The other day, combing through my old work wardrobe, I felt like an archeologist before ancient artifacts – I didn’t even remember some of the shirts and pants.
Out of view from bosses and colleagues throughout the pandemic, I’ve interviewed sources in my bathrobe and worn the same sweatpants enough days in a row that the barista at my local coffee shop began to look concerned.
We all have our work-from-home secrets. But now, with more of us expected back into the office, we’re having to part with some of these ways.
I realized that my taste and size in clothing had changed over the last almost-two years, and that I was going to need to pretty much replace my pre-Covid work wardrobe.
Overwhelmed, unsure of where to begin and worried about overspending, I turned to fashion bloggers for advice. Here’s what they suggested.
Before you buy
Coming out of the health crisis, many companies are revising their dress code expectations, fashion experts told me. (Turns out wearing a tie doesn’t make you do your job better.)
“The lines between formal and casualwear are becoming more blurred in the office,” said Maria Vizuete, a former stock analyst and the founder of the fashion blog MiaMiaMine.com.
As a result, Vizuete recommends spending a few days back at your office before you shell out for a new wardrobe. You may find that the jeans and sneakers you’ve been living in are just fine to wear to work now.
“To see if the shift has occurred at your office, pay attention to how management is dressing, or strike up a conversation with your manager,” she said.
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If your company has moved to a hybrid model, in which you’re still permitted to work from home a few days a week, you also won’t need as much office-friendly attire.
“If your time in the office is half of what it was two years ago, you should consider cleansing your professional wardrobe by half as well,” said Veronica Koosed, the owner of PennyPincherFashion.com, another blog.
Don’t be too quick to toss the articles you wore when pandemics were more the terrain of books and movies than real life, experts said. Because despite all the changes, some clothes stay relevant.
“Some pieces you may want to hold on to from two years ago are what I refer to as closet staples: Your favorite pair of black dress pants, the black dress you frequently wore to the office, a nice blazer and your favorite neutral color shoe,” Koosed said.
Don’t feel pressured to replenish your work wardrobe overnight, Vizuete said.
“Start by creating a list of essentials and prioritizing them based on how practical they are,” she said. “Then tackle the list by purchasing a few items each month.”
You may want to set an allowance for yourself. Experts generally recommend that you spend no more than 10% of your take-home pay on clothing. Others say 5%.
“I am a huge fan of budgets,” said Dianna Baros, founder of the blog TheBudgetBabe.com. “With all the temptations of online shopping, it can be easy to get swept away.”
If you’re going to splurge, do it on your wardrobe staples, Vizuete said.
“I’m a big believer that it pays to invest in strong foundational pieces, such as a trench coat, tailored blazer or a structured bag,” she said.
“Once you have a strong collection, you can easily build on them with more affordable, trend-forward pieces.”
Look for deals
For high-quality clothing, Vizuete said she stalks sale sites like Gilt, Rue La La and Cettire. When she’s looking for more affordable workwear that’s still stylish, she turns to Express, Mango, Nordstrom and H&M.
While of course she’s biased, Baros said following budget-conscious fashion bloggers or influencers is a great way to stay up to date on stylish, affordable clothing.
“They share everything from outfit ideas to sale alerts,” Baros said. “It’s like having a personal shopper and I think it’s the new way to shop.”
Buying items out-of-season (like a coat in July) is another way to score great prices, experts say.
Take your time to invest in those key staples that you really love.Maria Vizuetefashion blogger
If you’re still figuring out your post-pandemic fashion identify, a clothing subscription service may be a helpful option.
“Oftentimes, subscription services are more affordable than buying a whole new outfit,” Vizuete said. Some of the popular rental companies include NUULY, Rent the Runway and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club.
A last tip: Have any friends who won’t be returning to the office at all? If you’re a similar size, offer to help them free up some closet room.