Choosing a Core Wardrobe on the Cheap

You’ve lost some weight, or maybe gained a few unwelcome pounds. Maybe you’ve changed jobs, recently moved, or are just sick of your current clothes. But shopping is a chore – it’s hard to keep up on trends without breaking the bank, and there are so many places to be seen. Never fear – I recently learned just how easy and fun it is to build an inexpensive core wardrobe that can take you from the office to a night on the town. And I’m here to share my secrets.

After the double whammy of weight loss and a move, I was faced with the dilemma of finding clothing that worked for my body and my lifestyle. As a temporary employee in a new city, I find myself in dramatically different work environments every week – and sometimes every day. When faced with the daunting task of choosing a new wardrobe, I put some deep thought into my priorities and realized that I want not only to show off my new figure in style, but also to look appropriate without belying the fact that most of my clothes come off of the clearance rack.

I’ve discovered that in reality I only need a few pieces of clothing – what I call a core wardrobe – to stretch over a work week and the fun that comes in between. Ideally, your core wardrobe should be in roughly the same color scheme to facilitate easy mix and match combinations, be of as high quality as you can afford, and fit as well as possible for the price.
My core wardrobe consists of four pieces – four! – a black skirt, a black pair of work slacks, a trendy jacket and a pair of dark jeans. Note that I don’t include any shirts, shoes or accessories in this list – those are the icing on the cake, the pieces I use to mix it up and add a bit of flair to what would otherwise be a mind-numbingly dull wardrobe.

The most expensive piece in my core wardrobe was jeans – and they cost just under $30 on sale at a local department store. Jeans are a good investment since the wrong ones just never look right. Try the clearance racks at your local mall and make sure to avail yourself of a full-length mirror. I prefer dark jeans since they can be dressed up with a button-down shirt and boots, taken on the town with a camisole top and sandals, or taken to the bowling alley with cuffs and t-shirt.

For a skirt, I chose a jersey material with a folding band that can increase or decrease the skirt’s length – essentially two skirts in one! Choose a flattering style that will go with shirts of varying length. Mid-knee length is flattering on most women, but choose long or short as your figure allows. Total cost – circa $10 at Marshall’s.

My jacket was a steal on clearance at Old Navy. I chose a trendier style since this piece is designed to take me not only to the office but to restaurants and night spots as my primary spring cover-up. Choose a neutral color in a wearable, washable fabric such as dark denim or broadcloth. Mine has slightly puffed sleeves and a single button at the front and can appear conservative or stylish depending on the accessories.

Finally, my black work trousers take me anywhere. I chose a light cotton that can be machine-washed and doesn’t require too much ironing. Another Marshall’s steal, these pants sit right at my hips and look businesslike with a button-down and trendy with a casual top.

Once you’ve invested in a core wardrobe, go wild with accessories, shoes and tops. The only limit is your imagination. Earrings, purses, and headbands can make the difference between conservative (black pants and jacket with button-down shirt, small stud earrings and headband) and sexy (same outfit with unbuttoned shirt, large hoop earrings and loose hair).

Don’t worry so much about quality with tops and jewelry – trends change quickly and buying easily replaceable accessories means you’ll never be behind the times. With your comfortable core wardrobe, you’ll feel sexy and smart – after all, you’ve just saved money, time and precious closet space!

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