Business Casual On A Budget*

business casual

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



  1. February 17, 2019 / 8:10 pm

    Love this outfit! I find the office look to be one of the hardest to do especially in a budget so I will definitely be checking out everything 5pounds it sounds like such a great website. Loved all the tips in this post x

  2. February 17, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    Wow! Great post! I’ve still got a couple more years to go until I graduate but I feel like I’ll definitely be needing this post in the future! As always, I love your outfit! Oh my gosh, those heart shaped glasses are amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. February 17, 2019 / 9:22 pm

    I love finding some business casual clothes that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I like that you find alternative ways to find some business outfits and they don’t necessarily have to be something fancy either. Thanks for sharing your tricks!

    Nancy ♥

  4. February 17, 2019 / 10:30 pm

    I’m very lucky that my style has a lot of pieces that can be dressed up or down so I usually have something no matter the dress code but it can be a struggle, especially if you’re broke! I’d never been in a clearance store until recently but one opened not too far from me and they actually had some great bits. I picked up a River Island skirt for £3 the other day ? x


  5. February 18, 2019 / 9:03 am

    I love your dress! I work in the software industry and the dress code is not that strict unless we are at client locations. So, a jeans and top is what I mostly wear these days.

  6. Dalene Ekirapa
    February 18, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    A super coat or blazer can really help to turn any look to business casual right away so for sure, I will never miss that when going business casual.

  7. February 18, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    This outfit is banging! Honestly you’ve styled it amazingly. And what a bargain it was too, I love Everything5Pounds
    I’m lucky in that our office is casual unless we have visitors in, so mostly it’s jeans and a primark slogan tee for me haha.
    Cora |

  8. February 18, 2019 / 3:24 pm

    You look absolutely fantastic, you have absolutely hit business casual on the head! The dress is so prety.

  9. February 18, 2019 / 4:40 pm

    Very cute. I wish I could get into fashion For some reason as soon as I put that kind of stuff on my own body I just feel weird and it doesn’t work out well lol but I like it on other people. *shrug*

  10. February 18, 2019 / 4:44 pm

    An outfit that does not seem to respect a budget because it is really very trendy, elegant but casual.

  11. February 18, 2019 / 5:04 pm

    Omgggg you look beautiful! I love the pops of red, the colours suit you so well! My office really doesn’t care what I wear, and I work from home a lot so it doesn’t matter, but I remember wanting to seriously update my wardrobe when I worked in fashion. You’ve picked some great items, they’re so versatile and look amazing on you! Such good photos ?

  12. February 18, 2019 / 5:16 pm

    I’m literally SO in love with this dress and it’s super flattering on you! Loving those heart shaped glasses as well, I reckon I’d look a bit silly in them but you seem to pull them off fabulously. I absolutely love Everything 5 Pounds, I’ve had some right bargains from there and I’m always recommending it to people!

    Alice x

  13. Jenny in Neverland
    February 18, 2019 / 5:16 pm

    That dress is perfection. I absolutely ADORE it. And it looks absolutely beautiful on you. You literally are a style Queen! <3


  14. February 18, 2019 / 5:17 pm

    This is a great post! I think I’ve always been lucky that other than my first job (which had a uniform) but all my other jobs have been so casual – I wear whatever and trainers! It’s great! Although I do love a good dress up every now and then!

    Jessica & James |

  15. February 18, 2019 / 5:20 pm

    Its always a task deciding what to wear to work. You look stunning in this piece. A simple jacket can always add that extra touch!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  16. February 18, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    This is such a pretty and stylish outfit and it’s amazing that it all comes to £20! That is so impressive! I’ve never heard of websites like Everything 5 Pounds, I really need to check that out soon, it sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing, Corinne! <3 xx

    Bexa |

  17. February 18, 2019 / 5:32 pm

    I love that dress! You look very put together and I wouldn’t believe the outfit only cost £20. That’s such a bargain. I’ve heard of Everything 5 Pound before but was a bit weary about the quality. I’m pleasantly surprised to know it’s full of quality brands. Great post.

  18. February 18, 2019 / 6:16 pm

    Lovely office style tips! I remember first interning at a fashion boutique PR firm and the dress code was chic business. I was new and didn’t have much to work with so the creative bug kicked in and like you suggested, I recycled pieces throughout my wardrobe. Add in textures and mixed prints to create a new look helped!

    Natonya |

  19. February 18, 2019 / 6:58 pm

    what? £20 all together? wow, you look amazing and everything you wearing suits you so well! I would have never been able to dress up for £20, thank you so much for doing this and giving me inspiration 🙂

  20. February 18, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    I love this outfit. I am all about finding clothes on a budget. I tend to find cool things at thrift stores or on sale.

  21. February 19, 2019 / 11:40 am

    I cannot believe that you got that really great ensemble for only 20 pounds! I might just be living in the wrong place. I am not a shopaholic but I could easily start a fashion blog together with an Instagram account with clothes being that cheap 🙂

  22. February 19, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    Your outfit is very beautiful! When I got my first job after college, I had to buy scrubs because I was working at daycare. Scrubs was good for daycare work because you never know what kids will get on your clothing. I hope to have a more professional once all my kids go to school. This was helpful in making sure my wardrobe will fit the job I get.

  23. February 19, 2019 / 6:22 pm

    This is such a stylish outfit, one I would definitely pick for my friends. Thanks for sharing.

  24. February 19, 2019 / 8:24 pm

    You look fab as usual girl! I love having fun with my work outfits too and tbqh nothing is better than being able to find loads of office wear on a budget! Lol it’s so refreshing to change up looks by adding accessories or changing outerwear. I really think your glasses are really fun and cute too! ? ?

    xx Lena |

  25. Alexandra Cook
    February 19, 2019 / 8:26 pm

    I don’t usually buy a new wardrobe if I have a new job. I may buy a new piece or two but, try to use what I already have.

  26. February 19, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    Really useful post! I am doing my Masters degree at the moment and this will come super useful when i am looking for a job 🙂
    Laura /

  27. Kiwi
    February 20, 2019 / 1:29 pm

    You look real cute. I love the print on this dress too cute.

  28. February 20, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    Your outfit is cool and you look great in it. This topic is true for many folks. Most of them have to spend salary on buying clothes to match the office rules and sometimes to get along with their colleagues.

  29. February 20, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    Oh my gosh…my first outfit at work was too lame. We were not really paid much and I could not afford a nice wardrobe. So usually I just wore jeans and shirts at work. Pfft.

  30. Monidipa Dutta
    February 20, 2019 / 3:23 pm

    You are looking gorgeous. So wow. The dress looks wonderful on you. Great post for business casuals with awesome pictures lovely.

  31. February 20, 2019 / 9:07 pm

    I like your business outfit! It looks so cute on you. It’s great that you can get this on a budget as well.

  32. February 21, 2019 / 4:03 pm

    You make every outfit look amazing. You are always stunning and make things work for you. I agree on the thrift shops with often low quality. Although I never knew about a place like the under 5 pounds website. I will have to see if we have anything like this stateside. That’s great.

  33. March 6, 2019 / 9:11 am

    A work-appropriate casual wardrobe is a lot of work indeed! Thanks for these great tips, I´ve never heard of Everything 5 Pounds – I love buying cool things with affordable price tags! P.S. Your dress is awesome!

    Have a great week!

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