Professional Dress 101: The Best Stores to Build Your Professional Wardrobe

You typically hear the word “college” and you think of students going to class in baggy sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts - and you’re not wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge proponent of being comfortable in class, but I hate to be the first to say that there are times in college where you’ll need to swap your moccasins for some dress shoes. When, you might ask? Career fairs, job interviews, networking events, you name it. While we might not want to think that these events are coming our way, they are, and it’s better to be prepared with the right outfit than to be scrambling at the last minute. If you’ve ever had a wardrobe malfunction right before an important event, you know the type of stress I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, if you’re just starting to build your professional attire, you might be shocked at how expensive basic items are listed for. This may have to do with the material the clothing is made, it’s functionality, or simply just it’s brand name. This is where I come in and help save your wallet from starving. While professional apparel will be on the pricier side compared to our beloved bargains from Target, you do not need to drop $150 on a blazer or $80 on a simple blouse. Let me tell you some of my favorite stores that offer great deals on professional clothing and everything I think you must have!

Target

I know I just said we can’t always rely on Target when we’re in need of new business clothes, but if you’re looking for a simple pieces to complement a professional outfit, you can score some great finds here! First off, Target is great for accessories! A nice pair of pearl earrings and a leather banded watch are great accessories to help dress up any look. You can also find great blouses that are perfect for events marked “business casual.”

If you really find yourself in a rut for a nice blazer or dress pants, Target has affordable options. While these are great if you’re pressed for time or your budget, I recommend investing in a nice blazer and dress pants as you advance in your professional career!

Forever 21

You should be running to Forever21 while we are still blessed with its low prices. I never would have named Forever 21 as a store to buy professional clothing until I stumbled upon great blouses while I was searching for a denim skirt. They have a Forever21 Contemporary brand that has great options for blouses and long sweaters. After you find a few pieces that fit your professional wardrobe, feel free to browse the rest of their collection to find some of your new comfy faves! 

Ann Taylor 

You might check out this site and think “that’s wayyyy too expensive!” Ann Taylor has amazing options for professional dress if you’re looking to invest in your wardrobe, but do not overlook their Sale section. They have some awesome pieces in a variety of sizes and colors that could work for any professional occasion! This is also where I suggest investing in a pantsuit one day, as opposed to very expensive stores like White House Black Market. These items will last you throughout your professional career and they are not pieces that you will need to buy often!

Payless

The holy grail for any type of shoe you need! In my opinion, heels and flats will hurt your feet no matter how expensive or inexpensive they are, so you might as well save your money when it comes to shoes. I recommend seeking out a pair of nude heels, no higher than 1.5 inches, and a pair of either black or nude flats. A small bit of advice that I’ve gathered throughout my career journey is to always carry band aids in your bag! New shoes can never be trusted. They will always give you blisters when you’re on your feet at a networking event or walking to an interview. You can never be too safe, and you also never know when someone else will need them too! 

Staples

Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet because you’re definitely thinking of the Staples that sells office supplies - aka, the only Staples. I put this here because your professional attire goes beyond the clothes you wear on your body. You should arrive to an interview or any professional event prepared to answer & ask questions and write down important information that you learn. To do this, you should have a notebook or padfolio. If you’re carrying just a notebook, make sure the notebook is a solid color with no designs and it’s preferably not spiral bound, this can come off as unprofessional. Also be sure you bring a folder to store your resume and additional handouts you may gather. Coming prepared with these items shows recruiters that you carry yourself to a high professional standard and are ready to answer any questions they may have!

 

There are a variety of stores beyond the ones I mentioned here that would be great to build your professional wardrobe. Some of the best places to shop are those where you would least expect. My greatest tip is to start shopping early so that you have time to find pieces that you like and pieces that fit you! Interviewing and networking events definitely correlate to a “look good, feel good” mentality that can help you land an awesome job opportunity!

 

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4,