Building Your Professional Wardrobe on the Cheap
It's March. Many of you have landed a summer associate gig, clerkship, or internship with a small firm. The rest of you will soon (we hope). That means you're going to need to start preparing your wardrobe. After all, those ironic anti-lawyer t-shirts that read "Dewey Cheatem & Howe" and "Jack Schitt, Esq." aren't going to fly at most firms. It's time to step your game up - either to business casual or if you're really lucky, the BigLaw ballin' barrister look.
Now, you might be confused as to what business casual entails. We've got your back on that.
As for suits, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, don't buy online. You can't check fit online, and suits vary greatly from brand to brand. When you do check the fit, the jacket is by far the most important piece. Your shoulders should fit, with a bit of room to move, and not look like you are wearing linebacker pads. Also, you'll need to button the jacket without it looking like it's going to pop.
Finally, if you at all expect to stick around at your employer, don't walk in dressed in a slim-fit sharkskin suit. Shiny suits are for Diddy and Justin Timberlake, not for the courtroom.
Alright, so you know how to dress, but where can one get these items on the cheap?
The best place is deal sites. Before you shop anywhere, online or in store, you should check sites like RetailMeNot.com for printable coupons. For example, Burlington Coat Factory has a 20 percent off coupon if you sign over your personal info. On a $200 suit, that's $40 - plenty to offset the cost of a nice pair of dress shoes.
Another great resource is SlickDeals.net. It is a forum filled with scarily-obsessed deal hunters that find nearly every good deal on everything on the internet, and in many brick and mortar stores. You'll save a ton of money on everything from clothes to protein powder (gotta get Arnold swole by summer time, right?).
There are only two problems with the site: you'll have to practice self-control and not jump on every cheap video game or refurbished iPad. Also, deals appear as they come, meaning it's not the best for last-minute shoppers. Fortunately, you've got a few months until your job starts
The final place to look is your local thrift stores. While full suits that actually fit and don't look like they were pulled off of a dead grandfather might be hard to find, blazers, dress pants, button-up shirts, and ties are all in ready supply. Instead of spending $50 on a cheap blazer at a retail store, you might find a higher-quality used item for only a couple bucks. Just make sure you have everything cleaned before wearing - formaldehyde is bad for the skin.
Editor's Note, March 15, 2016: This post was first published in March 2013. It has since been updated.
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