How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Shop

Posted On Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Filed Under: Style Guide, Thrift Stores

How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Store
One of the first rules of thrift shopping is to go in with an open mind. But it’s also important to have an idea of what you need. Remember the all important thrift wish list?

And sometimes you need affordable clothes that are specifically for work. If you’re not into spending a fortune on pants suits and classic pieces, read on to see how you can build a work wardrobe at the thrift shop!

I’ve done a few work wardrobe posts but this one is prompted by a reader who responded to my newsletter {be sure to sign up for weekly emails!} and expressed a need to dress the part for her new gig. Nothing too stuffy and formal, but just work appropriate clothes.

Here’s how to do it, whether you’re in corporate America or a more relaxed office environment.

Find the Classics
During a Twitter chat I participated in last night {#CreativeSmartGirl}, one of the pieces of advice I shared was to build a foundation of classic pieces. These are the timeless items that never go out of style {trench coat, silk blouse, cardigans, pencil skirt, etc.}. And because these are so timeless, you’ll always find them at a thrift shop. This foundation is what the rest of your look will be anchored on.

Building a work wardrobe at the thrift shop is easy and affordable Click To Tweet

Then Find Your Flair
After you’ve built that classic foundation, now it’s time to hunt for clothes and accessories that showcase your style, but in a professional way. For example: I love bright colors but depending on the business setting, I don’t want to be too over the top. So I try to find business attire {like the silk button down below} but with some colorful accents. The top is still professional but it has a bit of a pop. Unique prints, bold colors and patterns are in abundance at thrift shops, so a quirky piece or two can work well in your closet.

How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Store
Look for Rich Colors
One of the tips I share in my book Looking Fly on a Dime: How to Find Fabulous Fashion at Any Thrift Shop & Make the Cheap Look Chic is to seek out bright colors. These just stand out from a crowded rack of neutrals. But when it comes to building a work wardrobe, rich colors are really your friend. And by “rich” I don’t just mean bright hues, but colors that are vibrant. Basically, they’re not dull and dingy looking! A washed out garment will automatically look cheap and that’s not what we want. The Christian Dior coat below was just $23 from last year’s Salvation Army coat sale {which should be coming up soon, stay tuned for details!} but if the red color would have been a bit off and not as bright, I would have left it on the racks. Instead, the color is heavily saturated and this outerwear automatically upgrades anything I wear!

How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Store
Pull Double Duty
While shopping for your work wardrobe, look for pieces that can also go from work to weekend. So maybe you won’t wear a pencil skirt on a lazy Saturday, but a blazer is a perfect example of clothing that works well in and out of the office. The same goes for a button down and sweaters. When your clothes can pull double duty, that eliminates the need to have two totally separate wardrobes, which can be costly.

How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Store
Know Your Office Culture
You always want to dress for the environment you’re in. If it’s more buttoned up, then you should follow suit. While you’re thrift shopping, envision other people in the office. Could you see one of your coworkers wearing the items? Would it be a little bit too much and even distracting? If you have to think twice about it, then it may not work for the office. It would be a waste of money to buy work clothes that you can’t actually wear at work! Again, you should totally showcase your style but do it in a way to still conveys professionalism and is in light with the office culture

Building any wardrobe, even work attire, is pretty easy at the thrift shop. Just go in with a plan and take your time.

How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Shop

What work wardrobe pieces are you looking to add to your closet? Have you ever thrift shopped for corporate attire?

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6 thoughts on “How to Build Your Work Wardrobe at the Thrift Shop

  1. My job is business casual and I usually don’t know how to dress. Heels hurt and I do a lot of walking. Thanks for the tips. Not sure if these will look ok with flats especially since I’m short lol

    • Hi Janelle!
      You can totally pull of any of the suggested items above or pretty much anything with cute flats.

      I’m also short {5’2″) so I always have at least 2 good stylish pairs of flats {pointy toe, a bold color, fun details, etc.} that are just as chic as heels and way more comfortable.

  2. Every time I think there could not possibly be any more topics for you to cover BAM, you have another post I need. And yes, a big chunk of my shopping comes from thrift stores. I am looking for shoes (pumps or flats) and tops right now. Thanks for caring to share.

  3. I’m such a huge fan of finding blazers at thrift stores! I’m a grad student, so we have a weird unstated dress code – almost business casual, but with a bit more flexibility. A blazer is the perfect thing to throw on almost any outfit and make it school-appropriate.

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