How to Dress Business Casual on a Low Budget

Choose clothing pieces that work in multiple outfits.
Choose clothing pieces that work in multiple outfits. (Image: RL Productions/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The business casual dress code allows greater flexibility than more restrictive professional attire. While you won't need to wear a suit to work for a business casual dress code, you do need tailored clothing that looks professional. Achieving a quality business casual wardrobe on a budget takes planning and coordination of the individual clothing pieces you purchase for maximum value.

Review Your Wardrobe

Before you spend money on new clothes, look through your closet to determine what you already have that would fit into the business casual dress code. Any clothing items or accessories that you are able to use for work save you money building your wardrobe. Look through your sweaters, blouses, pants, skirts and shoes. Don't worry about finding complete outfits in your closet. Use the clothes you have as the base and buy additional pieces that will work with them.

Buy Staples

When you're on a budget, stick with the basics that you are able to reuse for several years. Avoid trendy clothes that are likely to go out of style by the following year. Trendy clothes also tend to be more difficult to wear with different outfits. Neutral colors tend to work the best for clothing staples. Include several pairs of neutral-colored slacks and blouses or button-down shirts. For women, a few skirts or dresses may also fit into the business casual wardrobe.

Go for Versatility

When purchasing the staples of your wardrobe, consider how well the individual pieces work together. Instead of buying a complete outfit that will only go with those specific pieces, focus on interchangeable tops and bottoms. The mix-and-match approach means you are able to create several outfits from a few pieces of clothing. For example, buy a skirt that goes with a favorite blouse or a sweater. That same sweater that goes with the skirt should also go with various colors of slacks you own. A man might buy a button-down shirt that goes with his khaki, black and navy pants. Adding a tie or sweater over the shirt turns it into a new outfit.

Try Secondhand

Secondhand clothing stores vary in quality. Check out different used clothing stores in your area to find one that sells quality business casual clothing. Visit the stores frequently to build up your work wardrobe gradually. Another option is to organize a clothing swap with other business professionals who wear similar clothing sizes. Everyone brings clothing that is still in good shape. The participants swap clothing to get a new wardrobe without paying any money.

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