So you’re entering the workforce or maybe just accepting that you’re an adult now and your wardrobe is falling flat. Ask the internet, and you’ll find list after list of investment pieces or items that you need to drop a load of cash on immediately to carry you through this next phase of life.
And yes, these/those items can help you dress the part, but you don’t have to spend a billion to get there or do it all at once. If there’s something you’re missing, plan out a timeline that aligns with your budget and then hunt around.
Here’s my very own list of items that can take your wardrobe up a notch, tips on what to look for, and places you can find them for a reasonable price:
- a black blazer | Tip: Buy one that fits well and that doesn’t scream “board room,” as you’ll be more likely to wear it outside the office. I loved the tuxedo style and will often roll up the sleeves to pair it with a tee and jeans. Where to Buy: Banana Republic, Gap, Dillards, Nordstrom Rack, or the RealReal–I found this one at the latter. It’s a Rachel Zoe and still had the tags. It’s worth taking your time to find one that fits well and plays into your personal style. Don’t settle.
- classic heels, flats, and boots | Yes, all the shoes pictured here are black. I can’t help it. You, on the other hand, do not have to limit yourself to a monochromatic selection. Tip: Go for quality. I’ve taken my DVF heels in for repair three times so far, and it’s because I wear them ALL THE TIME. They’ve held up well and have kept their fit and structure. Cheap shoes are harder to repair, if worth it. Where to Buy: Look at Nordstrom Rack, Last Call Neiman Marcus, or DSW for quality shoes at a discounted price.
- tee, blouse, and button down | I prefer a striped tee, but a solid will get you the same result. Tip: Choose fabrics that will last and won’t pill up with the first wash. Silk is ideal for a blouse. Consider finding a button down with an interesting detail, such as a peter pan collar, peplum, ruffle, etc. Where to Buy: Banana Republic, Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, or the RealReal–look for classic silhouettes that have a twist at a price point affordable to you.
- classic, printed, and sleeveless dresses | Very cliche, but there’s nothing quite as classic as the LBD. (This one is from Target.) The printed dress is from Gap–I love a dress that accentuates the waistline. And the sleeveless rusty number is a Chelsea & Violet from Dillard’s. Tip: Fit and fabric is everything. You don’t want it to wrinkle when you sit down, to feel uncomfortable, or to feel cheap. Texture and print both add interest / personality. A ruffle adds some flare. Where to Buy: I love shopping the clearance racks at Dillard’s towards the end of the season. My most recent find was a black Max Mara dress originally > $250 for under $80. Make sure to try on in-store since the return window is just a few days. Gap, Banana Republic, Target, and JCrew are also great stores to browse.
- jeans and non-jeans | It doesn’t have to be a frumpy trouser, but everyone needs a pair of non-jeans. And if you don’t already have jeans, are you American? Tip: Graduate from Hollister and American Eagle. It’s time to move on to a better jean. Depending on the cut, you’re going to want one that has a bit of stretch but keeps it’s shape. For non-jeans choose cordoroy, wool, a cotten-twill blend, etc. You want one that flatters and that can go with your aforementioned black blazer or buttondown, should the occasion arise. Where to Buy: When I found myself in need of new work pants because all of mine were too big, I went to Target and bought a few of their ankle length options. For both jeans and the other, I typically shop Banana Republic and Gap because I like the quality and they have a great selection for those of us with short legs. I’ve also bought a few pairs Current Elliot and Mother Jeans from the RealReal.
- a skirt | Tip: Pick a classic style that’s not so long that you have to wear heels but not so short that you can’t at work. Consider a wool or tweed option for texture and an expensive look. Where to Buy: Banana Republic, JCrew, Dillard’s, or the RealReal
- sweaters | I’d advise that you have more than one. Striped sweaters are my favorite, but it’s good to have a varity of various thickness, sleeve length, and sweater length. Tips: Look for sweaters that will get the most wear and can be easily layered. Choose a knit that won’t pill easily and will hold up, not unravel after a few washes. Where to Buy: Gap, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, or Marshalls
- trench coat | Tip: Choose one that can weather many seasons and go with just about everything. Go for classic or consider one with an appealing pattern or fabric choice, such as suede. Where to Buy: Forever 21 (where I found the lavender one pictured here), Nordstom, Banana Republic, JCrew, or The RealReal.
- belts | With today’s fitted styles, belts are less functional and more ornamental. But it’s good to have one that can hold your pants up, just in case. Personally, I love a good wrap option with a dress. Tip: Know your size–the best belts are found online. Where to buy: the RealReal (for bold), Banana Republic (for practical), or Anthropologie (for wrap, suede, embroidered, or beaded)
- a tote | Every gal needs a big bag to carry all her crap in. Tip: Choose one that’s well made, easy to clean, durable, and that goes with everything. Where to Buy: the RealReal (where I scored the Rebecca Minkoff pictured), Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, or Dillard’s
- a clutch / pouch | Every large bag needs a smaller one for keys, lipstick, money, etc. When you need to get out of the office for lunch or have a dinner date, you don’t want to carry your entire tote with you. And you don’t want small items getting lost in the bottom of your bag. Tip: Choose one with personality. Where to Buy: JCrew, the RealReal, or Marshalls
- a watch | Tip: Go with your gut… aka your own style. You don’t have to spend a lot, but the cheaper ones tend to lose their battery life sooner. Where to Buy: Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Last Call Neiman Marcus, or Target