"I am a fresh graduate and I just landed my first job as an Assistant Product Manager in a multinational company. Our company is still one of those with a “business attire” dress code. Can you help me put together my office wardrobe without going broke?”
-- Yippee Yuppie, San Juan
First, congratulations on getting out of the unemployment line and for getting what seems like a good job! Way to go!
Let me guess, the only other time you probably had to wear something that resembles corporate attire was when you had to do your marketing plan presentation or your thesis defense, right? And, you likely borrowed your Dad’s tie and wore it over a plain white or blue long-sleeved polo, loosely tucked in a pair of pleated black cotton pants. No, I’m not psychic. It’s just what I see every year, over the past 8 years, of sitting in as part of the panel of judges for students’ final marketing presentations.
In answering your question, I will propose that you treat your clothes as an investment rather than as an expense. With this outlook, you will want to get the best value for your money vs. just looking for cheap --which results in bigger expenses over time, since you will likely need to repair or replace them much faster than good quality items.
You don’t have to buy everything in one go. Gradually build up your wardrobe and favor classic styles (e.g. solid colored and vertical striped shirts) vs. those that are trendy (e.g. diagonal stripes) to minimize the need to update your clothes.
So how do you balance good quality with great value? Rediscover tailor-made clothes! Find yourself a good tailor with reasonable rates.
The cost of tailored clothes can even go lower if you take some effort to buy your own fabric in iconic Divisoria or Kamuning. Why not just buy off the rack? Well, if you look around you will see that most good-quality retail shirts don’t sell below P 1,300.00 and pants will likely fall within the P 1,500 to P 2,000 range. Consider too that you will likely spend additional money having them altered to fit you better.
Now for your wardrobe mix, here’s what I recommend for a typical 5-day work week:
TOP - Start with 3 long-sleeved polo shirts. Since you probably already have a white long-sleeved shirt, pick another solid colored shirt (maybe light lavender, if you already have blue), one striped and one checkered shirt. With your next paycheck, have 2 white short-sleeved linen (a.k.a. “gusot mayaman”) barongs made. Having this kind of mix will allow you to space your clothes in such a way that people don’t remember when you repeat a shirt.
TIE – Since most good-quality ties won’t go below P 500.00, maybe buy one tie a month until you have at least 5 ties in your arsenal. Again, pick tie patterns that are less trendy, like stripes and solids, so they last you for years. Tip: I built my tie inventory by asking family and close friends to give ties to me on my birthdays or Christmas.
PANTS – Since you will likely already have a pair of black pants, add another 3 pairs – gray, navy blue and brown. These colors are neutral and versatile enough to pair with any of the tops described above and with either black or brown shoes. Look for polyester blend material so you don’t have to spend extra on dry-cleaning.
Accessories? Get regularized first, and then write me again.