How to Buy and Dress in Business Clothes for Less

imageEveryone knows that buying business and dress clothes can be expensive. When I was about to graduate from college and start looking for my first ‘real job’ I only had one day to get a suit and business dress outfit appropriate for a job fair. My sister, who is also my fashion consultant, took me to the mall and several other department stores and here is what I got-

– $45 for my suit jacket (My friends assure me this was a bargain) from Kohl’s
– $10 for a dress shirt on clearance from H&M
– $20 for a pencil skirt on clearance from Express
– $5 for nylons from Target
– $15 for clearance dress shoes from Target
– $7 conservative earrings from Claire’s
Total- $102

I don’t think I did badly on this trip because I did need the items right away, we did find some great clearance deals on name brands, and everything we got was such great quality I still wear these items today (minus the nylons). A woman from the FBI actually stopped me and wanted to know where I got my suit jacket- it’s stylish and professional looking. When I explained to a friend what I spent on my suit jacket (thinking it was a lot) she was shocked saying she had spent more than $200 on her suit jacket alone. Apparently my outfit worked because I did get my first full time job. Knowing I was going to need to wear business dress clothes 5 days a week at work I realized that my clothing budget could quickly get out of hand. So while I don’t think that I overspent by any means, my frugal side is always asking “Can I get it for cheaper?”

The answer is yes! I have now learned a LOT of ways to save on dress clothes that I didn’t know as a person who had never had to wear real dress clothes before.

1. Shop Clearance Sales- Now is a great time to hit up those mall clearance sales! Here in Florida, clothes that are conservative enough to wear as dress clothes sometimes fall into the category of winter clothes  and many are on sale right now! See the dresses I got below for $5 and $10.

2. Shop Second Hand for Name Brands- You CAN shop second hand and still look expensive! On all of the dress shirts in the above picture I only spent between .25¢ and $2 and they are name brands like Express, New York and Company, American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, etc. Some of them would cost as much as $60 brand new. Most of these items are from thrift shops but the black sweater was only .25¢ at a yard sale and looks new.

3. Know Your Size in Good Brands– This is something that could take a while but I have found that dress clothes sizes in certain brands don’t fluctuate as much as normal clothing. I know that a size Small dress shirt from New York & Company will fit me without trying it on. This saves a lot of time especially at thrift shops where they don’t always have fitting rooms.

4. Find Stores that Sell Basics Pieces for Cheap– I know that Wet Seal in the mall carries cute, fitted, black dress pants for around $20 and I know they sell them in ‘Short’ length. It isn’t worth it for me to buy dress pants and then take the time and energy to get them hemmed. Especially when I know I can go to Wet Seal and buy a pair that already fits correctly for $20.

5. Stock Up– You probably already stock up on good deals on household items so why wouldn’t you stock up on clothes you will need to buy down the road anyways? I no longer work full time but I will be starting my teaching job in a few months. I realize that I will have to buy dress clothes regardless of if I find them on sale for really cheap this summer or if I wait until right before my job starts and have to pay full price.

6. Buy Good Basic Pieces– You will probably need a black suit jacket, a pair of black dress pants, a black skirt and some basic button up shirts. These are all versatile pieces that you can mix and match with a lot of outfits. They will never go out of style and if you invest in quality garments you will have them for a really, really long time. Quality doesn’t always mean expensive. If I buy a New York & Company shirt for $2 at a thrift store it is still the same quality as if I paid $60 for it at the store.

7. Shop In Your Closet- What do you already own that can be used as office wear? When I was working full time I found a great pair of black heels that I had bought for $15 but then never worn because they were a little too conservative for going out but they were great for the office. I also had a pair of tan pants that I used to wear hostessing at a restaurant that were great for casual days. Yesterday, I realized that I have a floral print dress that would be appropriate for teaching.

8. Buy Pieces that You Can Mix and Match– Buy tops and bottoms that you can mix and match to make new outfits. You won’t look like you are wearing the same clothes all the time when you wear them in different combinations.

9. Take Pictures of Outfits- If you find a cute top and bottom that go well together take a picture. It will help you to pick out cute clothes when are half asleep in the morning. You can print them out or keep them in a folder on your computer or phone.

10. Don’t Forget Your Accessories- Accessorizing an outfit differently can make it look completely different. Add scarves, belts, or necklaces to give your look a new twist.

11. Winter Clothes Can Sometime Work as Dress Clothes– Here in Florida most people have summer clothes and winter clothes. My winter clothes are in a box in storage for most of the year. However, sometimes winter clothes can work well as office dress clothes because they tend to be a little more conservative.

12. Think Comfortable– If you want to buy something and it isn’t comfortable think twice. Most of the time you will be wearing dress clothes for an 8 or 9 hour work day so if something isn’t comfortable you probably won’t end up wearing it.

13. Know Where to Spend Your Money– I will spend a little more for a piece that I will be able to wear often like a suit jacket or pencil skirt. I won’t spend that a lot on a patterned dress because like the ones below because I know I won’t be able to wear them as much.

14. Use Discounts and Coupons– Students and Seniors receive 10% off at Goodwill. If you have a Target debit card you receive 5% off. My mother works at Target so she receives an additional 10% off. Stores like Bells and Kohls often give out $5 or $10 off coupons. Look for coupons from your favorite stores in the Sunday paper before you shop. Every little bit helps.

15. Don’t rule out the juniors or kids departments– They are usually cheaper and often have more conservative cuts. I was able to buy a comfortable, grey, longish suit jacket form the kids department for $20 in a size large. It’s comfortable and goes with a lot of outfits.

16. Don’t buy everything in one day– The less time you have to purchase your dress clothes the more you will spend. If you have the time it always helps to wait for sales, use coupons and look at second hand store which can all be hit or miss if you only look once.

17. Can you buy it online for cheaper?– Sometimes I find pieces that I love but at prices I don’t. One tip I have learned is to look on eBay or Amazon for the same piece at a much lower price or even at the same store’s online shop that might have a coupon code or sale the physical store doesn’t.


This suit jacket is the same brand and fit as the black one I paid $45 for at Kohls. Only this one I found a week later for $3.50 in grey. The picture doesn’t do it justice because it’s actually a really cute pinstripe.


I paid $5.50 for this short, cute, black jacket. It’s a little more casual than my regular suit jacket and I like it because I can mix things up, not always having to wear the same jacket. These two jackets provide me with a variety that I wouldn’t have without a huge price tag if I bought all of my suit jackets for $50 to $100 each.


I will need some cooler yet conservative dress clothes in the fall when I start teaching. The college campus I will be working on is very large so it requires a lot of walking, not to mention it will be 90 degree Florida weather that doesn’t usually go well with dress pants and a suit jacket. So I was excited when I stumbled across some cute dresses that I can wear with a lighter suit jacket. This dress was $5 on sale at Cotton On this week.

This dress was $10 on sale at Cotton On this week.

Knowing that I am going to need dress clothes in the next few months has allowed me the time I need to purchase quality business clothes for less. I’m really excited to wear my expensive looking dress clothes because I’m the only one who needs to know that they weren’t.

What do you do to save money on business dress clothes?

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  1. The best way to find very cheap, very nice used clothes is to go to the Salvation Army or Goodwill in a VERY expensive area. Most clothing donations that are resold stay fairly local.

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