The Real World

Grad Guide: Where to Buy Work Clothes Without Breaking the Bank

Building a professional wardrobe doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

By Jenae Sitzes May 29, 2015

After years of dragging yourself to class in yoga pants and a T-shirt you got for free, it can be overwhelming to graduate into the world of professional attire. Work-appropriate clothing will cost more than your bank account is probably used to losing on clothes, but building a professional wardrobe doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. These stores will help you stock your closet for an affordable price.


“One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up,” rapped Macklemore about the treasures you can find at your local thrift shop, and Goodwill certainly fits the bill. Neatly organized into distinct sections for shirts, pants and dresses, it doesn’t take long to find what you’re looking for, and there’s a variety of choices for both men and women. Goodwill is cheaper than cheap and a great place to start your day of shopping.


This online store is known for its cutesy, feminine attire, but Modcloth has dedicated an entire section of its website to work dresses. Use the handy filter at the top of the page to sort by the lowest price, and your first option is only $19.99 – from there, you’ll see a wide variety of dresses for under $40. Modcloth’s selection of skirts is equally impressive, and you can sort them by mid-length to long to ensure they are work-appropriate. The site is also known for its wide array of plus-size options. Modcloth provides that statement outfit for every professional environment, from the casual work day to the office cocktail party.

Ross Dress for Less

A wall inside Ross urges you to “experience the treasure hunt,” and that’s a good way of describing what a trip to the world’s largest off-price retail chain is like. There are some great work-appropriate dresses for around $15, but you have to wade through all the other options; some are just plain laughable (it can be entertaining, really). Two-thirds of the store is for women, but Ross is a goldmine for guys. You’re looking at $10 to $20 dress shirts, $20 slacks, $10 belts and $8 ties. OK, maybe it wouldn’t fly on Wall Street, but for most recent graduates, what you pick up at Ross will be more than enough to get you in the door at your first job.


If you’re looking for the perfect blazer, H&M has you covered. Its Jersey Blazer for women is a classic piece for only $34.95 that you can wear again and again, and it comes in black, red, gray and light pink for your choosing. Pair it with a nice blouse over H&M’s black knee-length skirt (priced at only $24.95), and you’ve got another staple item that can be re-worn a dozen ways. Men can snatch up H&M’s regular fit blazer for just $49.95. Grab a couple pairs of suit pants for only $24.95, a few dress shirts, which range from $17 to $40, and you’ve already got some spiffy professional outfits to get you started. Keep an eye on H&M’s online sales – they’re a godsend for young professionals.

Duo1665 Westheimer Rd.

When you walk into this Montrose boutique, get ready to be pampered. A shop lady will hurry over to offer you a mimosa and her personal assistance with whatever you need, which helps the experience since the clothes here are more expensive than what you’ll find at the various thrift shops outside. The catch is that there’s always a sale going on at Duo – buy one, get one for 50 percent off, or some variation of that. There are nice work dresses for $50 or so, and men can find dress shirts here for about the same price. Don’t break the bank stocking your whole wardrobe from Duo, but it’s worth it to pick up a few pieces here for fancier work events or that crucial job interview.

Pavement Clothing1657 Westheimer Rd.

While you’re on Westheimer, mosey down the street to Pavement, one of the largest thrift shops in Montrose. Its shoe collection for women is massive, so check it out for affordable heels and flats to pair with your new work clothes. Pavement has a few racks of men’s shirts that would easily pass the business casual dress code, and some of them are less than $10.

Buffalo Exchange

Everyone who regularly visits Buffalo Exchange has a story about a name-brand treasure they’ve found for a fraction of what it’s worth. I found a $22 Kate Spade necklace yesterday. It happens all the time. From dresses and slacks to button-down shirts and jackets, you’ll always find affordable options at Buffalo, but don’t be too surprised if you find a Calvin Klein jacket for $40—just grab it off the rack before anyone else notices.

Department stores

It might be tempting to shop at that new boutique that only imports from Italy, but spare yourself the pain and head to Macy’s or JCPenney instead—they’ll give you the highest quality clothing for the lowest price.

It might seem obvious, but before you purchase new clothes, make sure they fit. If you’re not used to wearing work dresses, suit jackets or slacks, you may be unsure of how they’re supposed to sit on your body. It’s unprofessional to wear shirt sleeves that are too short, a jacket that comes down too far or slacks that are baggy. Ask a sales associate for assistance and note whether you need to get the piece tailored.

Happy shopping and good luck, graduates!



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