Skip to content Skipto navigation

    Ask Harry: “I’m just starting out in business and my budget is limited. How do I build a business wardrobe?”

    Ask Harry: “I’m just starting out in business and my budget is limited. How do I build a business wardrobe?”

    March 21, 2016


    When you first set out to assemble your business wardrobe, you have to be a little bit strategic. You can’t yet afford the luxury of buying everything you want or need, so it’s important to stay focused on two requirements: every piece of clothing you purchase must be distinctive and also versatile. By “distinctive” we mean that you should avoid repetition, giving yourself as many different looks as possible. “Versatile” means that each garment can be worn in a number of ways and works well with the other things you own, maximizing your investment.


    1. So, let’s begin. Your first purchase should be a plain (or nearly plain), dark, dressy suit in a year-round fabric, either in black or navy. This is the suit you can dress up with a crisp white dress shirt and tie for important meetings and special occasions. You can also wear it with a blue or other fancy dress shirt for regular business days, with or without a tie. Finish the look with a pair of black lace-up dress shoes and a black belt and you have your first essential outfit. It will give you a ton of mileage.


    2. The next essential is a dark, year-round sports jacket or blazer. This can also be dressed up – with a pair of grey dress pants and a patterned dress shirt and tie – or dressed down with casual cotton trousers and a sport shirt or knit. It will quickly become the keystone of your casual business look, perfect for a broad range of occasions. A pair of brown loafers and a brown belt complete the outfit. You’re also going to need a serious coat, three-quarter length or longer, that will cover your jacket and keep you dry and warm all through the spring and fall.


    3. When it’s time for another purchase, we'd recommend a second suit, again in a year-round fabric but this time in a grey tone, to be as distinct as possible from your black or navy suit. Add a couple more dress or sport shirts and another tie – and maybe a pair of brown dress shoes and a brown belt – and the variety of looks you can achieve increases exponentially.


    4. A second jacket is next on your list – something softer and less structured than your first sports jacket, in a different colour and perhaps in a subtly patterned fabric. Match it with a new pair of dress pants in a colour you don’t already own and another shirt that will work with both jackets. Before you know it, you’ll have a working business wardrobe you can turn to each morning with confidence – a sound beginning upon which to build in the future.