Dress for Success…Without Breaking Your Fragile Bank Account

We’ve all been there. We were even warned that it would happen; that we would eventually face the sad reality that we’re actually living and breathing the stereotype of a broke college student. You’ve probably found yourself heating up your Ramen Noodles in the microwave, while looking for spare change in your couch cushions, just so you can have somewhat of a social life and see the $1 movie playing in the UC.

When it comes down to it, being broke can become a pretty stressful problem you have to deal with.

This stress becomes amplified when you finally get that interview, or attend a job fair, and you realize you’ve yet to begin building your professional wardrobe. How does one make money when one cannot get the job because one does not have the appropriate wardrobe in order to land that job?!


It’s a cycle that adds on to the stress and often discourages students from trying to get the job they really want. That’s why we’re here to tell you to stress no more! Here are some alternatives we’ve found for when it comes to getting that budget-friendly professional wardrobe.

Maybe you have some old dress clothes from your parents, or found a suit at the thrift store. I know it’s not the most ideal option, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Take what you already have and try to modify it so it looks like it was made to fit you. There are some great inexpensive tailors that can get the job done and get you ready for that interview!

Although we would all love to sport the latest Calvin Klein business wear, we know that our bank accounts would probably not cooperate with a purchase that hefty. Try to focus on the basic elements you need (not want). You probably don’t need 10 different dress shirts and 3 pairs of shoes when you’re just starting out. Start with the absolute basics and build up from there once you’ve finally secured a job. Many stores like H&M, J.C. Penny, Kohls and Sears, just to name a few, offer a good variety of professional attire for a reasonable price. Get your basics and only buy what you absolutely need!

One benefit that actually comes from being labeled a broke college student, is that handy student ID card. What most people don’t know is that your ID card can get you lots of discounts! Stores like Charlotte Russe, J. Crew, Banana Republic, and ASOS all offer students discounts, so take advantage of them! (Here’s a list of more discounts that your student card can get you! http://bit.ly/1gsRZct)

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Another option is to go through your closet and get rid of things you no longer wear or need. You can try to sell these items at stores or online and use that money towards your new professional closet! Ebay offers used clothing at reasonable prices and you can sell your old stuff at the same time! You can also search for your area to see if your community offers any local clothing swaps!  Freecycle.org, is a site that aims to encourage people to reuse and recycle their old clothes. You can find your nearest group on their website and start saving your money!

Universities all over also usually offer some resources when it comes to getting your wardrobe ready for professional events or interviews. UW-Whitewater has the “Warhawk Success Closet” that gives all students the chance to get free professional business attire that has been donated to the university. The Warhawk Success Closet will be held on September 24th and 25th from 11am-5pm in the University Center (9/24 UC69 and 9/25 UC264).

Now there’s really no excuse for wearing jeans and sandals to the next career fair. Keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll be dressed for success without enduring the guilt of breaking your bank!