Business Attire on a Budget

The other day, I bought my first suit ever. Yes, there was much rejoicing, especially on my part. I had been hesitant to actually purchase one for a while, mostly due to the fact that I am your typical broke college student. So I wasn’t about to drop $200 on a suit when I could spend that money on more pertinent things like soap, toothpaste, and supplies to actually clean my dorm. But lo and behold, I witnessed a beautiful event while wandering the shops of our local mall: a 50 percent off sale at Bergner’s. At the end of the day, a new blazer and pencil skirt cost me about $50. Success!

It’s a little frustrating for many college students when there is a trade-off between looking professional for a job fair or interview and having money to spend on necessities. For people like me who do not enjoy asking their parents for money and who take care of their personal expenses, it’s even more stressful. But a functional, clean-looking suit does not always have to be purchased at Expensive Suits ‘R Us. There are many places where you can find affordable business clothes without having to pay the price of wearing something that looks poorly made.

My usual go-to places for clothes that I don’t want to spend a lot on are TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Burlington Coat Factory. These stores are great for people who enjoy the look and feel of designer clothes but don’t care for the huge price tag on them. These stores generally tell you how much the item cost at full price and how much they are actually going to charge you for it, so you can see how much you’re saving right away. I was able to find a sharp-looking trenchcoat at Burlington Coat Factory for a great price, and I love picking up nice sweaters and dress pants at TJ Maxx for prices anywhere from $10 to $20.

If you enjoy shopping online, Overstock.com is a great site to look through. Like the stores I just mentioned, it takes in items that, obviously, were overstocked and sells them at lower prices. Although I’ve never personally used Overstock, I hear nothing but good things about it from my friends who have shopped there before. So if you’re willing to take the risk of not trying on clothes before you buy them, look here.

A lot of smaller specialty stores tend to carry career attire and even simple suits. I was surprised that Maurice’s had blazers with matching pants and skirts for very reasonable prices. Generally, I go there for their jeans and casual wear. H&M is another good example of a store that usually carries casual clothes but has some great business wear. So while you may not have noticed that your favorite store carries clothes like this, they probably do.

Finally, don’t forget to look for sales and check clearance racks. When I walked through the mall earlier this week, The Limited was having a “buy a jacket, pants, or skirt and get a jacket, pants, or skirt free” sale along with offering 15 percent off for college students. Professional attire at that store usually runs around $130 to $160, but that sale would have made a full suit around $90. So do your research before you miss a great deal.

Overall, employers are not going to know how much you spent on your suit or business casual wear. It is important to look professional and polished, regardless of how much you choose to spend on your clothes.

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