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Dressing for Success While Minding Your Budget

Dress for Success

We are happy to share this article by Clairisa Laws, a Kalamazoo native, junior at Northern Michigan University, and former intern at LKF Marketing. In conjunction with Kalamazoo Fashion Week, Laws offers fashion advice for budget-conscious college students interning and interviewing as well as young professionals starting their first professional position.

See our previous post for more information about the event. Laws styled the outfits above using items for sale at LOVED Consignment Boutique in downtown Kalamazoo.

First impressions are everything in the professional world whether you are interviewing for an internship or your dream job or working your way up the corporate ladder. An outfit says a lot about a person.

Working entry level jobs, paying dues, and still dressing to a T is manageable. Whether the outfit cost $10 or $100 dollars, the flow of the outfit is what defines you. Not rolling in the dough just yet? Consider these frugal fashion tips.

Think Outside the Box

You've got a whole closet full of clothes, yet you still feel like you have nothing to wear. Pull your clothes out and try to think of new ways to pair pieces.

Ladies, your favorite summer tank would look great paired with a maxi skirt and a button up cardigan. Guys, your golf shirt and a pair of freshly ironed khakis would fit in nicely on a casual Friday.

You don't have to buy a whole new wardrobe to find professional clothing.

Cleanliness is Key

Don't forget to inspect your clothing for cleanliness as well. The perfect power shirt will lose its pizazz if it is wrinkly or dingy. Take a peek at your shoes, too. Could they use a quick polish?

Dry cleaning is way easier than a do-it-yourself washing, but saving money on cleaning your clothes will help you save up for the next season's must haves. You don't have to spend a lot on your wardrobe or cleaning it to make a good impression.

Use Color & Accessories Sparingly

Choose your colors and accessories wisely and keep in mind that a little goes a long way. White, khaki, and black are always a conservative choice for any wardrobe so stock up when you see these items on sale.

Understated outfits can quickly and easily be dressed up with a bright and interesting scarf, neck tie, or piece of jewelry. Keep an eye out for simple accessories like these that can be incorporated into various attires for a bit of spice.

Steer clear of bright, neon colors for shirts, pants, and dresses. Traffic cones and traffic signs are meant to be outside, not in an office.

Ask Questions

Use the human resource department and your co-workers as resources. If you don't know what is appropriate, just ask.

Co-workers can be an asset especially if you ask those a bit further up the ladder than you. Keep the old adage of dressing for the job you want not the job you have in mind.

Many work places have a dress code in writing that could serve as a starting point. When it doubt, skip a questionable outfit.

Ditch the Mall

While stores like Express, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, The Limited, and J. Crew have a wealth of professional options for sale, they also carry a hefty price tag. Creating similar outfits at a lower cost is easy if you know where and when to look.

Local, secondhand dealers offer a wide array of choices and professional wear. The outfit of your dreams may not be on the mannequin as you walk in, but, with a little bit of browsing you might find that name brand piece you've been longing for at a secondhand price.

Stores like Target and Marshalls can also help you get more for your money. Pair basic pants, shirts, and dresses from these stores with higher end accessories to create a mall mannequin look on a dime store budget.

Keep the seasons in mind when shopping for clothes. You can often find great deals on last season's items. While you might not wear that super cheap pair of summer chinos again this year, you will thank yourself for seizing the deal now when you start to think about work wear next spring.

Plan Ahead for Comfort & Style

You might look like a million bucks, but, if your new shoes are giving you blisters or those old pants don't quite fit right, you won't be able to focus. It is important to gently break in your clothes and shoes before debuting them at the office.

Ladies, the only place you will walk with stilettos and heeled shoes more than 4 inches is right back to your house. Don't exchange style for complete discomfort.

Guys, you might have to wear a suit and tie to work, but you can at least make sure it is comfortably fitted. Tailored suits might be out of your price range for a bit, so consider investing in a nice suit coat and alterations. The piece will serve you well for years to come.

Just remember, necessity is the mother of all invention. Keep these tips in mind and exercise your creative side to invent a personalized, professional wardrobe on a budget. Keep calm and style on!

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