A Versatile Work And Play Wardrobe For The Young Female Professional (Under $500!)


Internships and new jobs can make us feel as though we’re shopping for two different people: the professional and the casual.

But who has money for both? It’s especially difficult when an unpaid internship requires you to dress up.

How can you justify spending money on new clothes without any money coming in?

When faced with this situation, I took a good look at my wardrobe and imagined the pieces I would need to complete it.

I decided to set my budget at $500.

This student-friendly budget would have to cover enough clothes to fill a week of work and a week of hanging out with friends.

Taking a look at my wardrobe, I compiled a list of must-have pieces for work and everyday life.

I then mixed and matched pieces to create five work outfits and five stylish yet casual pieces. All for $500!

Camisole ($10)

Every girl needs at least one camisole. Camis fit well underneath sweaters, hoodies, blouses and they’re great on their own come summer. I chose a bright-coloured cami to add pizzazz to any outfit. This camisole can turn a skirt into a dress; it can also add colour to a super professional suit and really make you stand out.

Blouse ($40)

A blouse is a must-have for work—or maybe I’m saying that because I think they look so great and feel so comfortable. A blouse goes well with a vest, blazer, sweater dress or on its own, which really gives you bang for your buck. When going out with friends, a blouse can look really classy when paired with a long necklace or eye-catching boots.

Skirt ($40)

Who doesn’t love skirts? A pencil skirt is a great choice for work and play. Wear a blazer or blouse on top for the 9-to-5 office day with your favourite heels and you’re all set to go. The fantastic thing about a pencil skirt is that pairing it with different tops can create the illusion of wearing a sexy dress for a night on the town. When I paired this pencil skirt with a colourful top (perhaps that camisole you bought) and flashy belt, my friends thought I was wearing a dress. And they loved it!

Sweater dress ($40)

Tuck a blouse in underneath for a professional spin and pair with leggings and cute booties. Going out with friends? Ditch the blouse and go for black nylons and booties. You can’t beat staying warm and looking good.

Jacket ($40)

My favourite part of dressing for work: a well-fitted jacket or blazer. Does anything scream “professional” louder than one of these? Therein lies the problem, but you can make a jacket work for everyday wear too; don your favourite pair of skinny jeans and flats plus a fun necklace and you’re all set for that coffee date with friends.

Vest ($30)

Not everyone loves a vest but, what can I say? I do. I like to pair one with a blouse and they look great for just hanging out.

Shoes and accessories ($300)

Shoes can really hit the bank but they’re necessary—and if you treat them right, they can last forever. Keep it simple with one pair of comfy flats, one pair of classy heels and a cute pair of booties. Buy shoes that feel comfortable, fit well and look good. You won’t want to wear them if they hurt!

The final key to mixing and matching lies in the right accessories. Long necklaces with colour or pizzazz can change an outfit’s look in seconds.

Finding the right clothes for the job is almost as tough as finding the right job. Buying each of these pieces will allow you to create at least 10 outfits, enough to carry you for one week, and all on a budget of $500. So get shopping, get creative and don’t break the bank!

About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).