What Clothes Should I Buy For A First Job? 8 Women Reveal Their Purchases
I can remember the exact phone call between me and the HR rep of my first big-girl job when she offered me the position. I’d be serving as a beauty editor in the big city, with a corner office and corporate business card to boot. I had the drive, the confidence, but definitely not the wardrobe. I was an intern for the company back in college, so when it came to knowing what clothes I should buy for a first job, I was lucky enough to be somewhat ahead of the game, even if my bank account wasn’t up to speed.
When you’re fresh out of college, though, your income is rarely as dreamy as that first offer letter, so it’s not always easy to splurge on a professionally decked-out wardrobe. If you’ve yet to be exposed to that kind of atmosphere, you might not even know what falls under office-appropriate attire. So what’s a girl to do with a lack of cash and zero info?
Your first order of business when figuring out what clothes to buy for a first job is to check your bank statement. This may very well be a sad activity, but figuring out how much you can afford to spend is a crucial, all-too-necessary step. Then, after you make a budget for yourself, the fun part can begin.
Make a list of stores to go to that are realistically within your price range. As much as I love the aesthetic of places like J.Crew and Club Monaco, spending $70 on a single blouse just wasn’t going to happen for me in the near future. The smartest way to shop, at least initially, is to know your limitations and stick to them. As for how you shop and what to shop for, it's really going to depend on a) your company's dress code and b) what fashion sense means to you.
To get you started, Elite Daily asked the following women how they went about shopping for their first jobs. They got through it, and so will you, no matter the circumstances.
1. Shop With Role Models In Mind
I bought a polyester suit at a United Colors of Benneton in the mall. I think the jacket was $50, and the skirt $35. It was all I could afford, and I wanted to look polished. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I worked my way through in the PR office. After I graduated, I landed my first PR job and couldn't wait to wear a skirt and heels like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going On 30.
— Sarah, 40
2. Ball On A Budget Until You're Making A Little More
I needed bulk at low cost because I hadn't started making any money yet, so I got my first work wardrobe at H&M. When I had enough to invest in good clothes, I moved to J.Crew when I lived on the East Coast.
— Deanna, 26
3. Look For Affordable Staples That Make You Feel Good
The clothes I bought for my first real job were a loose-fitting "blazer" actually from Forever 21, wearing it as we speak. I bought a well-fitting bra because that's the foundation to any outfit in my opinion (or at least for ladies like me who are big on top). I also bought a few funky button-downs — Target's Who What Wear line is amazing! Lastly, I bought the perfect pair of black pointed-toe booties that I keep at work and switch into.
— Ilana, 22
4. It's Better To Be Over- Than Under-Dressed
For my first real job, I went to Express and bought the whole store. I would probably say I was overdressed, lol.
— Allie, 26
5. Create A Functional Wardrobe From The Get-Go
For my first adult job, I used my rule of thumb: Dress conservatively and business-casual (unless told otherwise) for the first week or two, until I’ve had time to look over the dress code in the HR packet [and] take note of how colleagues are dressed and use that as a guide.
I bought good-quality clothes that will last me a while — I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe every year. I got three to four pairs of slacks from Old Navy and Banana Republic, an H&M blazer, and blouses from H&M and Boscov’s.
— Adrienne, 25
6. Stay Professional Without Sacrificing Your Personality
It was a culture shock for me to have my first post-grad job be in a casual workplace. My mom took me shopping to celebrate and prepare, and we both were totally frazzled over how to look cool but professional at the same time.
Ultimately, I just bought some good pants and patterned shirts, and I survived from there. By far my best purchases were J.Crew pants: high-waisted jeans that were good quality but wouldn't show my butt crack in the open-air office, and these glorified leggings that are super comfy and chill without being totally unprofessional. (I buy a new pair of these every few years because they're just that useful.)
— Alexandra, 25
7. Borrow First, Shop Second
I shopped mostly at Banana Republic and Express when buying clothes for my first real job, but honestly, the prices were really not within my budget at the time. I wound up shopping mostly in my mom's old closet of secretary clothes that she hadn't gotten around to donating/throwing away yet. Seriously, if you and your mom (or your older sister, your aunt, your cousin, anyone!) are around the same size, and she has clothes that a) are appropriate for your office, and b) you actually think are cute, definitely start there.
— Allie, 24
8. Trust Your BFF's Opinion
I didn't buy clothes, but I did buy a handbag!
I had been using an embossed raw-leather briefcase I had gotten for about $40 on a college trip to Mexico (which I actually still really love so HATE AWAY). When I got my first real office job my best friend took me aside and said, "I know you love that thing, but it looks very college-girl." So I went out and spent way too much money on a very classic black leather handbag, which has served me in good stead since. I refuse to set it on the floor and it's still looking great.
— Lilli, 30
These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.