Skip to main content Shop participates in the Amazon Services Associates Program as well as other affiliate programs. By participating in these programs, Shop may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you, for purchases you make through links on our site. Retailers may change their offers at any time so visit their sites for details.

How to Build a Work Wardrobe on a Budget


May 17, 2023

Whether you’re at the start of your professional life or your wardrobe could use a refresh, we’ve got you covered! You don’t have to spend a fortune to build a great-looking professional wardrobe. These tips will show you how to build a work wardrobe on a budget.

14 Budget-Friendly Ways to Refresh Your Professional Wardrobe

We know how important it is to feel stylish yet professional at work without overspending. If you’ve been wondering how to build a work wardrobe on a budget, you’ve come to the right place! These strategies will help you revitalize your office attire.

Start with what you have

Bring a critical eye to the items in your closet and look for pieces you can use in your professional wardrobe. The more informal your workplace is, the more likely you’ll be able to use pieces you already have. If you have a lot of items in one color – navy blue, gray, or brown, say – take note. You can build your work wardrobe around these colors.

Make a list

Next, make a shopping list after taking into account what you already have. Don’t worry about getting everything on your list at once. Your list is a guide for you, something to keep you on track. It’s okay to check items off as you acquire them over time.

What exactly goes on the list? That depends on how formal your workplace is and your role in it. But if you’re not sure where to start when making your list, start with a capsule wardrobe, which we’ll talk about next.

Build a capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of timeless staples that can be worn for years and mixed and matched for maximum versatility. A capsule wardrobe might include a couple suits, button-up shirts or blouses, nice sweaters, and dress shoes, all in colors that work together.

Think in outfits

Think in outfits when making your list and buying new items for your work wardrobe. Before getting a new item, ask yourself, “Does this item go with clothes I already have? How many outfits can I get out of it?” You’ll get the most out of your clothes if you can mix and match as many things as possible to create the greatest number of outfits.

Spend on high-quality basics

When you have a tight budget, you have to spend it where it counts most. It’s better to buy one pricey suit or pair of shoes that will last for years than several disposable “fast fashion” items that will fade, fall apart, or fall out of fashion within a year. These higher quality, more expensive pieces should form the basis of your work wardrobe.

Augment with less-expensive pieces

Here is where you can have some fun and show more personality (again, depending on how formal your workplace is). Getting some less expensive tops and bottoms that coordinate with your neutral-colored capsule wardrobe items allows you to create new outfits for less.

Accessorize to create new looks

When you’re starting out, you may only have one “good” suit and a few shirts to create different outfits from. Accessories like scarves, ties, belts, jewelry, watches, and even eyeglasses can help you create different “looks” without having to spend a lot of money on clothing.

These Communities Save 10% at Zenni!

Buy gently used clothing

You can find some great, high-quality pre-owned pieces at consignment stores, thrift stores, and online stores like Poshmark, eBay, and Current Boutique.

Currrent Boutique

Shop Pre-loved Gems for Fashion Lovers. Up to 4.0% Cash Back

Buy new clothing for less

Shop seasonal sales, seek out discounts, and clip coupons to buy new for less than the retail price. If you like certain stores or brands, sign up for their loyalty program (if any) and email newsletter to get great deals and alerts delivered straight to you. Keep an eye out for sales so you can buy when the time is right, like at the change of the seasons when retailers typically discount outgoing items to make way for new ones.

Get help from a clothing subscription service

If finding work-appropriate items is too stressful, too time-consuming, or too difficult, try out a clothing subscription service like Stitch Fix. Personal stylists pick out clothing items they think you’ll like and send them to you to try on at home, and you keep what you like and send the rest back. It’s a great way to find new pieces you might never have found yourself, right from the comfort of your home.

Stitch Fix

Get $20 off Your First Fix Once You Take the Style Quiz. Up to $12.50 Cash Back!

Take advantage of tailoring

If you find something at a great price that doesn’t quite fit, such as a suit where the hem or sleeves are a little too long, get it and spend a little more money having it tailored. Some stores and services even include tailoring for free or for a nominal fee; it never hurts to ask. Tailoring is also a great way to bring new life to wardrobe pieces you still love but that don’t quite fit you.

Learn to sew

Learn to fix a small rip or sew a button back on yourself. Don’t let a small tear or loose button be the reason to ditch a piece of clothing that’s otherwise totally fine.

Swap and share with friends

If you have friends or roommates who wear the same size as you, exchange clothes. Do a one-time, multi-way swap where several friends bring clothes to trade away, and everyone can take what they want and donate the rest. Or have a regular rotation with friends where you take turns wearing certain items of clothing. It’s an easy, cost-free way to expand your wardrobe.

Take good care of your clothes

You will spend less on your wardrobe over the years if you treat your clothes well. Make repairs as needed, get stains out right away, and hang or fold away clothes neatly when you’re not wearing them. Always follow the care instructions on the tag, dry clean when called for, and, if you can, hand wash clothing items when possible. This simple practice can drastically extend the lifespan by reducing shrinking, color loss, and changes in texture brought about by a washing machine.