5 Ways to Snag Budget-Friendly Business Clothes


Because law school is the academic equivalent to Thunderdome, my fiance recently interviewed for summer internships.

Summer 2012 internships.

Those interviews spurred a foraging expedition through our closet for the perfect interview outfit. She found what she needed, but we agreed that it was probably time to beef up our business collections. The rub is a familiar one — buying business clothes can get expensive in a flash.

The challenges can multiply for under-employed or unemployed folks hoping to jump into the job market. Dress wear suitable for the office is often expensive, with a new suit or a couple of blazers costing a few hundred dollars. However, you don't have to rack up a bunch of debt to look the part. Here's a look at ways to track down budget-friendly business clothes.

The Internet

Dozens of online stores and clearinghouses offer inexpensive business clothes. Overstock and even Amazon offer affordable suits, business shirts, dresses, and skirts for generally 30% off. Dress shoes are often an expensive purchase, ranging in price from $40 to $100, but when you shop online for shoes on sites such as Amazon and Zappos, you can find stylish dress shoes at much more affordable prices. Shoes in particular are often worth the investment. (See also: The Case for Expensive Shoes)

Consignment and Thrift Shops

Consignment and thrift stores often have a great selection of quality items for only a couple of dollars. Thrift stores will almost always be cheaper than consignment stores, and you can expect to find great name-brand sports coats, dresses, and even suits.  Most of these items are only worn once or twice before being donated, so you don't have to worry about additional wear and tear. Clothing at a consignment store is usually a little more expensive than what you would find at thrift store, but the quality is generally higher. You can always buy a little big and find a tailor you trust.


Look for opportunities to pick up older, unused, or unwanted clothing from friends and relatives. Most people only wear their fine suits or sports coats a couple of times, and if your friends and family are willing to give their older pieces to you, save a few bucks by taking them. Just make sure that the clothes you are given aren't badly worn and actually fit well. 

Store Closings

Due to the tough economy, many stores are closing around the country. If you notice that a local mall is going under or a department store is trumpeting its final days, be sure to swing by these places. You can often find name brand clothing for up to 60 to 75% off and even name-brand accessories to top off your outfits such as purses, shoes, belts, watches, and jewelry. 

Discount Department Stores

You don't have to go to high-end department stores to purchase quality business attire. There are several stores — including JCPenney, Kohl's, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls — that offer name brand clothing at discounted prices. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls almost always offer low prices, and JCPenney and Kohl's frequently have sales where business clothing can be purchased for 50 to 60% off. 

Don't ruin the joy of your first paycheck by having to hand it to your credit card company. Shop smart for your business clothes by avoiding high-end department stores. Look for quality clothing that will last, and also for pieces that don't need to be frequently dry cleaned.   

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

I prefer getting business clothes in stores so I can try them on. I still have to wear girls clothes, because most of the womens clothes (which has all the cute business clothes) don't fit me :(

Meg Favreau's picture

T.J. Maxx is my go-to, especially for nice accessories. Every bag I've ever taken to a job interview, I've gotten at T.J. Maxx.

Anybody else have suggestions on where to shop for business wear on the cheap?

Guest's picture

One interesting thing I have found is borrowing clothes from a friend. It works especially well if your friends have a better sense of style then you. I told a friend what sort of attire I needed for my event and he hooked me up with stylish clothes that I really liked, but would never have considered on my own. Not only that, I only needed the clothes for a one time deal. So ask your friends or put out a facebook post, and see what your friends have in their closets before you go out and buy. It's not a long term solution, but if you're in a pinch it works great for those one time interviews.

Guest's picture

Burlington Coat Factory is definitely worthy of mention. They have tons of nice lady's suits under $40 in all sizes...most can be machine washed.

Guest's picture

Banana Republic and Gap - go to the back of the store for their clearance items and/or online (their sale section)

Guest's picture

Even if you bring teevas or berks, still bring some socks because your feet will be cold sometimes. The key is that shoes are heavy and the less weight that you bring, your back will thank you. Oh yea, bring some real cheap lightweight. I don’t know if I have mentioned that before, Here is another totally formal shoe for you. This time it’s typical heeled one. It may cause you some problems if your work demands spending time walking, because of the high sharp heels, but they will totally complete any formal clothing you decide to wear

/** Fix admin settings safe to ignore showing on unauthenticated user **/