How to Afford Your First Work Wardrobe

You got the interview. Better yet, now you’ve landed the dream job and start next week. There’s only one problem: you only have one suit and it’s the one you bought back in high school.

Make that two problems: not only do you need a new wardrobe, but until you get your first real paycheck, there isn’t enough money in your bank account to cover the cost of amassing a collection of business-appropriate clothing.

Suits, dress shirts, dress shoes, belts, ties, the whole nine yards needs to be in your closet by next Monday morning. What can be done?

Blue suit

If money is extremely tight, consider short-term loans or credit cards as a means to buy nice work clothes. With proof of income from your current college job waiting tables or delivering pizza, coupled with the prospect of your new employment opportunity, it’s easy to look for a fast cash loan online that can be used to fund your work wardrobe investment. Then, once your first paycheck arrives, immediately pay off the loan or credit card balance.

Just because you have several hundred dollars to now spend on work clothes doesn’t mean it’s time to head to the best tailor in town for a fitting. In fact, you probably don’t want to go to the mall or menswear store either, because even that place is probably a bit above your price range. For those with a budget of about $500-1000 for their first work wardrobe, ingenuity and parsimony will be crucial for getting what you want without spending more than you have.

The first stop - or several stops - should be to all the thrift stores in the area. Scour their suit racks for jackets with notch lapels - avoid peaks and shawls - and standard colors such as navy, gray, and black. Be willing to try on items which are too big - you can take care of sizing later - and try and find options which already include the slacks so finding a match is less an issue.

Search for accessories like ties, belts, and shoes at these thrift stores as well - though be prepared for the process to be a bit of a treasure hunt. Pay attention to items they keep stored and locked behind glass, as these tend to be in better shape but still available at steep discount. Matching brown belt/shoe and black belt/ shoe combinations are what you’re looking for, as well as ties which are a solid color or with modest and modern patterns.

If you’re going to buy new - make dress shirts the priority. It’s a common mistake for men to think they can worry the least about their shirts since they’re covered by the tie and jacket - but this is simply not true. Not only will you be taking your jacket off at work more often than you think, but a crisp clean shirt does wonders for men’s business attire, which is nothing if not drab by default. Two whites, two light blues, and two darker colored shirts to coordinate with light suit options are the ideal array for your first work wardrobe.

With this in mind, it’s also important to eyeball how the ties you pick will look with the rest of the ensemble. Imagine the various combinations ahead of time.

Regarding those oversized suits - now it’s time to go visit the tailor. A tailor will make measurements and do alterations to ensure your clothes fit like a dream. This service is affordably priced so that even when added in with the cost of the clothes, you’re sure to come well under budget even if having five suits fixed. The result is several suits which are custom fit but at the fraction of the price of buying them brand new. Just make sure to have your order in several days to a week in advance of your start day, so that the tailor has time.

If all goes well, you should have several different outfits lined up for your first week on the job, all for well under budget. Looking sharp never felt so good in the pocketbook!

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Tags:work suit, suits, job, office suit

About the Author

Silvia Kabaivanova

As the founder of Be Global Fashion Network and several other fashion websites, Silvia has been working for more than 20 years covering fashion industry trends and news. With a passion for the fashion business, she focuses on sustainable fashion and innovations, custom fashion and print on demand services. Silvia is a Chairman of Bulgarian Fashion Association. You can reach her at

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