Shopping Smart

7 Women On What They Skimp And Splurge On When Buying Office Wear

By | Thursday, June 02, 2016

Figuring out the “right” and “good” amount of money one should spend on clothes is a super-subjective and nebulous endeavor. What works for one woman’s budget might not work for another woman’s budget, and each of us has our own opinion on what we deem best to splurge on. However, one fact that rings true for everyone is that the way we dress for work greatly influences the way others perceive us. Regardless of how much you choose to invest in clothes, building a professional-looking wardrobe should be important to every professional woman. An article on LearnVest describes why it’s important to pay special attention to your work wardrobe, saying, “The way you dress in your professional life has a huge impact on the way you’re seen by others; a fashion misstep at a key moment (on a job interview, for example) can have serious repercussions.”

Personally, I had no idea what was considered “normal” to spend on clothes for myself, and since my income varies, it’s difficult to track what makes sense for my budget. Generally speaking, the items I deem worthy to splurge on are jeans and pants that fit really well. Since I have bigger calves (from all those years of ballet and dancing!), it’s tough to find ones that fit well in the waist, thigh, AND calf area. I’ll also shell out a considerable amount of money (but nothing too crazy) on good shoes. I always promised myself that when I was in a certain place professionally, and doing well for myself, I’d invest in a pair of quality, well-made shoes. (This, I thought, would surely propel me into what felt like true #adulthood!)

However, even though I know what I personally find acceptable to skimp and splurge on in my personal wardrobe, I had no idea where I fell on the #treatyoself spectrum in terms of buying professional clothes. Was I spending too much or too little on work clothes? I did a little digging online to try and figure out how much money my peers were investing in their professional wardrobes each month. I found some great articles that talk about how much you should be spending on clothes in general (to be spread across both your personal and professional wardrobe), what work staples are worth investing in, and the average percentage of your salary that should be funneled into clothes shopping in general. According to Pete The Planner, who breaks down exactly what you should budget each month for clothes, and how to do it, you should be spending about 5% of your monthly income on clothing. Some articles suggest spending 3.8%-4% of your annual salary on clothes. (That refers to money spent on  both your personal and professional wardrobe.)

In an effort to contextualize how I shop, and what items I prioritize spending on when it comes to buying office wear compared to my peers, I reached out to a bunch of other women for their thoughts. Below, I’ve rounded up answers from seven professional women on what items they skimp and splurge on in their own work wardrobes. Check it out!

1. SKIMP. “When it comes to professional clothes, I always skimp on three things: camisoles to go under sheer tops in summer, white button downs (because even if I can get them to not be discolored under the arms, they start to look generally worn and dingy after one year of wear), and white jeans (same on the dinginess, but white jeans can be super chic for casual office wear).”

 SPLURGE. I splurge on a blazer. (I recommend navy, because it goes with everything, including black — take a risk and mix black and navy, it’s chic!) I have like one nice blazer that goes with basically everything, fits great, and just needs to be dry cleaned once in awhile. It’s the piece that ties my whole professional wardrobe together, so it’s definitely worth the expense. Also, one pair of each: great black heels, nice leather boots, and a pair of flats that look as chic as heels essentially (M.Gemi is a great brand for designer-quality shoes at less-insane prices.)” — Chelsea

2. SKIMP. “When I’m buying office clothes for work, I always tend to skimp on shoes. I commute to work into NYC every day, and my shoes get ruined so quickly from dealing with the weather. When I started my first job, I bought myself a really lovely pair of expensive designer heels and nearly cried when they were scuffed up into an oblivion on the subway. No more. Inexpensive chic black flats are the way to go for me. I’m sitting virtually all day anyway.”

SPLURGE. “I do splurge on work pants. I’ve got a slightly curvy body, and it’s difficult to find the right fit. When I find ones that fit me well, it’s a BIG deal, so I go all out. I’ll usually buy my pants from Club Monaco or J Brand, because they’re the only ones that are worth the money to me. Sometimes, I’ll also splurge on button-down tops, but I can usually find those for pretty cheap. (But, sometimes, it is nice to have better quality ones they sell at more upscale stores.)” — Marissa

3. SKIMP. “Honestly, I skimp on most stuff. I make $35k a year, and I have a lot of student loans, so I really don’t have much extra money leftover to splurge on clothes. I rely on a lot of secondhand and thrift stores for work basics, and find that I’m pretty successful whenever I hit up those stores. I live and work in Pennsylvania, and there is an abundance of those stores around where I live.”

SPLURGE. Like I said, I don’t splurge a lot of clothes, but I do sometimes splurge on makeup and hair products. It feels really nice to have a fresh face of makeup on and healthy shiny hair — it kind of makes any outfit look nicer when the top half of my body is so put together! It instantly elevates the entire look.” — Emily

4. SKIMP. “I would never pay a lot for an expensive work bag, although I know plenty of women who do. It seems like my office is filled with women who’ve invested a ludicrous amount of money (think $500+) on laptop bags/briefcases/leather backpacks, etc. Skimping on what I carry my lunch to work in is the easiest way to save (in my opinion). Websites like Asos, Aldo, and Target have a large selection of inexpensive and impressive looking handbags that get the job done.”

SPLURGE. “I totally splurge on shoes. If I’m going to be wearing them all day, they better be comfortable as hell. I sit in a lot of meetings with clients, and I’m honestly surprised at how often women comment on other women’s shoes. It’s important for me to be wearing ones that are the perfect combination of stylish, high quality, and comfortable.” — Stacey

5. SKIMP. “Personally, I’ll skimp on things like tops and blouses because I’m relatively tiny, and I can find them virtually anywhere for pretty cheap. For those, I’ll solely shop on the sale rack at the standards like J Crew, GAP, H&M, and Macy’s.”

SPLURGE. I really find myself splurging on good blazers, shoes, bags, jewelry, etc. to make myself look older. Like I said, I’m fairly tiny and pretty short, and I find that it takes a lot for people to take me seriously at the office. (I learned this the hard way at my first job out of school.)  I’ve pretty much made my peace with the fact that I need to spend more money than the average woman if I want to look a certain way, and be perceived as older by the senior staff and my clients. I set aside a certain amount of money each month, so I budget my money smartly. I see it as an investment in the success of my long-term career trajectory.” — Abbey

6. SKIMP. “I’m a nurse, so I skimp on most clothes actually. I wear my scrubs every day, so the only thing I typically buy are t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts to go underneath them, which I can pick up anywhere.”

SPLURGE. “I splurge a lot on shoes. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, but I have like ten different types of sneakers in all different colors, patterns, and styles. I wear them to work every day, and I’m on my feet for 12 hours at a time, so it’s essential they are comfortable. Since I don’t get to ‘dress up’ like someone with a desk job would, I express myself through my shoes, earrings, and makeup. So, those end up being splurge items because I don’t buy anything else.” — Mara

7. SKIMP. “I work in finance at a very big bank, so my work wardrobe is very different from what I wear at home and on the weekends hanging out with friends. This essentially means that I need two wardrobes: one for work, and one for my personal life where I want to show off a semblance of ~style~. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of room to skimp and save money, but I’d say that I think I spend the least on is probably skirts, pencil skirts, tights, and pants. Those are very basic, and I can buy them for relatively cheap.”

SPLURGE.I splurge a lot on overall beauty and self-grooming maintenance costs. I get my nails done every week, my hair cut and colored every eight weeks, my eyebrows threaded twice a month, and I pay for an expensive monthly gym membership. I’m being brutally honest, but I make pretty good money, and I know that I need to present myself in a certain way. Yes, the things listed above aren’t technically work ‘clothes,’ but they’re all part of the way I package myself for the office. I’m really good at what I do, and I’ll be damned if someone treats me differently because they think I look too young to be taken seriously. I do what I need to do and carry myself in a certain way, so I blend in with the rest of the team and am not put at a disadvantage.” — Danielle

Image via Unsplash

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