Where to buy work clothes that look professional but don't cost a fortune

  • Where to buy work clothes can be confusing.
  • Many stores might offer great quality or great prices, but it can be difficult to find both.
  • Personal finance experts and stylists recommended a few places to find great women’s work clothes without spending a fortune to Business Insider.

It’s important to have a work wardrobe that’s full of high-quality pieces.

But they can get expensive.

Luckily, you don’t need that many clothes to create a good work wardrobe. Around three pants or skirts, three shirts, one to three dresses, and three cardigans or blazers is a good foundation, said Kat Griffin, founder of Corporette, a blog about women’s work clothes.

Here’s where to buy work clothes without spending your entire paycheck.


Thrift stores are time-consuming, but full of hidden treasures

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You might be unexpectedly lucky by hitting up Salvation Army or another thrift store, but keep in mind that shopping there can be time-consuming.

“Thrift stores are more of a crap-shoot, but there are always high-end hidden treasures to be found, for mere dollar,” style coach Stasia Savasuk told Business Insider. “I once found an Armani blazer that retails for $US1,300 for $US1 at a thrift store.”

If you’re on a seriously low budget but have a day to spend on your work wardrobe hunt, thrift stores are a good bet.


Consignment or resale shops can sell brand-new clothes with the tags still on

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For those are willing to spend a bit more, consignment stores may be ideal. They tend to be more curated and on-trend than thrift stores, which have lower standards for what they sell.

The selection still won’t be as good as a typical retail store, but you might be able to find some high-quality pieces on the cheap.

“We live in a world where people get bored of their clothes long before they expire, so with a little searching, you can find high-end, like new, second-hand goods for very little money,” Savasuk said.

Some of their pieces are lightly worn, while others are totally new.

“Many of their items comes new with the tags so don’t let the thought of it being ‘secondhand’ deter you, as savings can be significant,” Lauren Bowling, the editor of Financial Best Life, told Business Insider.

Along with local consignment stores or nationwide chains like Plato’s Closet, you can try ThreadUp or TheRealReal, which are online retailers that sell lightly-used clothing.


TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and other ‘off-price’ retail chains offer familiar brands for cheaper prices

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Griffin recommends “off-price” retail chains like TJ Maxx. They offer familiar brands for cheaper prices.

“TJMaxx and Marshalls are great place for women to get fashion jewellery, shoes and scarves,” image curator Scarlett De Bease told Business Insider.

Unlike consignment stores and outlets, clothes are available in the spectrum of sizes you might expect at a typical store.


Higher-quality mall staples like Express, Uniqlo, and Lands’ End are go-to resources

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It may be tempting to buy a trendy $US20 blouse instead of a basic $US40 one, but that’s exactly what personal finance experts advise.

“Work appropriate styles do not change much year to year, so provided you remain around the same size, investing now in some basics can sustain your wardrobe for years to come,” Bowling said.

For that same reason, Griffin recommends women shop at Express, Uniqlo, Old Navy, and Lands’ End. LOFT and Target also sell basics at reasonable prices.

They may be pricier than the usual stores for young adults, and comparatively a bit lacklustre. But your work apparel is more likely to lean towards simple pieces than head turners.

“You want your clothing to be pretty low-key, so that your brain, your words, your accomplishments speak the loudest,” Griffin told Business Insider.


Even though ultra-affordable retailers like Forever 21, ASOS, H&M, or Primark sell work clothes now, they probably aren’t your best options

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Typically we think of low-cost retailers, like Forever 21, ASOS, H&M, or Primark as bastions of cheap, trendy clothes, but they have been expanding their workwear selection. Forever21 is selling blazers for $US25 to $US35, while H&M has slacks for less than $US20.

But those low prices might just be too good to be true.

The downside: Cheaper clothes are more likely to show their age after a few months of regular wear. Buying the same $US20 pair of black pants over and over again will ultimately cost more for your in the long-run than paying $US80 for a quality pair upfront.

Spending more upfront means “the clothes will last longer and actually save you money,” De Bease told Business Insider. “[And there’s] the aggravation of seams that pop open or buttons that fall off after the first washing.”


Your closet probably has more work-appropriate clothes than you think

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While you shouldn’t wear revealing clothes, workout apparel, or anything that’s covered in sequins or leopard print to work, you might be surprised at how you can repurpose what’s already in your closet.

A sundress could be worn to work, for instance, by swapping flip-flops for sensible flats, adding classic jewellery, and adding a cardigan or blazer, Savasuk said.

“Look at your t-shirts or blouses,” Griffin told Business Insider. “If any of them are too fancy to work out in, like a polo shirt, polyester floral t-shirt, etc., then you can probably wear them to the office.”

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