While some are buying the newest pair of seven jeans for the first day of high school and others are shopping for a rainbow assortment of colored Nike shorts for long walks to college classes, us twenty-somethings are buying a whole new kind of wardrobe–because we’re entering the workforce. Of course after getting your dream internship or job you want to look fabulous— the most flattering pencil skirt, the perfect black dress that cinches perfectly at your waist, or those dress pants that make your butt look like your best feature.

Last summer when I got my first internship I also got a whole new dress code. Women had to dress business casual and no open toed shoes were allowed. I set out to find a whole new collection of suits, blazers, pencil skirts, and shoes that were both fashionable and appropriate. What I found was that buying everything from a few places can be extremely costly. I decided to put my finds from those stores on hold and look elsewhere. After refining my search I was able to accumulate a perfect wardrobe from a variety of places!

Step one: Flexible pieces
Your first stop on this particular shopping trip should be to department stores such as Nordstrom, Belk, or Kohls. Look in the dress section and in the sale section in particular. Here, it is likely you will find multiple brand name dresses here that were both classic and work appropriate. You may even find some dresses, that although not name brand, will still look and feel great. By shopping this way, you can get more unique items, like dresses, for a smaller price and it won’t cut so deep into your budget.

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The next place you should look is stores such as TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls. Here you can find dress pants, blazers, dresses, and skirts for at least half the price than you would find them in a regular store. They typically carry last seasons styles and overstock from designer brands at around half the cost. Also, while you’re here take a look in the shoe section and you might find the perfect pair of flats or a nice size heel that works for a day at the office. Don’t under estimate stores like TJ Maxx–you never know what treasures you might find among the racks.

Finally, make your way to stores like J-CrewWhite House Black Market, Express, and Ann Taylor Loft. These stores no doubt have some great attire for the office. As mentioned before, begin by looking on the sales racks because they often have some essential items on sale. For example, I am always freezing so I knew that on days that I wasn’t going to wear a blazer to the office, I would need a sweater. At the Loft I found the perfect sweater in black, tan, and white and it was on sale.

Step two: Classic items
After you have scoured the sale sections in these stores, go and look for the classic items that you need to spend a little more money on. You can always use a good pair of black dress pants, you can always wear a classic blazer, and that killer pencil skirt is worth it because it will last. Clothing items like pants, blazers, and pencil skirts can be worn in a variety of ways with a variety of different accent pieces versus a standout dress that can only be worn alone and once every few weeks. Don’t worry about spending money on those signature items because you will use them and it will definitely pay off in the end.

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Step three: Shoes and accessories
Every office is different in what they expect of you, but depending on the shoes, we recommend sticking to department stores and shoe-specific stores like DSW. If you’re going to be doing more than sitting at a desk, try flats or a low heel (no more than two inches). Other accessories, like jewelry, can be used to spice up an outfit or make it more professional. For example, you can never go wrong with a classic pair of pearls whether they be on earrings, a ring, or a necklace. However, if you want to be a bit more dramatic, go for big, bold pieces. You can find decently priced jewelry for this purpose at stores like Forever21, Charlotte Russe, or Modcloth.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to check out smaller boutiques! You can find fun, unique dress shirts or even the occasional colored blazer at places like this.

Remember, go easy on your wallet when it comes to pieces like dresses and dress tops but don’t be afraid to splurge.. Your outfit can change your whole attitude on the job, so take the time to make sure you’re looking your best!

Photo via PlumDistrict