One possible capsule wardrobe you can build: Two pairs of solid pants, a dress, a skirt, a jacket, and a handful of different tops. By mixing and matching these pieces, you can leave the impression that your closet is growing by the day. The estimated price tag: less than $500.
If your office abides by a business-casual dress code, Gary recommends a wardrobe that includes dark, traditional jeans (avoid skin-tight, low-rise cuts) tall boots, a blazer, cardigans, chino or corduroy pants, flats, and accessories (such as scarves, belts, and necklaces). "You can really build a business-casual wardrobe for a lot less," she adds.
[See: 6 Summer Office Attire No-Nos.]
Make do with what you have. If you're intent on sticking with the clothes you own, attempt to spruce them up. By upgrading a shirt with new sleeves, cuffs, and a collar, a nearby tailor can salvage what you can't depart with for less than $35, Wong notes.
But know when it's time to hang it up. Weight loss, changing trends, or needed repairs—all are reasons to add to your wardrobe, Gary says. While she recommends inspecting your closet twice a year for upgrades, don't hesitate to add to it whenever you feel it's missing that one must-have piece. "Shop when you feel as though there is something seriously missing out [of] your wardrobe. And shop when things wear out or start to look a little bit dated," she says.