With many corporations, law offices, and other industries adhering to a business or business casual dress code, looking one’s best is key. But in today’s tough economy, where layoffs and salary cuts are becoming the norm, it can be hard to maintain a quality wardrobe of suits, ties, dress pants, and skirts while staying fashionably chic and confident in the business world.
There are ways to save on trips to the mall, yet uphold a crisp, professional look for an office that prohibits jeans and t-shirts.
For eBay’s style director, Constance White, one must first begin with the foundation of the perfectly tailored suit. “You build your wardrobe in the same way you’d build your career — systematically,” she says. “You want to start with key pieces – a great suit, a white blouse, a black dress, a cardigan sweater, and then you can add accessories [such as] a great bag, two pairs of wonderful pumps, and some great jewelry.”
Her version of a great basic suit is one that is pinstriped. “I think for both men and women … I love the look of a navy pinstripe suit,” White says.
She, of course, suggests checking out eBay to find those basics for affordable prices, and points to vintage as a way to save on suits and separates that may cost more at your usual retailers.
“Vintage is good for that investment suit. You can find beautiful jackets and beautiful suits in vintage for say $100 to $150 where a similar item [at a retailer] you’d have to pay over a $1000 for it.”
Other great resources to try are available online, she says, suggesting Shopping.com as a great place to comparison shop.
Robin Walker, an image consultant and host of Blog Talk Radio’s Tailored Edges suggests breaking up suit pieces by wearing pants with another blouse or shirt, or a suit jacket more like a blazer, with different slacks or a skirt.
Or you can modify clothing you already have. “Change the buttons if you have to. It’s still less expensive than buying all new clothes. If you do this, your shopping list won’t be as overwhelming,” Walker says.
Adding a splash of color is also an inexpensive way to get the most wear for your money. “Color is the quickest way to update season to season,” Walker says. “The best place to put your money would be in accessories such as ties, socks, or pocket squares for men, and for women, purses and scarves.”
However, she warns against buying colorful suits. “You won’t really see a return on your investment,” she says.
To preserve items you already have, Walker stresses good maintenance practices. “Always follow the care label and don’t beat your clothes up in the dryer. People always think the washer is the culprit, but the dryer is worse,” she says.
For those who are used to wearing the latest (and oftentimes most expensive) designer labels, in the current economic climate, it might be