People warn you to make a good impression, to dress nicely and take pride in your appearance. What does it say about me if I rotate the same oversize t-shirts and hoodies with various vacation destinations or event names littered across them every week? What does it say if I pretty much only wear sweatpants, almost never jeans and especially not skirts?
Because I do. Don’t worry, I’m completely hygienic and I care about my appearance in that way- I hope people don’t assume that I don’t. But why should I have to put up a facade and be someone I’m not?
Sometimes I wish I cared more. I really do. Breezy floral sundresses and sophisticated blouses roam my mind whenever I go into the city, and it suddenly crosses my mind I should’ve dressed up a little more. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good fairy godmother-like transformation from time to time.
It was the night of the dance. I got my hair done at an actual salon for the first time ever- one where they offered you drinks as they worked on making each tendril of hair camera-ready. My golden blond hair bounced around my shoulders in soft curls, I had dusted my eyelids with some glittery eyeshadow (not too glittery), and skinny silver hoop earrings that were just the right size dangled from my earlobes.
But most importantly, the dress. It was the dress. It was a little shorter than what I would normally wear, and it hugged my body as if it was made to fit. The black fabric glimmered thanks to the sheen woven into it, and the straps met to cross several times and tie at the small at my back. The dress glowed on me, and I felt as if I glowed too. I felt pretty, and for a night I understood.
(It didn’t stop me from wearing sweatpants the next day.)
I hope you enjoyed this little anecdote. I’m not really sure if prose is the best label for it, but I didn’t know what else to call it and I still considered it creative writing. As I write this, I’m wearing sweatpants and an oversized concert tee, so yeah…it’s pretty accurate. Please let me know if you have any feedback, suggestions, or challenges for me to use in my future writing!
Even as a teen not yet in the workforce, there are still quite a few instances where you’ll need “professional” clothing. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you would know that I am a member of the YMCA’s Youth and Government program. For our training conferences, we could wear casual clothing as long as it was reasonably modest, but for our culminating conference in Sacramento (coming up in about a week!) where we have to wear business casual clothing that fits the “Sac attire” dress code each day of the conference. I had a few outfits that I had been able to pass off as professional enough for one-off events in the past, but for this conference I actually needed to invest in some business attire. If you’re in a similar situation, keep on reading to find out where to go!
One of my biggest concerns when finding business casual clothes was the cost. Stores that sell this type of clothing are often on the pricier end, and I couldn’t justify spending that much since I won’t be wearing these clothes often- only for Youth and Government and other special occasions.
- Banana Republic outlet – I found a ton of good pieces here, and they were actually pretty stylish/things I was excited to wear. Everything was around 40-60% off, so I got a really good deal on everything I got. They have petite sizing and a wide range of sizing in general, which is good if you’re younger/smaller.
- Outlets of other similar stores (J. Crew, etc.) – Same thing as the Banana Republic outlet situation, but I wanted to include that as a separate place since their deals really stood out to me and I had such a good experience. I recommend just going to the nearest outlet mall and peeking into any stores that look like they have businesswear. I found that Banana had the best deals, but you never know.
- Nordstrom Rack – Their selection differs a lot from time to time, but the last time I went I found a ton of stuff. They usually have a lot of dresses and shirts, but it might be harder to find pants and skirts. Everything I got here was around $20-30, so it’s very reasonably priced- it depends on the brand though, since they have such a variety of labels.
- Target – You might not expect it, but Target has a bit of everything. Again, it depends on their current stock, but I would pop in just to see. If not clothes, they have a really good selection of flats and heels you could get for reasonable prices.
- Goodwill / Thrift stores – This is probably the most affordable and hit-or-miss option. If your local Goodwill or thrift stores have decent section of business wear and carry your size, it might be your best bet. That being said, I know thrift shopping often doesn’t work out and it may not have the best selection of these things, so I wouldn’t count on getting all your stuff here.
- Your family! – If you’re similarly sized to your mom/dad/whoever in your family, ask to borrow their stuff! They’ll probably have at least one thing that’s neutral and you can wear- I borrowed my mom’s cardigan last time I had a Youth and Government event where I needed to dress formally.
- “Typical” stores – Sometimes stores like Abercrombie or American Eagle will have business-casual blouses or slacks. I recommend checking in these stores just to see- they’ll also often be on sale since their target demographic doesn’t end up buying them as often.
I hope this helps you on your business casual clothing search! Clothes shopping in general can be challenging, so I know it’s a bit of a nuisance. That being said, you’ll feel like a super-important businesswoman (or man) when you find the right outfits for you. Let me know if any of these places have worked for you in the past, or if there’s somewhere else people should look!