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What to Wear for a New Job—and How to Do It on a Budget

Invest in styles that you can wear multiple ways, both throughout the week and throughout your career.

By Madeleine Kim

There’s a lot to think about when you start a new job, from figuring out how to get into your email account to making sure you remember the constant stream of new names and faces. And while what you wear is far from the most important part of your job performance, it does matter. 

When shopping for a new work wardrobe, it’s not only important to look for pieces that will match your company’s dress code. You also want to think about the future and invest in styles that you can wear multiple ways, both throughout the week and throughout your career. Doing all of this on a budget can be tricky, so we created this guide to (1) help you identify which pieces will create the most impact in your work wardrobe and (2) uncover some cost-saving tips you might not know about.

How to Get a New Job Wardrobe on a Budget

If you don’t know the dress code, skew classic.

Can’t decide what to wear on your first day of work? In most cases, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Even if someone from HR tells you that the dress code is “business casual attire,” it can be hard to know exactly what the company culture is before you’ve been to the office. For your very first day, we suggest choosing an outfit composed of neutral colors, clean lines, and classic silhouettes. Try a sheath dress like the Constance, which is both work-appropriate and easy to dress down with a pair of sneakers and a cardigan. The Merritt jardigan would also be great to have on hand, since you can decide whether or not to wear it depending on how formal (and air-conditioned) the office is. If you love separates, you can’t go wrong with the tailored Mejia pants and the Leo pullover, which gets a formal bent from its lapels but a relaxed feel from its silk knit (for a similar style, try the Lagarde shirt).

The Bennett jacket (similar: Yasmine blazer) and Horton pant.

Focus on versatility.

To extend the longevity of your pieces, prioritize quality over quantity and invest in a capsule wardrobe of items that can be styled many different ways, so they can serve you throughout your career. A suit like the Yasmine blazer and Horton pants, for instance, would be an excellent choice. You can, of course, wear these pieces together for a full, formal suit, but you can also mix and match them with other styles. Try the jacket with a flowy silk skirt for a more creative look; wear the pants with a white T-shirt and sneakers for a chic weekend vibe. You should also be sure to have a versatile underpinning that you can wear under a blazer or as a standalone top. Finally, every professional wardrobe should include a jardigan in a neutral color that’s easy to pair and keep it in your bag for those last-minute meetings.

The Horton pant, Woolf jardigan, Nora top, and Bennett jacket (similar: Yasmine blazer).

Make the most of sales...

Shopping the sale section is a smart way to score new work clothes for less. But sale shopping can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to end up buying pieces you don’t really want or need, just because they’re 50% off. My advice? Focus on styles you can see yourself wearing often, like the Mia top, which is lightweight enough to wear in summer but also makes for a great layering piece in winter (for a similar style, try the Brodie top). If you don’t already have a go-to work skirt, you should definitely scoop up the smart casual Krista skirt, which is unique yet easy to pair and doesn’t ride up. If you’re into dresses, the Elsa would be a great choice, because you can style it in so many different ways. Sweater loves will also be excited to see that the cozy, textured Tyler pullover—an ideal pairing whether you prefer to wear jeans or pencil skirts—is now on sale, too.

The Mia top (similar: Brodie top), Foster pant, and Rowan flat.

…but know when it’s worth investing.

There are some types of pieces that you’ll wear so much, it’s worth investing in the best version you can find. Plus, you’ll wear clothes you love more often, giving you better bang for your buck. Take a neutral button-down, for instance. This essential styling piece will be on regular rotation if you invest in something high-quality, like the washable silk Tatum shirt. This also goes for a great pair of black pants—whether you have a formal business dress code or a work in a laid-back office. Get a pair of our best-selling Foster pants, and you’ll wear them for years. You should also have a tailored dress that fits really well and makes you feel your best, and it’s always a good idea to find work shoes that are actually comfortable.

Buy (and sell) pre-loved clothing

Last but definitely not least: If you’re trying to dress professionally on a budget, the best thing you can do for your wallet (not to mention the planet) is to buy and sell pre-loved clothing. Plus, secondhand shopping is a great way to snag pieces that may be sold out in your size on our main website. We make it easy with our resale site, Second Act, where you can redeem your earnings as either cash or store credit. Will you get a highly coveted Jillian dress that’s not available anywhere else? A perfect-condition Porter jacket for half price? There’s only one way to find out—let the treasure hunt begin.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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