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How to Boost Your Work Wardrobe Without Busting Your Wallet

Aaron Guerrero
Business casual is less straightforward than a suit and tie, but it's not that difficult as well. And if you're smart about it, you can look as good as the next guy even after spending a lot less than him. Here are a few tips on getting your business casuals right

The job you wanted is now yours. To impress your interviewers, you donned your sharpest shirt-and-tie combo or the most professional blouse and skirt in your closet. But instead of celebrating your triumph, you're worried about what you'll wear after day one.

The size of your professional wardrobe ranges from thin to skeletal. Strapped for cash with no paycheck hitting your bank account for weeks, you need a fashion fix that is both affordable and presentable. Here are some tips for adding to your closet without inflicting great pain on your finances.

Solids will take you far. There's a common thread for both men and women when it comes to what you can endlessly mix and match: Solids.

Guys: There's power in navy and gray. "You can pretty much wear those colors with everything," says Austin Wong, founder of the men's fashion blog Why You Mad?!

[See: 10 Wardrobe Musts For Your Next Interview.]

Gals: Alison Gary, editor-in-chief of the women's fashion blog Wardrobe Oxygen, echoes similar sentiments for women. "I recommend keeping it simple. Stick to solids. Solids are less memorable and easier to mix and match," she says.

The discount bin. Scope out low-priced hotspots both online and up the street.

Guys: A nice suit or collection of dress shirts could be a mouse-click away. "For a person who's really into it and wants to get something well-bargained" Wong recommends eBay and the online discount store

Even though you're trying to be thrifty, Wong also suggests stretching your dollar enough to purchase the highest quality items on the lower end. "One should always buy the best that they can possibly afford. There's no point in buying cheap stuff that's going to break down in a few years. You need something that's going to last awhile," he advises.

Gals: Take advantage of the generosity of others with a trip to your local thrift store, says Gary. "We live in a society of disposable income. For all the people who have too many clothes in their closet, there are people who do not," she says, adding that if you dig deep enough, you can find high-end gems from brands like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. "That's a really great way to build up a work wardrobe for much less."

She also recommends the price-friendly racks of Marshalls, Ross, and T.J. Maxx.

What to stock your cart with. Once you have an idea of what colors to choose and you've consulted the fashion world, you're set to make some purchases.

Guys: A starting point for males is picking up two versatile, solid-colored suits. "I always tell people that if they want to start a new wardrobe, you should go with a navy suit and a gray suit," Wong says, noting that by mixing and matching, you can double the number of outfits you have.

To accompany the suits, Wong recommends buying two blue oxford shirts, three white oxford shirts, a sport coat, two pairs of business pants, and dress shoes in black and brown (with belts of the same color). He estimates a final cost of around $1,000 with suits that cost approximately $300, but carries some for less than $200.

[Read: How to Dress for a Job Interview.]

Some employers might opt for business casual rather than dressy attire. If that's the case, you don't have to diverge entirely from the dressed-up model, Wong notes. Simply drop the suits and black dress shoes for a couple pairs of chinos (khaki and olive), a dark pair of jeans, a cotton sport coat, polos (for summer), and a cardigan. In the process, you may save a few hundred bucks.

Gals: Because "women can carry off separates more easily," Gary notes that they can make it through an entire season with six to eight pieces and two pairs of shoes.

One possible capsule wardrobe you can build: Two pairs of solid pants, a dress, a skirt, a jacket, and a handful of different tops. By mixing and matching these pieces, you can leave the impression that your closet is growing by the day. The estimated price tag: less than $500.

If your office abides by a business-casual dress code, Gary recommends a wardrobe that includes dark, traditional jeans (avoid skin-tight, low-rise cuts) tall boots, a blazer, cardigans, chino or corduroy pants, flats, and accessories (such as scarves, belts, and necklaces). "You can really build a business-casual wardrobe for a lot less," she adds.

[See: 6 Summer Office Attire No-Nos.]

Make do with what you have. If you're intent on sticking with the clothes you own, attempt to spruce them up. By upgrading a shirt with new sleeves, cuffs, and a collar, a nearby tailor can salvage what you can't depart with for less than $35, Wong notes.

But know when it's time to hang it up. Weight loss, changing trends, or needed repairs--all are reasons to add to your wardrobe, Gary says. While she recommends inspecting your closet twice a year for upgrades, don't hesitate to add to it whenever you feel it's missing that one must-have piece. "Shop when you feel as though there is something seriously missing out [of] your wardrobe. And shop when things wear out or start to look a little bit dated," she says.

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