Throughout high school, I was decidedly a jeans and a T-shirt kind of girl. This fashion sense carried me through college and into my young adult working life. I privileged comfort over style, and thriftiness over fanciness. Unfortunately, this ideal world of simplicity couldn’t last forever. Alas, in my early 20s, I had to start thinking about getting an adult wardrobe.
As I sit here and type this entry, however, with my dress slacks and my blazer and my color-coordinated accessories, I realize that I have, at least for my 9-5 job, traded in my hoodies and running shorts for cardigans and pencil skirts.
This transition wasn’t easy, mind you. Building a work-suitable wardrobe from scratch isn’t easy. There are a lot of components, and the price tag isn’t always cheap. So while I may not be a fashionista of the first order, here are some of my tips for building a grown-up wardrobe from the bottom up.
Go for Secondhand
Before I copped up to being an adult, I found a lot my t-shirts at local thrift stores. Now, I find a lot of my work clothes there. From vintage blazers to simple black flats, local thrift stores offer a great bargain. Last week, for seven dollars, I picked up a nice brown blazer and a turtleneck to go underneath it. For seven dollars at most department stores, I could have gotten a pair of trouser socks. And yes, my blazer may have shoulder pads, but honestly, we all know that fashion goes in cycles, and I’m sure within two or three more years my thrift store blazer will be the height of fashion. Again. Twenty years after its original owner first pulled it off the rack.
Head to Toe
One of my biggest mistakes when it came to building a wardrobe was that I focused only on adding tops to my collection. I forgot about shoes, socks, stockings, jewelry, jackets, and anything else. Wearing sneakers with a suit kind of defeats the purpose, after all, unless you work in graphic design and you wear a pair of totally cool Converse All-Stars that are covered in your own graffiti. The point is you have to think about the whole picture. Figure out what you need for each part of your body, and then go out and find things!
Think in Outfits
This was my least favorite part of shopping, to be honest. I’m the kind of person who finds something they like and then buys it without thinking of how it will integrate into their wardrobe. Take, for example, my lilac sweater. A few springs ago buying this on-sale sweater seemed like a great idea. It was a strange lilac color and I thought it would be interesting. And sure, it is interesting, hanging in the back of my closet because I have nothing to wear the lilac sweater with. Oops.
Building a Wardrobe is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
While it may be tempting to go out one weekend and blow all your money filling your closet, this isn’t the best way to approach shopping. Build your wardrobe slowly. Even if you’re starting from scratch and you have a job starting next Monday, you only need a few basic pieces to get you started. Remember, you can wear the same dress pants more than once a week as long as you pair it with a new top. You can switch up sweaters by pairing them with new pants or new undershirts. Another reason not to gorge when wardrobe building is that you have to remember you’ll be dressing for all four seasons. Sure, your office may be air-conditioned FREEZING in the summer and boiling lava hot in the winter, and so you’ll wear blazers in the summer and sleeveless shirts in the winter, but you’ll still need clothing that will fit with different seasons. There’s nothing worse than someone who splurges in the spring and then spends the next twelve months wearing pastels to work while everyone else is in seasonally appropriate colors.
So what are your tips for building a fabulous work wardrobe?