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Professional Dress on a Collegiate Budget

If there’s one thing that all college students need, it’s professional clothing because, well let’s face it-that one nice holiday dress you have just isn’t going to cut it for internships, office jobs, and presentations. Finding affordable clothes that are still professional can be a challenge, so here are some tips on where to start.

1. Forever 21

Forever 21 has unique pieces that are just right for the professional look. Here you can find blazers, pants, skirts, blouses, and dresses. You can go for bold colorful pieces or more conservative options. Another great plus is the cute accessories and shoes that you can find here to build your ensemble. Blouses and tops tend to be around $20 and they can easily go from a day to night look. Dresses and pants range from $20-$30, which is still not a hard hit to the wallet. The best part is that blazers range from thirty to fifty dollars, which is a great price for a cute piece that can be worn to class or work.

2. H&M

H&M is similar to Forever 21 but a little bit more refined in style. The options here tend to use more neutral tones, which make great bases for any professional look. The accessories offered at this store are a great way to branch out and add some flare to your look.  The blouses and t-shirts can be worn with anything from leggings to dress pants or trousers.  On top of that the store offers a few pieces that branch out color wise but there are mostly blue, gray, black and white pieces which help to create put-together looks.

3. J. Crew

J. Crew pairs traditional style with trendy patterns and colors. The clothing in this store ranges from traditional a-line skirts to straight-legged pants of traditional trousers and classic denim jeans. The outfits here are a little more pricey, ranging from $80 or more; however, there are lots of great pieces in the sale section that are usually more than half off.  A bonus to that is the fabulous student discount that is availble at J. Crew when you show off your student ID.

4. The Limited

The “Look of Leadership” is just one of the categories of clothing that the Limited sells. What women isn’t a leader? Now you can easily find your power look so that you can be put together, stylish and still uniquely you! The best part of these looks is that they focus on young women who are CEOs or managers in their firms who aren’t wearing the typical business suit. They try to incorporate more patterns and suede jackets, foe example, instead of just blazers.

5. Nordstrom Rack

Nordstrom Rack gives the incredible looks of Nordstrom without the designer price tag. This is the perfect store when you need a cute and fancy dress to slay your next business cocktail party or formal event. This is the one-stop shop for business to business party looks. The edgy designs make the outfits give a younger feel, but still let employers know you should be taken seriously. Some pieces go as high as $600 but sometimes you can find skirts, blouses, and even pants for as cheap as seven dollars.


6. Charlotte Russe

Are you more of an artist and hate stiff business clothes? Charlotte Russe has your solution. These clothes are anything but typical. The dresses and skirts are trendy, and with just the addition of a sweater or a blazer they easily switch from day to night.  Some digging has to be done at Charlotte Russe wether you shop online or in the store. The clothes are a little bit of a party style however if you hunt hard enough you’ll be able to find the perfect pieces to wear to that office internship!  The clothing never costs more than $40 per piece, with most items coming in at arouind $20.

7. Modcloth

Modcloth specializes in vintage styles. The dresses and skirts all offer a stylish conservative look that’s perfect for any office work. The silhouettes are old fashioned, but the patterns and colors add modern day flare and youthful style. They even have a line specifically for business clothing, “All in a Days Quirk.” The outfits in this line are perfect for work but are just quirky enough that will cause people to stare, in awe of your bold choices. Most of the items sold are around $40, but the store also offers unidays which allow you to get twenty percent off on your purchases 

8. Urban Outfitters

The most popular trends right now are available on this website. The urban twist adds to the looks gives them a distinct dazzle. This store is a little more pricey but the money is worth it for some of the more trendy options. The prices for tops and pants can range from as low as eighteen dollars (never forget the sales sections!) to as much as eighty dollars.  The tops and pants are totally worth it for that trendy look that you’ll have before everyone else.  This is yet another store that offers a student discount when you flash your student ID.

9. Express

Clearance! The key to shopping at Express is to look in the sale section. There are so many amazing deals, and the clothes sold here are very professional yet still fashion forward. You can find pieces for as little as $10 in the sale section. The store offers bright pink pants that pair perfectly with a neutral top in addition to sleek black pants that would look amazing with that stunning maroon top in your closet.  This is also yet another store that offers UNiDays with up to fiften percent off in stores and online.

10. Steve Madden

No fashionable business outfit is complete without shoes and a cute bag. Steve Madden has the shoes you need-from flats, to heels and boots. And on top of that you can find a reliable tote here to match.  Every outfit needs those amazing accessory pieces to set them apart from everyone else at the office. Sometimes it is as easy as adding a colorful heel or a spiked bag.  The prices here tend to be more expensive, ranging from $50-$100; however you can always find great sales on their website.  Additionally some other stores like Payless and Famous Footwear offer some last season pieces for $50 or less.

Just to sweeten these deals here’s a list of stores offering student discounts.  Go out there and get an A for style at your next internship or job! Have fun shopping!

Photo Credits: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Sarah is currently Senior, graduating December 2019!, at American University. She is studying Business Administration with a self-designed concentration and a minor in literature. Sarah hopes to conquer the world one day but right now she is focused on her undergraduate degree and her law school applications. When Sarah's not writing article's for HCAU she can also be found leading the chapter as CC and President, giving tours of Kogod, working as a Kogod Team Lead, hanging with her amazing first year residents, doing her accounting intern work, or around campus with her wicked awesome friends!!! Feel free to follow Sarah on twitter and Instagram at @sarah_teix98
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