Building a great wardrobe on a budget is a tricky thing, but not impossible.
In the previous article we agreed that you have to dress according to your goals, and that if your WHY is big enough you will do whatever it takes. Another thing I’ve learned after moving abroad two times is that if you travel light you will go further and faster. Having a simple and effective wardrobe will help you travel further and faster.
When you are a Full-Time MBA student, you will probably have no or low-income. And you will be making a considerable investment of time and money in yourself. Which means that you have to be very mindful about how you use your resources. Dressing professionally on a budget is a challenge, and I want to share what has helped me overcome this.
First let me make something clear, there is no such thing as and low-cost option on time and money. If you can’t afford tailored clothes, which will be very fast and convenient, then you will have to invest some time. When I faced this challenge I had to invest a lot of time. My goal is to help you minimize the time investment needed to build a great low-cost wardrobe.
Another key step is to stop wearing the clothes you already have that don’t fit you properly or don’t help you communicate a message of competence and professionalism.
More important than knowing your exact measures in sleeve or collar (in the case of a shirt) is understanding how should a shirt look when it fits the way it should. I will not go into detail on that topic because there are others that have done so already. This article will help you understand how a shirt should fit.
Knowing how it should look when it fits right is better than knowing your measures, because a 33 sleeve for one brand may be a bit different than another. Or a 33 fitted may be different that a 33 classic-fit shirt.
Time-Saving Information: Finding the right type of shirt (classic, fitted, trim, etc.) and brand of shirt that fits you great will take some time. You may even take a full day doing so. But once you find one, stick to it! I usually buy 3 or 4 of the same shirt.
By doing so you will save time and most probably money because you can negotiate a deal for quantity (start working on your negotiation skills).
Another time-saving advice is to buy solid colored shirts, preferably white and light blue. It may sound boring, but it will save a lot of your decision-making power for the important things.
Every suit and every tie will match with those solid colors. There are several examples of very successful people (Steve Jobs, Einstein, Zuckerberg, etc.) that had a “uniform” for work. They basically wore the same outfit every day so that they wouldn’t waste brain-power when deciding what to wear.
I’m sure engineers and economists will understand and appreciate this concept. It may sound dull but gets the job done of communicating Professionalism and Competence in an effective and efficient way.
If you decide to take my advice and buy solid white and light blue shirts then ties will be very easy, because almost every color and pattern goes with those solid shirts.
Be aware of what the color of your ties communicates. Remember that our brain makes decisions about first impressions in the first 4 seconds, and colors is something other people will notice in that time frame. Here is a great article about how to choose a color palette for your brand. Apply those principles to your personal brand. Also do some research on what are the best practices in tie colors for your industry.
Tie Knot: Many people don’t know this but certain tie knots go in line with different types of shirt collars. My memory is not very good and I like to make things simple. I learned how to do the Windsor knot very well, I know with which type of collar it goes well and I only buy shirts with those types of collars. There are several good articles on the topic of matching shirt collars and tie knots, here is one.
Maybe later on I will expand my repertoire of types of collars and tie knots, when my goal and the message I want to communicate changes. For now, I will stick with simple steps that have helped me communicate Professionalism and Competence.
Next I want to share similar guidelines and steps which have worked for me related to picking suits and shoes. Stay tuned.
Learning and sharing knowledge is my passion, let’s connect if it’s yours too.
Alejandro I. Sanoja