I have to start today’s post with a quick story that really touched me.  I get a lot of emails from readers.  I try to reply to them all, but, depending on my schedule, I can’t always get to each and every one.  Right before the holidays, I received an email from a gentleman who told me that his wife is a huge fan of my blog.  While he was shopping for her Christmas gifts, he remembered her liking a particular look from a post I wrote about how to use accessories to stave off the winter blues.  Not being a fabulous gift shopper, he was excited to buy all the accessories in the outfit to really make her happy this holiday.  However, there was just one problem.  The scarf in the outfit I featured was sold out from the retailer I had linked to.  Hoping that I could help him find the scarf elsewhere, he reached out.  Determined to help, I searched the internet and managed to find the exact scarf from another store.

Well, yesterday I received an email from his wife with thanks for my help along with a photo of her outfit.  Here she is, all the way from Switzerland, wearing all the new pieces to update her old coat.  As she told me, “Now my old black coat feels like new!”  I was so touched by the email and the photo.  Truly it was nothing to look for an alternative retailer for the scarf and I was just so happy to help out a truly supportive reader.

work wardrobe Isn’t it just amazing how much of an upgrade a wardrobe staple can get with just a few fresh tweaks?  If you ever have a great photo from something you purchased via one of my blog posts, feel free to send my way.  It’s really fun to see my tips in real life.

Speaking of small tweaks, in today’s wear-to-work post, I want to talk about the little things you can do to create a promotion-worthy work wardrobe on a budget.  As the saying goes, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.  This is all good and fine, but what do you do when your salary isn’t a match with where you want to go next?   How can you stand out and look the part when you can’t afford to dress the part?  Well, the good news is that you can create a rich and expensive look on a budget.  You don’t have to plop down hundreds or thousands of dollars to look like that is what you spent on your clothes, and you can work with what you have while spending small amounts of money on pieces that can make your work wardrobe look like got a promotion.  Below are three work outfits along with my tips on how to make your work wardrobe stand out, all while spending under $100 on each of the suggested items.

How to Create a Promotion-Worthy Work Wardrobe on a Budget

#1- Make your basic dresses look richer

work wardrobe Shop the look

When purchasing dresses for work, to get more with less and save money, it is smart to buy styles that you can change up with different accessories.  The difference between a basic dress look for work and a promotion-worthy dress look is all found in the details and finishing.   You’re not going to stand out if you take a basic black dress and wear it with a string of pearls and a black pair of pumps.  This is what everyone does.  Instead, look at your dresses like the blank canvases on which you paint.   Do something different with them through your accessory choices.

Take, for example, how I have styled this black dress from Modcloth, that retails for only $55.  With the addition of tan suede shoes from Ivanka Trump, that are just $100, and a multi-strand brown and grey necklace from Nordstrom, that looks way more expensive than $50, the outfit has an elevated level of sophistication.  One of my biggest secrets to making my clients look more corner office and less cubicle is to style their black clothes with mid-brown and buff colored shoes.  This one little tweak can make a huge difference.

#2- Basic work pieces in more interesting color combinations

work wardrobe Shop the look

When you think about appropriate work pieces, they’re really not that interesting.  How many variations of a basic pencil skirt, pair of tailored pants or blazer are there really?  My next tip is to play with color and to purchase some colorful work basics and accessories and then blend them together.  What you get are updated versions of old staples that allow you to stand out while fitting in.  Additionally, more thoughtful color combinations can also look more expensive when done in a sophisticated way.

For this more springtime look, I took this emerald cotton Boden skirt, that is under $100, and paired it with a basic bow blouse in ivory from eShakti, that is only $65, and a navy cardigan from Modcloth that is $35.  Finishing the look, I added a punch of yellow using these $99, MICHAEL Michael Kors flats and further picked up the emerald using simple Janna Conner studs.

Take note, this outfit isn’t in some off the reservation color combination.  You have a base of ivory and navy, paired with emerald and a splash of yellow.  It’s not earth shattering, but it is certainly makes the outfit a lot more interesting than if the look was all one color and didn’t have any pops.

Tip #3- Add some interest to your black pants and colored tops outfits

work wardrobe Shop the look

If you have been stuck in a black pants, colored top rut, I assure you, it’s going to be hard to get noticed because this seems to be the national uniform of the business-casual woman.  Before you assume you have to ditch this reliable look in order to get ahead, let me assure you, you don’t.  What you will need to do, however, is take these outfits one tiny and inexpensive step further.  Trust me, it’s super easy.

I’m sure you have a black pair of pants hanging in your wardrobe, like this pair from Elie Tahari.  When it comes to pants, rarely can you spend less than $100 and get something in decent quality.  This particular pair is $178.  With these pants, I added a bright pink cable knit sweater from Lord & Taylor that retails for $79.  Lastly, I added the accessories.  This is the important step, and one you may have been overlooking.

Imagine the sweater and top was accessorized with a black pair of shoes and no accessories at all?  How boring and lifeless would that outfit be?  Yet, by just adding a third color, in this case, shades of blue, through this Bauble Bar necklace, that is only $15, and a pair of Lucky Brand slingback flats, that are only $69, the outfit pops and looks way more promotion-worthy.  See that, you just updated a very basic work outfit for under $100.  Plus, even better, you can take the necklace and the shoes and wear them with the black dress featured earlier or with the navy cardigan in second look.  Remember, get more by mixing and matching and reusing your accessories multiple ways.

You don’t need to break the bank to upgrade your work outfits, nor do you need to trash your entire wardrobe.  All you need to do is think through your outfits and pick up some accessories that will add some finishing polish to your looks.  The effort is minimal, as is the expense, but the pay off will be huge, just like your new job.