Invest in Your Success: Tips for Upgrading Your Wardrobe on a Budget

Your appearance is a critical part of how others perceive you, and more importantly, how they react to you. A professional, polished appearance does more than give you an advantage at work – it builds your self-confidence!

And of course, January 1 is always a great time to make a change. No matter when you read this, though, this post will provide some tips to help you achieve your goals and look your best!

How to Change Your Look Without Breaking the Bank
Maybe your wardrobe is a little outdated, or you’ve gained or lost some weight and your clothes don’t fit. Or maybe you’re just ready for a change. In any case, most of us don’t have unlimited finances, so let’s go over a few tips to make your wardrobe upgrade more affordable.

bags

First things first, abandon what is not working, whether that is revealing tops, gaudy earrings, large belt buckles, or clothes that look faded and worn. This is an easy tip because it doesn’t cost any money to stop doing something, and you’ll soon see it pay off.

TIP: Avoid fads.
Trendy items have a brief shelf life and are often expensive.

Second, begin replacing your older clothes with an updated look. As you look to invest in yourself and your future, a good way to start is by purchasing a few classic items that can be mixed and matched. You can start with a few staples and slowly build around those items.

shirt

A white oxford button-down shirt is a great choice for men or women. So are dark pants or skirts.

TIP: Scarves and ties are a great way to dress up a simple outfit. 

Other items to consider are one or two sweaters, vests, or cardigans in versatile colors like red, blue, or gray. Invest in a pair of plain dress shoes (black or dark gray).

Tailored Slim-Fit Black Nailhead Wool Dress Pant - Black

TIP: If you’re on a limited budget, buy solid colors.
They’re much more versatile than prints.

How to Guide Your Clothing Choices 
Take your surroundings and goals into consideration. If you work at a greenhouse, dressing for success does not involve a suit and a tie. If you work at a corporate office, wearing casual clothing can be a career-limiting decision.

What are your goals? If your goal is to move into a different field, observe the people already working there. If you have a desk job but you want a role that requires physical activity,  look for clothes that would be acceptable in either role.

Still not sure what to purchase? Look around you. What does success look like at your company? Ask yourself what clothing or accessories would help you look the part.

Armani suits may not be in the budget, but you can use a picture of one and ask for help finding a similar, less expensive option

That isn’t to suggest that you purchase a Rolex so you can check the time just like the CEO of your company. Stay within your budget and use your observations to guide those choices.

TIP: Buy the highest quality classic items you can afford.  

The bottom line is that it is human nature to make assumptions based on appearance. Too often, this works against people who are bright and qualified. However, you can make this work in your favor by being thoughtful and selective with the clothing, shoes, and accessories you buy.
clothes

What Do Your Clothes Say About You?

Clothes are one of the most often-overlooked types of non-verbal communication. Your appearance is comprised of many things, some of which may be difficult or impossible to change, like wrinkles or teeth.  There’s much to be said about facial expressions and hair styles. This post, however, is confined to clothes, shoes, and accessories.

The way an individual dresses says something about them to everyone they meet. Clothing can convey confidence and grace, or it can tell the world of the apathy, discomfort, or desperation of the person wearing it.

Before you say a word, your clothes have already said something for you.

 

When to Look Your Best – and Why
There are obvious times when your appearance really matters, such as a job interview, a first date, or meeting your future in-laws. There’s also the conventional wisdom that you should strive to look your best at work. Dress for the job you want rather than the job you have. That’s very good advice.

shirts

However, most people don’t put as much effort into their appearance in the evening or on the weekends. Few of us dress up for a quick trip to the grocery store or gas station. The problem with that is you never know when opportunity may knock and when it does, you want to look presentable. Most of us can think of at least one (if not several) occasions where we neglected to put an extra five minutes into our appearance and sorely regretted it later.

And while you may not always be rewarded for looking your best, you’ll definitely feel a negative consequence when your appearance is less appealing than usual. This could be as subtle as finding strangers are cooler toward you to attracting suspicion from others.

 

suit

These Clothing Dos and Don’ts Will Pay Off
The most basic rule about clothing is that it should fit. This may sound obvious, but many people wear clothes that are far too large or too tight for them. Clothes that don’t fit well are universally unflattering. Tight or baggy clothing creates a perception about the person wearing the clothes. People tend to equate a look that isn’t pulled together with a life that lacks order and polish.

What does that mean for the individual who is wearing clothes that don’t fit? Because they do not look their best, others make negative assumptions about the kind of person they are. That translates into missed social and financial opportunities.
Another guideline to remember is that extreme, flagrant, and/or very casual clothing detracts from an individual’s appearance. Attracting attention is not always a positive thing and many intelligent people have undermined their success with gaudy accessories, body piercings, or clothing that is revealing or offensive.
This outfit has it all: overly tight clothes, loud colors, bright shoes, and gaudy jewelry. It might be okay for the MTV music awards, but in most situations this outfit is a disaster.

A loud, tight, and revealing dress, gaudy accessories, and bright shoes get the wrong kind of attention  

Shoes might be an afterthought for many people, but they are part of the overall impression a person creates in any professional environment. For example, sneakers tell everyone the person wearing them is taking a casual approach to whatever they are doing. If you’re washing your car, that makes sense. If you’re meeting with your boss, it is probably better to err on the side of formality and wear dress shoes.
nike
There are times when it is appropriate to wear sneakers in an office environment- think casual Fridays – but depending on your personal goals, it might be better to dress professionally even on those days.
Many men choose plain dark shoes.

Many men choose plain dark shoes.

On the other end of the shoe spectrum, extremely high heels or flashy shoes are typically considered unprofessional. If you work at a corporation or a bank, and you come to work dressed like you’re about to hit a club, you probably aren’t projecting an image that will advance your career.

Shoes can be feminine without being flashy

Work-appropriate heels  

Lastly, most office settings require tattoos and piercings to be covered. Any jewelry or accessories that are visible should be tasteful and simple. A silver or gold necklace is always a good choice. Tote bags are convenient, but they can make women seem like they are carrying everything they own on their shoulders. If possible, aim for a medium-sized purse. Men should seek out plain belt buckles and conservative ties.

buckle

Interesting, but not very savvy

Ready to make some changes? Check out the next post in this series: Invest in Your Success: Tips for Updating Your Wardrobe on a Budget!

desiderata

Desiderata

Desiderata is a beautiful poem written by Max Ehrmann.

A rumor persists that Desiderata was written in the late 1600s, possibly because it sounds too far removed from modern life to have been written in the last hundred years, yet it was really written in 1927.

Max Ehrmann

Max Ehrmann

The word desiderata means things that are wanted or needed.

 

DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

 

Want to read more of Max Ehrmann’s work? Archive.org offers a complete collection of his poetry.