How to Build a Fabulous Career Wardrobe for Less

As my blogging career has taken off, so has the number of seminars and conferences I’m attending, which means I need a wardrobe that’s professional and modern.

Like most freelancers, I’m the face of my brand, so I want to represent and build a good reputation. Since I work as a financial strategist for entrepreneurs and small businesses, I already have some good career clothing staples in my closet.

But I haven’t been shopping for anything new, since I started getting out of debt. With several work trips already around the corner, I finally got my butt in gear and updated my wardrobe.

Here’s how to inject some life into your personal or career wardrobe, without spending a fortune.

1. Look for Bridge Lines

A bridge line is created when high-fashion brands team up with lower-priced retailers to create an exclusive fashion line. So you get fashion from your favorite designer, with the same high quality designs, for a budget-friendly price.

For example, Versace created an exclusive line with H&M and Vera Wang has teamed up with Kohl’s. Its designer names, without designer price tags.

2. Invest in Quality Pieces

Finding quality pieces aren’t limited to normal department stores alone. You can find contemporary, high quality brand names and discount stores like Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.

Since they purchase end-of-season extras from other stores at a lower cost, they can pass along bigger discounts to customers.

Banana Republic is one of my favorite stores for clothes that fit immaculately well and are reasonably priced. Some of my other favorite places for inexpensive professional clothes, include Old Navy and New York & Company.

3. Check Out Second-Hand Stores

To take advantage of a good second-hand store strategy, you’ll want to learn about the different types of second-hand shops.

  • Thrift stores: Most thrift stores are run by charities or businesses that re-sell donated and used goods, at a fraction of the original price. The quality of the merchandise varies, but sometimes you will find brand new items, after a diligent search. Examples of thrift stores include Goodwill and Salvation Army.
  • Consignment shops: These stores operate differently than regular thrift stores, and act as a middleman between the sellers and buyers. An owner will bring in their items to the store for the shop to sell, and then split the proceeds. Consignment stores often sell higher quality clothing and home decor, compared to thrift stores.
  • Antique or vintage shops: As the description states, these shops only deal in antiques and vintage items. They generally sell retro house wares, decor and clothing from a particular time period. A lot of the merchandise has stood the test of time and depending on how rare it is, may cost a pretty penny.

Other ways to find great deals at thrift stores include going on weekends or at the end of the month when stores need to move their merchandise.

Although shopping at a second-hand store doesn’t always mean you’ll find the best price, if you’re armed with a little knowledge and dedication, you can still make some decent finds.

4. Try a Clothing Swap

A clothing swap has multiple benefits; it decreases the clutter in your closet while giving you a chance to freshen up your wardrobe.

You’ll spend an afternoon with your friends while exchanging clothes, accessories and shoes. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and if you have fashionable friends, you might find some really cool stuff.

5. Join a (Free) Members Only Site

Several members only sites, like HauteLook and Gilt Groupe offer amazing savings on everything from brand name clothing and accessories, to travel and bath products.

I found some awesome sunglasses and shoes from HauteLook, at a huge discount. Sometimes the sales only last a day or two, so you have to be quick, but you can get up to 75% off retail prices. The sites are free to join, but only members get access to the discounts.

6. Find Free Inspiration and Ideas

While new clothes are expensive, creativity is free. Find free inspiration and ideas from places like Pinterest and YouTube.

Brainstorm outfits by looking at online boutiques and create your own collage with Polyvore. You can even follow a few fashion blogs and discover all the fun ways to spice up your work clothes while still looking professional.

7. Mix Up Your Wardrobe

Try mixing up your wardrobe by re-purposing and reusing your items in a different way. I love making small changes like adding a scarf, wearing a belt or experimenting with layers, because they can add some much needed pizzazz to a lifeless closet.

Accessories are often less expensive than buying a new wardrobe, so mix it up with hats, sunglasses and costume jewelry.

The size of your budget doesn’t have to determine whether you’re fashionably professional or not. There are lots of options available if you’re willing to put in the time, and a little creativity.

What’s a must-have staple in your closet? What’s your favorite way to update your wardrobe for less?

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