How Much Do You Spend on Work Clothes?

how much do you spend on your work clothesHere’s a fun topic that we haven’t discussed in eons: How much do you spend on work clothes (as in, prices for individual clothing items)? What’s an average price you’re happy to pay for a pair of pants — for a sheath dress — for a blazer? I’m looking over my original answers from our original discussion on how much do you spend on clothes, and I’m a bit surprised I’m updating some of them:

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Pants: $40–$200. There are a ton of great pants for $50 now, from Everlane to J.Crew Factory to Uniqlo to Express/Loft type stuff. Sales can still be had — I just got a pair of pants at Banana Republic for $11 a few weeks ago, although they were floral ankle pants, so kind of on the “fun” side of things. Of course everyone loves the Eileen Fisher magic pants, usually around $168, and a tailored wool pant like Lafayette 148 New York or something will obviously be more.

Skirts: $30–$300. I feel like I always see great deals on skirts these days, and there are a ton of reader favorite options for pencil skirts for work at really affordable prices.

Blouses/tops: $15–$60, or $125–$250. I’m putting two price ranges here because I think the first price range is the “normal” price I’d pay for a blouse or top for work, and the second price range would be the “oooh, want” price — where the blouse has an absolutely amazing pattern or is from a designer I’ve wanted for eons or something special. I’ve definitely seen them for more than $250 but probably wouldn’t pay that for a simple blouse. (Everyone’s favorite NYDJ blouse is often down to around $50, and the reader favorite Loft blouse is $59 full price.)

Sweaters: $100–$300. Personally, this is where a lot of my money goes — I’ve always preferred cashmere or merino or blends because they’re soft, durable, and pretty warm, whereas a lot of the more affordable cotton blends I’ve had haven’t done any of those things. I’d say that at this point in my life, having small kids means that there are definitely a lot of easy-to-wash, $15–$20 sweatshirts for weekend wear with the kids where I can just throw them in the washer and not worry, but my “nice sweater” collection is generally more expensive. (Also remember that because I’ve been building a sweater collection for years now, I can afford to stalk nicer sweaters on sale, so that helps.)

Dresses: $40–$300. The only reason that first number is so low is because I’ve gotten some great Lands’ End dresses at some really nice sale prices. For a basic sheath dress there are so many great options that I’d put the average price around $175–$250.

Suits: $200–$600. Something I was surprised at when we did our last roundup of the best women suits of 2018 was how the average price seems to have somewhat fallen — the first two categories were below $500 and there are a TON of options in there. (And honestly most of the suits in the next category, the $500–$1000 one, often go on sale so you can pick up a suit for under $500.)

Bags: I’m always fascinated to see how this is a hugely social decision — most women I know stick to a pretty narrow price range that their friends and family also buy in. Personally, I still tend to think of a “good” bag as costing between $200–$800 when new, but I’ve gotten some great deals on bags (including a recent $160 charity auction purchase of a Bottega Venetta!) that I consider myself lucky.

Jewelry: $20–$150 for a “spur of the moment” purchase, $150+++ for a planned purchase. I’ve been refreshing my jewelry collection of late and have found some great things on Etsy for under $80. I also like a lot of older Alexis Bittar pieces, so whenever I see one on Poshmark or whatever I snap it up if it speaks to me or fills a hole (like I was recently looking for a large red pendant necklace because I decided I need more red in my life). I tend to focus on necklaces these days, as I’ve avoided earrings for years because the kids yanked them, and I never quite got in the habit of mixing metals with my platinum wedding rings. I think I’ve mentioned this before, also: I have a lot of regret for the semi-precious and precious “good” jewelry I bought in my 20s at places like Macy’s — 98% of it never sees the light of day, but is worth next to nothing on the resale market.

How about you guys: How much do you spend on clothes for work? What’s the average price for you for specific items of clothing?

How much do you spend on work clothes? We decided to update a SUPER old post with average prices for individual clothing items for work -- great to hear what our professional women readers are paying on average for pants, sheath dresses, blazers and more!


  1. LOL, too much!

    I often think I could have a better casual wardrobe – where I can really be myself – if I spent less on my work clothes, but I spend so much more time in my work clothes that I feel yucky if I’m constantly wearing low-quality pieces that don’t look good (don’t get me wrong though, I have some pieces from Old Navy that have held up better than far more expensive ones).

    I’m in a biz casual office and have 1 pair of $200 pants (MMLF), and I don’t love them as much as my $50-80 pants from Loft or Boden. My dress limit is probably around $100. Tops same. Skirts, up to $100 but probably closer to $50. Shoes – would spend $150 for a great, quality pair. Sweaters…I’m over them. Maybe a cardigan here and there, but lately I’ve been feeling less polished in sweaters so I avoid them.

    • I plead the 5th on this one. I spend so much of my salary on clotheing, that even with my 60% reimbursement for approved clothes, I wind up with only a fraction left after 401K and food for myself. It is lucky that my apartement is paid for by Dad, and that he manages my money for me, or I would be in trouble. That is why he keeps telling me to get MARRIED so that some guy can take over this stuff from him. FOOEY! I want Dad to do it b/c he does NOT demand anything from me. Any schlub I marry will likely want me to have s-x with him every night. DOUBEL FOOEY on that!

  2. Pants: up to $80
    Skirts: up to $60
    Tops: up to $60
    Sweaters: up to $80 (but my sweaters never last long, so thinking I should spend more for better quality)
    Dresses: up to $150
    Suits: $300
    Bags: up to $200
    Jewelery: up to $80

  3. I’ve been tracking my clothing expenditures pretty religiously for the last several years. I consistently spend about $2500 – $3500 annually. I generally only buy on sale and most of my wardrobe is from Nordstrom. Most expensive item bought last year were my MMLF Foster pants ($195).

    Dresses — these are the most worn items in my wardrobe, generally spend $50 – $200

    Skirts – these are the next most worn items, usually $70 – $150

    Pants – I currently most often wear my MMLF Foster pants ($195). All other pants less than $70. Don’t wear pants that often.

    Tops — no more than $60

    Jewelry – in terms of costume jewelry, I like Nadri and Kendra Scott (range is $50 – $120), I also wear a lot of gold Indian jewelry gifted to me or passed down from my mom ($$$$)

    Shoes – don’t care about shoes at all, no more than $150

    Bags – don’t care about bags, no more than $150

  4. Over the past 3-4 years, I think this has shifted a lot for me – I buy a lot less with the planning of wearing the item to exhaustion, and I spend a lot more per item. My other trick not reflected in the prices below is buying used on Poshmark and the RealReal once I have a designer and style I know works, usually to replace something that is wearing out.

    Here’s my current guess (on a ~$200K salary in a MCOL city):
    Dresses (my work wardrobe staple): $50 for Lauren Ralph Lauren at TJ Maxx, up to $250+ for brooks brothers, DVF, Nordstrom brands like Theory and Elie Taharie. I try to limit to 7-8 dresses in rotation at any time and wear them until they are no longer work appropriate.

    Bags: $100-500, but I only own 3-4 at this point (a clutch, a cross body, and two really nice leather work totes in gray and brown).

    Tops/Skirts/Pants: $50-100 per item, usually on sale. I love Express for pants that fit me off the rack.

    Cardigans/Sweaters: 2-4, usually wool or cashmere, $60-200 each. Contrasting colors for my dresses and a couple of pullover sweaters to go with pants or skirts.
    Shoes: $100-200/pair for heels/wedges/flats. usually Cole Haan or equivalent. I have around 4 pairs in rotation at any time – two heels, one pair of flats, and a dress wedge.

  5. Dresses: $100-300. I wear a dress to work almost every day. I do a lot of online shopping at Nordstrom and tend to buy the following brands on sale: Boss, Elie Tahari, Theory, Lafayette 148. I also have several MMLF dresses that are real workhorses.

    Blazers: $100-200. I also have a number of secondhand blazers.

    Pants: $75-150. I only have a couple pairs of pants.

    Tops: $30-150. I only have a few tops and will pay a lot for a very structured, tailored top with classic lines.

    Sweaters: $50-100. I have just a few sweaters, purchased on sale generally at Nordstrom Rack. and they tend to last me a long time.

    Shoes: $50-300. I’ve paid up to $300 for AGLs but have also found much less expensive shoes that work really well for me. Comfort is my first priority and then they have to look not frumpy.

    Bags: up to $350. I have 2 work bags ($350, $300), a leather shoulder bag ($350), a leather cross-body ($175), and one clutch ($300). I tend to keep the same rotation of bags for several years. My last purchase was the leather cross-body about 2 years ago.

  6. Too much! :

    For the most part, I spend about $50-$100 for work dresses which make up about 95% of my work wardrobe. I do have some expensive pieces, like my Theory blazer ($400), my coat ($500), my Prada work bag ($2500), my M Gemi black pumps ($200)…these I wear all the time so I don’t really regret the price tag. What I do regret are my Theory dresses ($200-$300 each) which unlike the blazer are terrible quality and as a result, I barely wear them. One particular dress I got wrinkles like crazy. $$$$ does not equal quality unfortunately.

    I’ve decided to basically limit my splurges to shoes/accessories/bags/coats which are much better value on a cost per wear basis.

  7. Too much. I’m later in my career and have donated so many things that almost fit or that I almost liked but were on sale.. and then I never wore them. I have embraced a “fewer, better” philosophy and will pay full price for items that fill a hole in my wardrobe. I also prefer natural fibers and if possible to support companies that care about the environment.

    So these days I’d say I wear 50% Eileen fisher (the non boxy stuff), 30% MM Lafleur, 10% Talbots, and 10% other (mostly Nordstrom brands.) I get quite a bit of my Eileen Fisher on eBay. My typical work uniform is a skirt and top in matching colors and them a longer cardigan or knit blazer in a contrasting color.

    For accessories I like Cuyana and a handful of European shoe brands.

  8. I very very rarely spend over $80 on any single item of clothing, except for coats and bags. Most clothes are under $50, if I’m being honest. I use coupon codes religiously and seem physically unable to pay full price unless it’s an absolute necessity.

  9. Ugh, it really depends on my mood and budget. I constantly struggle with “investing in myself” versus NOT putting on makeup or looking 100% put together since my job should be able my performance, not my looks!

    Basically I either shop at Ann Taylor or Marshalls. I’ve found EVERYTHING I need to be there, usually on sale as well :)

  10. Anonymous :

    So much less now that I started buying stuff on ThredUp!

  11. The goal is to spend less than $50 on pants, tops, sweaters and dresses. But if I see something I love or need I will splurge up to $150ish..
    Shoes are an investment, so maybe up to $200. Same with purses, I’d spend up to $400. And then there are special items like coats and boots that will last several years, I would also spend more on those.
    I mostly shop at Ann Taylor and Banana Republic (sometimes the factory outlets). I wear Petite sizes and those stores always have great items in my size.

  12. Anonymous :

    For suits, I wear Theory. On Fridays, its business casual so I wear 7FAM jeans and usually a top/blazer from Jcrew. The odd time, I’ll find something on sale at Banana. I carry Longchamp bags – so light and convenient! I’ve thought about splurging on a designer LV bag but I don’t want to be seen as being too pretentious…

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