When office hours return, how to buy new workwear on a budget

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As more people return to the office, they may no longer be able to rely on their work wardrobe from more than two years ago.

Their taste or size may have changed during the pandemic, or their company may have changed expectations for professional attire.

Refilling your closet can add up. Fashion bloggers shared tips on how to prepare to return to work without spending too much.

Larger what you need first

Maria Vizuete, a former stock analyst and founder of fashion blog MiaMiaMine.com, suggests spending a few days back in your office before buying new clothes.

Many companies are revising their expectations for their dress code and you may find that the jeans and sneakers you have lived in are now acceptable in the office.

“To see if the shift has happened in your office, pay attention to how the management dresses, or strike up a conversation with your manager,” Vizuete said.

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If your business has switched to a hybrid work model where you are still allowed to work from home a few days a week, you also do not need as much office-friendly attire.

“If your time in the office is half of what it was two years ago, you should also consider cleaning your professional wardrobe by half,” said Veronica Koosed, owner of PennyPincherFashion.com, another blog.

Do not be too quick to throw back the articles you were wearing, as pandemics were more the terrain of books and movies than in real life, experts said. Some clothing remains relevant.

“Some pieces you might want to stick to from two years ago are what I refer to as closet staples: your favorite pair of black pants, the black dress you often wore in the office, a nice blazer, and your favorite shoe in neutral color, said Koosed.

Take your time

Do not feel pressured to rebuild your work wardrobe overnight, Vizuete said.

“Start by making a list of essential things and prioritize them based on how practical they are,” she said. “So tackle the list by buying a few items each month.”

It may be a good idea to set up an allowance for yourself. Experts generally recommend that you do not spend more than 10% of your brought salary on clothing.

“I’m a big fan of budgets,” said Dianna Baros, founder of the blog TheBudgetBabe.com. “With all the temptations of online shopping, it can be easy to get carried away.”

If you want to splurge, do it on your wardrobe staples, Vizuete said.

“I have a strong belief that it pays to invest in strong foundations, such as a trench coat, bespoke blazer or a structured bag,” she said.

“When you have a strong collection, you can easily build on those with more affordable, trend-setting pieces.”

Go in search of deals

For high-quality clothing, Vizuete said she pursues outlets like Gilt, Rue La La and Cettire. When she’s looking for more affordable workwear that is still stylish, she turns to Express, Mango, Nordstrom and H&M.

For her part, Baros said following budget-conscious fashion bloggers or influencers is a great way to stay up-to-date on stylish, affordable clothing.

“They share everything from outfit ideas to sales warnings,” Baros said. “It’s like having a personal shopper, and I think that’s the new way to shop.”

Buying out-of-season items, such as a winter coat in July, is another way to score good prices, experts say.

If you are still figuring out your post-pandemic fashion identification, a clothing subscription service may be a useful option.

“Often, subscription services are more affordable than buying a brand new outfit,” Vizuete said. Some of the popular rental companies include NUULY, Rent the Runway and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club.

Do you have any friends who do not return to the office at all? If you have the same size, offer to help them free up some closet space.

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