Employed for Good

A nonprofit professional's take on doing well while doing good.

Tips for Upgrading Your Work Wardrobe

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my career these past few months – where I am, where I’m headed, and where I’d like to be. And as I’ve thought about all the big changes that need to happen to accomplish my goals, I came to terms with the fact that there was one small thing I really needed to re-evaluate.

My wardrobe.

My outfit of choice is a striped shirt, jeans and sneakers. And because I work in a casual office, I can actually get away with it every single day if I want. It’s a wonderful perk, but it’s also a trap; I’ve been ruined should I ever have to work in a formal office setting again.

But still, casual does not have to mean schlumpy. I know that dedication and work relationships are important for career growth. But ‘looking the part’? That concept is still pretty new to me, especially as someone who has never been interested in fashion.

So I decided to do something about it, and have been slooowly phasing out my wardrobe. In doing this process, I’ve learned that these are the rules I need to live by:

  • DO stay within budget.
  • DO buy something that’s on sale or available at a reduced price.
  • DO buy something that makes you feel powerful when you wear it.
  • DO join your favorite store’s rewards program, if they offer it.
  • DON’T buy something just because it’s on sale.

But like I mentioned, upgrading your wardrobe costs money! So here are some tips from a grown-up-in-the-making on how to make the big switch.

1. Start at home. Clean out your closet.

I honestly end up doing this every few weeks, but when I first started, I decided that I would get rid of anything that I didn’t like wearing anymore. Before this, my closet was a collection of some nice pieces, old articles from my college days, things I didn’t actually like but bought anyway (because they were on sale), and items that no longer fit me. Unsurprisingly, when I was honest with myself, I realized that most of my clothes didn’t work for me. So I got rid of them.

Don’t know what to do with those clothes? If they’re still in good condition, go donate them!

If you decide to cleanse your closet, be sure to actually get rid of those unwanted items! It’s freeing to let go of things that hold you back, and there are great options for what you can do – like selling or donating your pieces.


2. Invest (lightly) in some organizing pieces.

I wish I could say I thought of this myself, but I didn’t. My aunt gifted me some felt hangers for Christmas to replace my plastic hangers, because she insisted that they helped save space in my closet. Turns out, she was right.

Those space-saving hangers in action. (Yes, that is a Maleficent poster on my closet door.)

At that point, I figured that keeping my closet organized would only help going forward. Not only have I since swapped out all my hangers, but I decided to get a shoe rack and even bought two Target bins for stowing away my seasonal items. Think about what small tweaks would make your wardrobe more manageable and easier to sift through, and go invest in those items.


3. Get out there and SHOP.

The prospect of shopping either makes you want to jump for joy, or crawl under a rock. If you’re one of those who love to do it, that’s great!

And if you don’t know where to start, that’s understandable. I never liked shopping because it took too much time, until I learned which stores offered me the styles and deals that I wanted. And I’m not exactly easy: I don’t like to spend more than $12 on tops or $30 on pants, unless they’re phenomenal.

Finally, pants that aren’t blue jeans. Thank you Kohl’s & Banana Republic

Shopping is now bearable for me, because I’ve learned to focus on these 4 areas:

1. Department stores. Department stores sell a variety of brands, making it much easier to find a style or brand that works for you and your budget. I also love the range of items available in department stores – from shoes, to clothes, to household items, they really do have everything.

My favorites: Kohl’s (because of the rewards program), JCPenny
More ideas: Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Macy’s, Target, Burlington Coat Factory, Nordstrom & Bloomingdale’s (though both are on the pricer side!)


2. Outlet stores. This is my second stop for a fresh set of clothes. Outlet stores are basically the discount version of their mainstream counterparts, some of which let you shop online. The only catch is that depending on where you are, physical stores may be tough to find (ie., there are 56 Gap stores in NYC but only 15 outlet stores).

My favorites: Banana Republic Factory (online store), Ann Taylor Factory, Old Navy Outlet, Gap Outlet (online store)


3. Thrift shops. I LOVE thrift store shopping, because you never know what you’ll be able to find. If you’re not weird about wearing clothes that other people may have worn, you can find some great, quality pieces at a fraction of the cost. You’ll just have to look harder for those pieces than you would at a regular store, since the options are more limited (and typically spread all over the place!).

My favorites: Goodwill
Other options: Salvation Army, clothing ‘exhange’ places (like Buffalo Exchange)


4. The clearance section of pricier stores.  For stores that cost way too much, but sell everything you’d ever want to wear, consider their clearance section. For me, my go to is Nordstrom Rack (which is supposed to be the more affordable version of Nordstrom, but honestly, I find both to be pretty pricey!). To find deals, I usually end up POURING through the clearance section and walking away with some great items.


With all of these shopping options, I suggest figuring out your own DO’s & DON’Ts for a successful wardrobe upgrade. But in case you wanted them again, here were mine:

1. DO stay within budget.

2. DO buy things on sale. (I never buy something full price, but that’s me.)

*Tip:* I also never check-out at a store without looking for coupons first! My first stop is usually RetailMeNot or Coupon Sherpa.

3. DO buy something that makes you feel powerful when you wear it. This is not negotiable.

4. DO join your favorite store’s rewards program and rack up points.

5. DON’T buy something just because it’s on sale. That’s the best way to end up with a closet full of things you won’t ever want to wear.

Finally, be patient and don’t fret. Just get out there and happy…

Credit: Giphy


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