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Right after graduating from college, my roommate acquired a professional position that required she wear professional attire on a daily basis. My roommate was a gifted seamstress. She purchased a number of suit fabrics and sewed three beautiful professional outfits. This was a great option so she could get affordable professional attire. Not only were the pieces stunning, she was wise to choose a color palette where she could interchange the individual items.

Finding such quality tailoring is rare these days, and if discovered, would be extremely expensive. Still, it’s very possible to find off-the-rack affordable professional attire that won’t break the bank. You just have to know how to shop for it, and where to shop.

3 Myths About Buying Affordable Professional Attire

It’s possible to find off-the-rack affordable professional attire that won’t break the bank. You just have to know how to shop for it, and where to shop.

How To Shop: Break These Three Myths

Myth #1: You need a lot of clothes.

Myth #2: You need a wide variety of clothes.

Myth #3: You need a lot of money to buy professional clothing.


When you shop wisely, you can interchange your outfits like my roommate envisioned doing. This type of professional coordinating of clothing is called a “capsule wardrobe,” where you think in three layers: the base layer of neutral colors, the accent color, and the “pop.”

This website explains the concept, but I’ve summarized below:

For the base layer, think classic. Even though the world continues to progress in many ways, professional attire continues to connote neutral colors of tailored pants, dresses, skirts, jackets, and blazers. Also, think about buying what you are comfortable in; in other words, if you prefer pants over dresses, skip the dresses. Furthermore, buy only one suit of a color. You don’t need three black suits.You need only one grey suit of a different style. Don’t buy two.

The accent layer includes tops, blouses, and tanks or camisoles. While your base selection is comprised of neutral colors, your accent selections introduce color. Buy a variety of styles and colors as long as those styles and colors coordinate with all your base colors.

Finally, the “pop” includes scarves, shoes, purses, and jewelry, as these items create professional flash and glamour. They certainly complete an outfit, taking the basic colors from basic to “wow!”


You don’t have to spend a lot of money, although I do suggest your base clothing be quality clothing, so spend more on those items where the stitching is strong, the zipper is well-constructed, and suit jackets have a good lining that drapes you well. Purchase a few quality blouses as well, then you can add complete your top wardrobe with less expensive pieces.

When you really think through and plan your wardrobe, you end up saving money in the long run because your closet isn’t filled with cheap, ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothes. You also feel less stress because you don’t have to sort through those cheap, ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothes.

3 Myths About Buying Affordable Professional Attire

Where To Shop

Where you choose to shop, to some degree, depends on whether or not you actually like to shop and how much time you have to shop.

If you have time and you enjoy shopping, head to these stores for quality clothing:

  • Banana Republic
  • Ann Taylor
  • Loft
  • J. Crew Factory
  • Talbots

Other department stores, including JC Penney (“Worthington” line) and Macy’s offer business attire.

If you’re fortunate, visit your nearby quality clothing store, like the one near my Northern Indiana hometown. Stephenson’s has been open since 1931 and is still going strong. The customer service is fabulous. Every town, in my opinion, needs a Stephenson’s.

Also, when you find a brand you like, buy several base pieces.

Online Shopping

If you have little time or don’t necessarily enjoy shopping, try these online experiences:

Finally, if you’re curious about online subscription boxes, read this article that specifies M.M. Lafleur’s Bento Box as a great resource for professional attire.

Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley, mom of two adult children, cares deeply about parenting issues. Although she’s looking in the rearview mirror of her hands-on parenting days, once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent. She enjoys sharing a few memories and a touch of advice about spending energy on the things that matter. Tammy has a BA in English from Anderson University (IN) and a MS in Education from IUPUI.