University seems so far away and yet I remember, back in 2016 when, half way through the second semester of my master’s degree in Edinburgh, I was already starting to look for graduate jobs. What a nightmare. Resumes, cover letter, motivation statements, applications… So much work! If only I knew acquiring a work appropriate business casual wardrobe would be just as much work…
If there is one thing drastically different between a student job and a grad job, it is the dress code. I did a few summer jobs, in retail and in finance. Even though the company had a dress code, it was pretty flexible and as long as you were not showing your boobs or ass, you were free to wear pretty much anything you wanted.
In a grad job however… Of course, it depends on your industry! If you go into fashion and retail, you won’t have to wear a suit. If you work in finance and banking, however… you will probably have to. In my first graduate job, our first day was mostly dedicated to what we were and were not allowed to wear in the office. Jeans were a straight ‘no’ and we didn’t do dressed down Friday.
So you get it, a new job very often means a need for a new wardrobe. The only issue is…you are a student and you have not started to work yet. Hence you’ve got no money. Furthermore, because it would not be funny otherwise, business casual and work appropriate attires are very often quite pricey. Blazers and suits aren’t the most affordable pieces of clothing. And even if there were very cheap options out there, you’d still be advised to pick a more expensive ensemble with the guarantee that it will last quite some time.
So what do you do if you need new clothes and you’ve got no money?
One piece of advice is to ask what the dress code at your new company is. My first grad job had a very strict dress code. My second job had a very flexible dress code (sometimes even too flexible); the job I am currently in told me to wear something I feel comfortable in. Depending on what the answer is, you can assess whether your current wardrobe can do or if you need to hit the shops.
Recycle what you already have. Black skirts and dresses are always a pretty safe bet and if you have some of those, make sure they are knee length as some places don’t like short dresses and skirts. Pair your black skirt with a white shirt (which you will probably already have). You might also have a blazer in your current wardrobe, keep that too. What about coats? If your winter coat is very simple, then it will work too.
Your biggest expense might be shoes. Because you either have business casual shoes or you don’t. Except if you’ve been wearing ballet pumps and heels all your university years. Because again, trainers will probably not do. Depending on where you work, again.
Second advice is to check out clearance shops. Not cheap stores like Primark or Boohoo. Prices are low but quality often is too, which means the pieces will need replacing very soon after you get them. There are websites likes Everything 5 Pounds which sell unsold items from past collections from stores like Marks & Spencer for just 5 pounds. Low price but relatively good quality. For example, the outfit I am wearing in this post is £20 all together.
Those websites usually have a very large selection of items, including classics, staples and minimalist pieces that will work for the office, for a night out or just for a walk in the park. However, it is not because the items are cheap that you need to go crazy on them. Yes, you can get an outfit including coat, dress, bag and shoes for £20 but be smart in picking up pieces.
Choose a coat that you will be able to wear to the office all the time. A trench for example. Ultimate wardrobe staple. You can also wear it at the weekend. Pick a classic tulip black skirt or black cigarette trousers and a few solid color shirts. Think of it as creating a business casual capsule wardrobe with a few pieces that can be worn together and mixed and matched. Make sure you have enough pieces to at least hold for a week without having to have a wash. You can do that on the weekend.
I believe if you play it well and pick items wisely, you can create a business casual wardrobe with a large selection of pieces for less than £100, including coats, shoes and bags. Isn’t that good news? Even better news, if you use my code CORRINE5 at check out on Everything 5 Pounds, you can 5£ your order, to make it even cheaper! How cool is that?!
Everything 5 Pounds is not the only store selling unsold items from previous collections. I believe 10 Store and Single Price work on the same principle. There probably are many others and they are worth checking out if you need a new work appropriate wardrobe but don’t necessary have the budget that goes with it.
Did you have to renew you wardrobe when you started your first graduate job? What industry did you start in? Did they have a very strict dress code? How did you budget your new business casual wardrobe?
Thanks a lot for stopping buy. Hope you liked this post.
See you soon,
*This outfit was gifted to me but all opinions remain my own