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Business Wardrobe Essentials (from

posted Mar 9, 2011, 12:54 PM by Rocco Huang

Looking the part of a stylish executive can be done on a budget, especially with our guide to office wear essentials.

By Chris Rovny, Fashion Correspondent

Page 1: Business wear

Hi Chris,

I just landed an entry-level finance position at one of the nation's top investment firms. The employment requires standard professional dressing. That said, I need advice on building a base business wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Please understand that by the time I finish paying off my student loans, my apartment, and other miscellaneous expenses, I hardly have any money left over to buy lunch and clothing for that matter.

Best Regards,
Mike Fellicionni
New York City, NY 

Hey Mike,

First of all, congratulations on securing your first career job. The fact that you're seeking advice on dressing professionally on a budget proves that you already started executing like top management; paying attention to detail while cutting down on costs.

Soon enough you'll be able to afford luxurious business suits, but until then here's a way to look great without spending too much; a step-by-step guide to building a base professional wardrobe.

Step 1 - Look around and ask questions

Chances are, you've met your boss and colleagues and took mental notes on how they were dressed for work. If you haven't, then make an excuse to revisit the workplace before you start shopping. Look around at how others are dressed and don't hesitate to ask general questions about the company's dress code.

For future reference, interviews and orientation sessions are ideal times to get a feel for the office surroundings and spot what other employees are wearing. Full business suits or a blazer with pants?

Again, feel free to inquire about the regular workweek dress code, and find out whether it differs from Fridays and client meetings. Keep in mind that dress codes generally aren't as strict as they used to be.

Step 2 - Get what you really need

When shopping, keep your co-workers' office wear in mind and always remember to lean toward more conservative styles. Here's what you really need in terms of specific pieces and colors, in order to build a solid business wardrobe:

Since you don't have the means to buy yourself 14 suits, 14 blazers and 14 trousers for a full two-week wardrobe rotation, you'll have to learn the tricks of mixing and matching, and adequate color selection.

basic business wardrobe

  • Your base business wardrobe requires at least one or two complete business suits. Odds are you already own the suit you wore to the interview, so purchase one more classic business suit and you'll be rolling.
  • Gray and navy are the most versatile colors.

  • Blazers, pants, and more business must-haves...

    Page 2: Business casual wear


  • Ideally, your base business wardrobe should include two versatile blazers.
  • When selecting your blazers, opt for lighter fabrics, which allows you to wear them year-round.

  • Trousers
  • Your basic business wardrobe should include three pairs of dressy trousers.
  • Remember to choose colors that mesh well with your blazers.

  • Shirts
  • A business wardrobe requires at least three or four solid white business shirts. Add a "French Blue" one to your selection for added variety.
  • Clean, crisp white shirts blend well with every suit and pants/blazer/tie combination. They also look very professional and are sure to remain stylish for years to come.
  • On the other hand, a French Blue shirt is also classic, but will offer up some "conservative" variety.

  • Ties
  • Purchase two or three different ties. A tie allows you to add color to your ensemble, without looking unprofessional.
  • As a rule of thumb, the more colors your tie comprises, the more conservative its pattern should be. Stay away from cartoon prints or any other crazy design.
  • Solids are always fine and of course, more versatile.
  • Rotating between ties regularly is a great way to make your business wardrobe look more diversified than it really is.

  • Shoes
  • Shoes are the one item you should spend extra time and money on, since you'll be wearing them throughout the week.
  • To start, get yourself a classic pair of black shoes. Black is extremely versatile and should blend rather well with most of your business wardrobe palette.
  • Down the road, when you start raking in the dough, you can get yourself a pair of brown, tan, camel, and oxblood shoes to complement each and every one of your suits. Okay, you can start with the oxblood shoes.

  • Color
    In terms of color, opt for neutral basics; they're versatile, conservative and timeless.. To start building your basic wardrobe, choose between:
  • Shades of black
  • Navy
  • Various shades of gray
  • Various shades of khaki
  • Step 3 - Spend the least

    Finally, here are three things you should keep in mind when shopping for your business wardrobe:

    - Always check the sales racks before you start skimming through the season's new arrivals. Classic men's garments are timeless and should remain pretty much the same throughout the years. Who cares if you're buying last year's collection? You will, because you'll be benefiting from hefty discounts and chances are that nobody will know the difference.

    - Take advantage of online discount retailers, such as It offers designer merchandise ranging from suits and shoes to ties, for less.

    - You might want a friend to tag along, to get an honest opinion. We all know how "convincing" salespeople can be.

    Until next time, keep on stylin' and make the most of your office wear.