The Uniform Centre: How to build a workwear wardrobe on a budget

workwear wardrobe

Making an impression in your workplace can seem out of reach if you’re on a budget. I’m here to tell you that you can look and feel all that without the price tag. There are certain smart tricks you  can utilize to find high quality items for a fraction of the price, as well as own less but still have various outfits that go together seamlessly. These tips aren’t just relevant now but can last a lifetime.  

Evaluate your current items

You may have a crazy amount of clothes that have been within your wardrobe for years and years, scared to get rid of anything due to your lack of budget to replace items. Or for similar reasons, you may have a small amount of clothes. Whatever your reasons, there is a way to broaden your work outfits without needing to splash out. The trick? Simply dedicating time to evaluating what you own. 

It’s recommended that you  spend a  full  day,  or even longer, undertaking  this. Pull all your clothes of each category out and place them in pilles. For instance, jeans in one pile, t-shirts in one pile, pjs in another, shoes in another, and so on. If you really don’t have a full day to spare, or own too many clothes to pull them all out at once, do them section at a time or as much as your room can fit. However, you simply won’t be able to view the full extent of your belongings without doing it at once. 

Once you have everything in piles, start to pick each item up and think of new ways to style it. There are often items you have forgotten about so this is the perfect way to repurpose what you already own. Pinterest and Instagram are a great solution to give you styling tips. However, make sure you do your inspiration research beforehand as you won’t have the time or energy to do every task on the same day.

Have a clearout 

Once you have evaluated what you own, it is now time to start decluttering items that no longer serve a purpose. If you look into your wardrobe and feel as if there’s nothing to wear, a common  reason for this is because you own too many items that don’t spark joy or suit your lifestyle. For instance, your closet could be filled with casual university clothing yet you’re now a graduate working in a corporate office and therefore need corporate workwear. You may therefore struggle to put items together.

Dwindling down what you own may seem like you are getting rid of options but it is in fact the opposite. It will allow you to only see items you absolutely love, fit you, as well as suit you and your lifestyle. Seeing these items more clearly means you can instantly reach for suitable items each morning as opposed to sifting through clothing that isn’t appropriate.

The most effective way to clear out your items is to use the Kon Mari method. This method focuses on splitting items into categories, and clearing by category as opposed to room. One of these categories is clothes. In this instance, while we are focusing on your closet, ensure you have all clothing items from throughout the house in one space when you are clearing out. Coats from a coat closet or shoes from the front door, and so on, all need to be included in order to truly see what you own.

From here, this method instructs you to pick each item up and touch it then go off your instant feeling when touching it. Does it spark joy? If not, put it in either a sale, chuck or donate pile. The difference with workwear, corporate workwear, work clothing and additional uniforms is there may be some instances where you don’t feel joy but you are certain you need the item. The only exception is if something is a need. This doesn’t take into account you needing 20 of similar items. This isn’t necessary. 

If you are struggling whether an item sparks joy, put it in the maybe pile and come back to it later on.

Enable a seasonal wardrobe

The exciting element about implementing a seasonal wardrobe is that when you transition between seasons, it can give the feeling that you’ve got a whole new wardrobe. This may help remove the need for serotonin you get from shopping for new items and therefore saves you money. 

A seasonal wardrobe essentially means to store away items from seasons that aren’t currently in. So, if it’s winter, you can either fully store away your summer, spring and autumn items, or simply place them at the back of your wardrobe out of eyesight. When you feel it is starting to warm up, and it reaches spring time, simply alternate your winter wardrobe for spring items. Switch out your thick trousers for skirts, dresses and other work clothing. 

Considering you haven’t sifted through your spring wardrobe in an entire year, it will feel like shopping for a new wardrobe. There may even be items you completely forgot about. 

Minimalist wardrobe or capsule wardrobe

This pairs well with the decluttering step – by touching more on the point that removing workwear, corporate work clothing or uniform items that don’t serve you helps you see more of what is actually wearable. Consumerism has taken hold of society but in reality, we don’t need as much as we own. If you are purchasing cheap item after cheap item, take a step back and  remind yourself, you don’t need large quantities of cheap clothing. You can put together a large range of outfits with a small number of basic workwear items and  this is proven with the capsule wardrobe theory.

While a minimalist  wardrobe isn’t as stringent and simply means to have a wardrobe with minimal items, the capsule wardrobe takes it to the next level with a set number of items. The set number of items is generally 25 to 50 items, including all clothing, shoes and accessories. A capsule wardrobe is made  up of basic items which are easy to mix and match. For this reason, it is ideal for building a workwear wardrobe on a budget, saving you from purchasing large amounts of clothing which you can’t necessarily wear often or create many outfits with.

This small number of items may be too unattainable for  you, and in this case, it’s recommended to have a capsule work clothing wardrobe separate from your additional clothes. Placing these workwear items in one section of  your wardrobe will allow you to simply wake up and choose your outfit from your selection of work clothes. Another option is creating a capsule wardrobe for every season, which combines two techniques of enabling a seasonal work clothing wardrobe and a capsule wardrobe. 

Thrift or second hand clothing

The key reason for doing the above steps in curating your workwear wardrobe on a budget is the fact this process is an in depth evaluation of your current belongings and how you can best utilize them. From here, when you do need to purchase new work clothes, the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option is buying second hand clothing. You can opt for official vintage stores, second hand branded clothing stores or the cheapest alternative – classic thrift stores.

High quality work clothes can be discovered at designer brand stores. You are more likely to find barely worn professional or corporate clothing made from quality materials such as silk, linen and leather. Even the polyester pieces will more likely last significantly longer than fast fashion branded clothes. While you will initially be spending more, you will save more money in the long run as you will avoid needing to replace workwear items frequently due to wear and tear, and the pieces going out of fashion fast. Touching on the previous note of minimalist wardrobes, you will benefit from purchasing classic, timeless work clothing basics of high quality to last the test. All is not wasted if your weight fluctuates, or youre preference changes, as you can resell for often high prices. 

Vintage and thrift stores do take longer to sift through before you come across game changing pieces, however, they are the most budget-friendly option. Thrifting can be a really enjoyable way to spend your days off, even becoming a self care task. Make a day of it and go with your friends or simply have a quick look on lunch breaks. It can only become a grueling task if  you let it. 

Sample sales, end of season sales and holiday sales

It’s important to note that sales often influence shoppers to spend more rather than less. Brands know the psychology behind humans and their minds convincing them to buy items they simply don’t need due to the “big savings”. However, if  they hadn’t seen the sale, zero money would be exiting their account. Not buying at all is the biggest saving of all. Therefore, shop workwear sales only when you truly need items. In this manner, you can save a lot of money on new work clothes in comparison to how much they would cost at full price.

While holiday sales are the most commonly shopped and you can often see large savings, sample sales are a hidden gem with even larger discounts. These are usually high quality brands that are usually at prices out of reach for the general buyer on a budget. Samples are essentially the first creations of a line that factories then base the clothing off or items that were the first trial creation but were either tweaked for the official line or dropped altogether. Sample sales can also include pieces of clothing used in the media and on catwalks, as well as items that had slight unnoticeable defaults. Instead of 30% off sales, you can find pieces of clothing that are priced as $300 in store but as little as $40 in a sample sale. 

The key difference between normal sales and sample sales is that sample sales happen sporadically. Sometimes you may not be aware they are even occurring unless ads are targeted to you or you follow the specific brand’s social media. When you do come across samples sales, it is always worth attending them to help add to your work clothing collection with staple workwear.

Mend clothing 

The final tip in building a workwear wardrobe on a budget is to mend items where possible. Ensure you have a hand sewing kit to mend hems and stitching undoing as well as sew up holes. This could add an extra year, or more, onto the lifetime of your work clothing item. With expensive work clothes made from luxe material, take it into a tailor to be fixed. Fixing items that still have a long life ahead of them will help avoid them from going to the dump and feeding into the damage consumerism causes.

Incorporate these tips into your lifestyle and you’ll be able to dress more fashionable and see large savings in the process!
Olivia Fairhurst is a Content Manager for The Uniform Centre, a workwear store stocking corporate work clothes, uniforms, and more.

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