Dressing Professionally On The Cheap (And With a Smidge of Lazy)

The biggest complaint the teachers at my mother-in-law's school are having with their new dress code is money. They believe that they cannot afford clothing of nicer quality than jeans, t-shirts, and foam flip flops. For crying out loud, Starbucks requires its employees to wear khakis or black pants and a black or white non-t top. Clearly, these teachers have never learned to shop. (It is sad how many adults don't know how to compare prices, look for sales, and just generally shop. Clothes, food, home items -- if you buy it regularly, it is worth your time to learn where the deals are.) In case they are really just proffering lame excuses, here are some items all under $45 that you can wear to work:

There is a world outside of jeans. True, dress pants can't take the same wear and tear, but you're not exactly going to be mowing your lawn at work, are you? Pants are really trendy right now too, so stock up on colors and cuts while you can. Target can get you started in the realm of dress pants for $28.

If you are new to the idea of dressing professionally, do yourself a favor and buy a white cotton button-down ($25). Put it on, over, and under everything. Also, the stores are full of t-shirts that don't look like t-shirts, like this striped peplum beauty ($20) that would be an absolute wardrobe workhorse. Henleys ($22) can be another t-shirt alternative in many workplaces. Pair this with grey slacks and ballet flats for a cute lazy day.

No professional look is complete without a blazer. Hint, a knit blazer (this black one is on sale for $35) is a sweatshirt with a button. You should be able to get away with just one black blazer and a second blazer with a little more personality. In many work places, you can swap a blazer for a cardigan and no one will bat an eye.

If you hate the idea of not wearing jeans, you may hate the idea of wearing a skirt. We at Fashion Me Fabulous happen to love skirts because they are so comfortable. They also happen to be easier to buy and often cheaper than pants. The long grey skirt below ($22) is literally made of sweatshirt material. The slit is long enough to allow movement and short enough to still be office regulation. Wear it with a tucked-in blouse and a blazer for a business look. Full skirts (like this blue one on sale for $35) are another favorite as they allow great movement while keeping everything covered. If your workplace is hyper conservative, a houndstooth pencil skirt ($35) will impress with style.

The real secret to crazy-comfy professional attire is dresses. Comfortable like a skirt, but without trying to match things in the morning before you've had coffee. Everyone seems to think dresses are lots of effort and require nice makeup and perfect hair, but that's not true at all. Stop treating dresses like they are more special than your jeans, and you will open a new world or work clothes options. Start with a wrap dress ($32); it's like wearing a flattering bathrobe to work.

The real trick with dresses (really with any clothes) is just knowing your body. Drop waist, fit-and-flare, sheath, shift. Those can all be scary terms if you are just now putting away your t-shirts and jeans. Grab a friend who knows you well and spend a day just trying things on. Make notes about what fits and what doesn't work. Spending that day with a friend (so it's a great day anyway), will make any future shopping much easier.

Final thought: T. J. Maxx is your best friend.


Jennifer Wells said…
Also, if people are really loathe to give up jeans, why not at least choose a different color? I'm surprised sometimes to see something and then read that it is, in fact, a pair of jeans. Or color cords.

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