NWR How To Begin To Build a Work/Professional Wardrobe?

posted 3 years ago in Career
Post # 3
3280 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

@carolinabelle:  I’m doing the same thing right now as I start clinicals in a few weeks. Buy 1-2 pair of nice black dress pants (like $20-25), pair of khaki pants, few button up blouses, etc. I always bring jackets because I get cold inside all day so maybe a few cardigans, jackets. Many of your current dresses are probably work appropriate with a jacket as well. I’m sure you could find many outfits for $100-200.

Post # 4
11614 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

Get a good pair of black pants, some khakis, and nice sweaters/tops.  Each month, get something new to add to the wardrobe so it expands.  If your school allows you to wear jeans, make sure you invest in a few pairs of good, but comfy, jeans, since I imagine you’ll be moving around, on the floor, etc a lot with the kids!

Don’t forget comfortable flats!

Post # 5
193 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

NY&Co sends out incredible email coupons all the time. $25 off $50 and so on, an it can be used on clearance. 

Personally, I would get a pair of black, gray and maybe navy pants, possibly pencil skirts in those colors. A few basic colored button down shirts. And a handful of bright, fun colored cardigans to make the outfits different. Also, some chunky jewelry to make your plain white shirt look different than the one you wore last week. Good luck an have fun!!

Post # 6
9412 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

It is always a good idea to get the basic staples, i.e. a classic black suit that can be paired with anything (my bias is I work in corporate, so it may be different for education). Not sure where you live, but in Canada we have Winners, which has great deals on clothes. I believe the US has Marshalls, which is the same idea (in fact, we recently had Marshalls come over here too). Work clothes don’t have to be expensive to look professional.

Post # 7
1229 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2012 - Chateau Briand

Agree with previous poster. Definitely check out NY&CO, they usually have awesome coupons and are a great places to get the basics. I LOVE their dress pants 

Post # 8
446 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2015

+1 with the additional posters.  I like to mix and match items as well.  Stores like Kohls, NY&Co. and The Gap always have sales.  Stock up when you have a chance and make sure what you have is versatile.  A lot of work style does not go out of fashion. 

Post # 9
9137 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

@carolinabelle:  For teaching I would pick basic separates and I would most likely get Worthington separates from Penney’s because they hold up well and they are reasonably priced.  I would start out with one (or 2) pair of black slacks, one pair of khaki slacks, a black knee length or longer skirt, two sold color sweaters, and shells to wear under the sweaters.  You can always cycle in new shirts and blouses form what you already have just make sure they fit in with the school dress code.  Also bear in mind that some classrooms are sweltering while others will make you freeze so you might want to wing it for the first day or two before buying new clothes.  It would also give you time to see what other teachers are wearing.

Post # 10
1470 posts
Bumble bee

I’m gonna pipe in to check out Banana Republic, always do a discount code search or look online for printable coupons to take to the store. Even better if you live near an outlet.


Also, if there’s a Nordstrom or a Nordstrom Rack nearby, give them a try-I find amazing deals!


For days when you have to look professional (meetings w/ principals/school leaders, parents, etc)


I’d get some quality stylish flats, I have about 5 or 6 Tory Burch Reva Flats in various colors that I wear pretty much daily, they’re expensive but I’ve literally had them for 5+ years. Start with a basic black pair, they look great with skirts, slacks, jeans, dresses etc


2 pencil skirts. Black and gray. (Nordstrom’s Halogen brand-always good mark downs)


2 or 3 oxfords/button downs. Pale blue and white def. (BR w/ discount code, they fit well and are wrinkle free)


1 cardigan. Black. Classrooms get chilly 🙂 (you’ll probably need to replace this pretty often because it’ll get beat up regardless-try Target)


Go to Ross or Marshall’s, TJ Maxx etc and stock up on colorful accessories on clearance-scarves, cute stud earrings, chunky necklaces, etc. Switching these around or going without is going to be what keeps you from looking like re-run every day lol


Start with these staple pieces and maybe add a piece every/every other pay period, another skirt, another top, a sweater if you live in a colder climate. I live in DC and we’ve got 4 seasons…so my wardrobe is pretty extensive. Try not to pay full price for anything but don’t buy just because it’s on sale, these clothes need to last throughout the year and take wear so don’t be tempted by the least expensive items, check quality-where was it made, materials, etc


Styling is a major hobby of mine, I love doing it, especially on a budget 🙂


Post # 11
1902 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

I would invest in a couple of basics.  Simple skirts, pants, and then buy a bunch of t-shirts, tanks from Old Navy and the Gap.

Post # 12
2627 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

@carolinabelle:  Agree with many of the PPs.

Something to think about is that your current non-work wardrobe can be used for work if paired with the right items.

Those summer dresses? Where a camisole underneath so they have a higher neckline and pair it with a structured business jacket and a belt.   Its fashionable, but appropriate for work.  It covers the shoulders, it has a professional edge with the jacket and the belt gives it structure. Add the right jewelry and it will look put together.

Those summer tank tops. Take one that has a nicer material and wear that under a new button down to add color, layering, texture etc.   Or layer to more basic ones under a structured jacket or under a cardigan. You can belt the cardigan for added fashion and/or pair it with a nice chunkier piece of jewelry

Often what makes something professional is not only the item, but also how its used. You want to look put together, thought through and polished.  A Vneck sweater will look more professional with a camisole/tank underneath and a necklace than just the sweater by itself.



Post # 13
5351 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2009

I agree with the above posters to get classic pieces that you can mix & match. 

However, I don’t know how strict your school is because I have several teacher friends who teach in elementary, middle, and high school and they all dress surprisingly kind of casual (they call it business casual, but it is not what I consider business casual at all.)

They wear sandles (not plastic thongs, but they are still flat sandles nontheless) also colored skinny jeans (not bright colors, but red, blue, white, yellow with flowy tops/sweaters, maxi dresses with cardigans. Stuff that isn’t super casual, but not very business like either.  


Post # 14
221 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

Hello fellow teacher bee! 


I start student teaching in January and have been wondering this same question. Happy to read all the helpful responses! 

Post # 15
1626 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

I have seen a blog on Pinterest (of course I can’t find it now, dang!) where a girl wears a different outfit every day with certain staples and tells you where she got it all and for how much – a lot of her stuff, surprisingly, was from Target and she looked oh so adorable all the time! She was also a teacher. If I find it I’ll post it here.

I am surprised nobody has said to go to thrift stores yet. There is some really great stuff at thift stores. Here in the DC area we have specialty stores like Plato’s Closet and there’s another one that is always advertising “gently used designer clothes for a fraction of retail!” and shiz. Also, I live down the street from a Good Will Superstore, and while a lot of their clothing is “eh,” the work stuff is actually REALLY nice. They have dress pants in all shades, and not only are they inexpensive but some of them are even marked “finders keepers” (*coughthatmeansthey’refreecough*). Some people buy stuff, let it sit in their closets, and then donate it with tags on. It wouldn’t hurt you to browse.

ETA: My mom always told me that when I get paid, budget myself X amount from each check and buy myself something…a pair of shoes and a top, two tops, a top and a blouse, a sweater and pants, whatever. I haven’t done it yet because that whole college thing I’m doing makes me poor, but when I get a big girl job after graduation that will be my strategy. My mom always had an impressive closet when I was growing up.

Post # 16
3128 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: December 2017

@QuirkySocialite:  A lot of good advice here, especially about scarves and jewelry. I have people tell me all the time at work that I never wear the same thing twice when in reality I just find different ways to mix up my outfits 🙂

My favorite work pants come from White House Black Market and Express. They keep their shape better than any others that I’ve tried but they are more expensive. I own one pair of regular black dress pants, one pair of high waisted black dress pants, one pair of skinny leg dark grey and one pair of trouser light grey.

My go to shirts are dressy tshirts and cardigans. I pair printed tank tops with plain cardigans, plain tshirts with printed cardigans, and sometimes I get crazy and do a polka dot print shirt with a flower print cardigan (which I get tons of compliments on). Also love Target for my cardigan addiction 🙂

I have also started to wear a lot of loose, flowy rayon shirts. They look great with a maxi skirt (suprisingly) or skinny leg pants and they are SO comfortable!


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