

While professional garments have a reputation for being expensive, it's definitely possible to build a work-appropriate wardrobe without breaking the bank. Find out how to get cost-effective, career-driven clothing on a budget by checking out these five tips:

1. Get inexpensive clothing tailored
If an item of clothing doesn't fit correctly, it's going to make you look uncomfortable, unprepared and even a bit sloppy. Because affordable clothing uses cheaper materials and manufacturing methods, there's a greater chance that these garments will provide you with gaps, seam pulls and length issues.

If investing in a pricey suit, dress or pair of pants isn't in your budget, having a tailor fix up your bargain pieces is an excellent alternative. Levo recommended shopping sale racks and discount stores for items with potential, then finding an affordable tailor who can tweak the problem areas. Remember that it's easier to take clothes in than it is to let them out, so when in doubt always size up.

2. Save up to invest in a few staple pieces
The thought of dropping $100 on a pencil skirt might have you looking for the closest Forever 21, but investing in a few simple, timeless pieces is actually a great long-term money saving technique. Money Under 30 explained that a closet filled with a few good quality items is far more budget friendly and useful than a closet brimming with cheap, trendy clothes. Next time you're out shopping, head to the department store instead of the bargain basement.

3. Put the effort in
Fit, style and quality are all crucial in creating the perfect professional wardrobe, and checking off all these boxes - as well as the one marked "affordability" -  in one quick shopping trip is easier said than done. Chances are, you're going to have to hit the mall more than once before you have a professional-grade rotation of outfit options. Like with your career, however, putting in the extra effort will undoubtedly pay off. Not only will you be able to find pieces you really like, but you'll be more likely to find the best sales as well. If shopping at the mall stresses you out, consider online shopping as well.

4. Cut back on other spending
The less you spend on other areas of your life, the more money you'll have to invest in a professional wardrobe. Draw up a spending plan to see how much you're currently putting toward restaurants, bars, entertainment, travel, et cetera, and figure out where you could reallocate funds. Opting for homemade coffee instead of grabbing a latte at Starbucks each morning can make a positive impact on your bank account.

5. Stick to neutral, simple pieces
Not only do bright colors and patterns tend be distracting in office settings, they also look cheap and are less forgiving with imperfect fits. Money Under 30 recommended sticking to mostly black and navy blue pieces with accents of white and nude. Make any outfit your own by adding a pop of color via a tie or necklace.


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