How to Build a Professional Wardrobe for $150

Mossimo® Womens TRS Boyfriend Jacket - Black

2018 Update: Because so many of the below pieces are sold out, if you’re looking for advice on how to build a professional wardrobe for $150, you may instead want to check out our recent advice on how to buy an entire work wardrobe with no money.

I know a lot of readers love Target for workwear — but since I’m almost never in the physical store (and invariably rushing to look at baby stuff when I am), I jumped at the opportunity when today’s guest poster (who has no affiliation with Target) offered to round up her favorite workwear pieces.  Cassie Boorn blogs at Ask a PR Girl.  Welcome to Corporette, Cassie!

Right after college, I started working from home for a PR agency that is based in New York.  While I work at home most of the time, I spend a lot of time traveling to the city and various blogging conferences. I don’t get to see my colleagues often so I want to look good when I visit the city but I also don’t want to spend a fortune on a professional wardrobe.

The way that I keep my wardrobe fresh without spending a lot of money is by wearing classic pieces and dressing them up with bold accessories. I live in the Midwest and because I live on a budget I have a secret trick to buying classic pieces on the cheap.

What is my secret? Target.

I did a little online shopping and dug up all of the classic pieces every professional should own for under $150. What is even better is that all of the pieces can be purchased with one quick trip to Target (or with a few clicks)…

Here is what you need:

Mossimo® Womens TRS Boat Neck Dress - BlackThe Little Black Dress: Target always has great “little black dresses” in a variety of styles. Right now I am in love with this black boat neck dress. The cut is super flattering and paired with a bold statement necklace; you can take this dress from the boardroom to cocktail hour. Was $32.99, now $23.08. Mossimo® Womens TRS Boat Neck Dress – Black 
Mossimo Black® Ponte Knit SkirtThe Pencil Skirt: Right now Target has a bunch of pencil skirts in various colors and patterns. This colorful “bloodstone” one is the perfect way to start your professional wardrobe. Also? It is only $19.99 (and available in nine colors).  Mossimo Black® Ponte Knit Skirt
Mossimo® Womens Knit to Woven Boxy Top - Assorted ColorsBasic Top: My wardrobe is full of basic black tops that I can wear with pencil skirts, layer under jackets or throw over jeans when I am running to the airport. I am a big fan of this v-neck top from Target. I saw it in person and the material is perfect for the office. It’s available in black, pink, and yellow, and is $17.99. Mossimo® Womens Knit to Woven Boxy Top – Assorted Colors
Mossimo® Womens TRS Boyfriend Jacket - BlackBasic Jacket: I have this exact jacket and wear it all the time. It has a great fit and looks as good matched with a pair of jeans as it does with a pair of dress pants. Where else can you find a jacket for $29.99? (It’s on backorder, but you can still order it now.) Mossimo® Womens TRS Boyfriend Jacket – Black
Mossimo® Womens TRS Pant (Fit 4) - BlackBlack Pants: A good pair of black pants can make almost any top look professional. Target has a number of different styles; this pair was only $29.99, but is now marked to $9.78. Mossimo® Womens TRS Pant (Fit 4) – Black
Women's Mossimo® Vitia Snip-Toe Bow Flats - BlackShoes: I spend so much time walking/running through airports that I go through shoes pretty quickly. I buy nearly all of the shoes I wear to the office at Target. I buy these black flats three at a time, and can’t tell you enough about how wonderful they are. They are made of material that is flexible enough that you won’t get blisters from heavy walking but cheap enough that when they start wearing down, you don’t feel guilty getting rid of them.  Women’s Mossimo® Vitia Snip-Toe Bow Flats – Black  (Additionally, here’s a good pair of pumps, marked down to $12.48: Women’s Merona® Mari Classic Mid-Heel Pump – Black)

One quick shopping trip later and you will be on your way to having the perfect (and affordable) wardrobe.

Cassie Boorn is a writer, social media specialist, entrepreneur and PR girl who has built digital programs for Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, small businesses and bloggers. You can find her at AskaPRGirl sharing advice on everything from finding a mentor to surviving your first blogging conference and personal stories like what being a lush taught her about pitching media.


  1. Associette :

    Fun post – but you absolutely should not wear that dress in the board room! It is far too short. Perhaps it could be tempered by some opaque tights, but even still! I am in law if that provides any context.

    • While I don’t think it screams professional or power, I doubt it’s too short on women under 5’5. I’ve found that most models in these pics are 5’8-5’9; I actually look for dresses that look a bit too short on the model because a knee-length one would come to my calves (an almost universally unflattering look).

    • Target doesn’t help things. The website lists the garment length as “above knee”.

      • no sh * t, right?

        • actually, the website says: “Garment Length: Knee”. i prefer slightly above knee and target skirts arent worth alterations, so I passed on that basis.

    • I agree. THAT is all I need for the manageing partner to start lookeing at my tuchus and leg’s at the SAME TIME. FOOEY!

      If I want to have any one look at me, I first have to loose 7 POUND’S. Jim just sent OVER 7 more cases. UGH. I am geting up to my eyeballs in Aligator’s as my dad says, and I have to work on these cases this weekend b/c we are scheduleing DEPO’s for 3 of the plaintiff’s next week. What is wierd is that Jim want’s to come over to the office this weekend to go OVER the question’s with me.

      I do NOT need to have to go over the question’s with him, b/c I have been doing these with the manageing partner for the last 3 year’s. But I told Jim I could meet him here between 1 and 3pm on Saturday to go over the question’s. He sugested we then go get a sammwich at Pastrami King (YUM) so I said mabye.

      BTW, their is a FAKE Ellen posting this morning. FOOEY on her.

      • Francie Nolan :

        Pastrami King is one of my favorite places to go before I see a concert at Jones beach. Is Jim’s office near the beach?

    • FWIW, the writer is in PR, which I think might have a less conservative dresscode.

      • One of my good friends’ is a lawyer and she would agree that this is too short for the board room. And yes, PR tends to be much less conservative.

        • UnTargeted :

          I know many women who are in legal PR. The in-house code may vary, but when I see them at networking events, they tend to be extremely nicely dressed — certainly no Target outfits.

        • Apostrophe fail.
          Also, “board room” is not a synonym for “office” or “workplace.” Unless you write for Cosmo.

    • I do think it depends on height. At 5’2, the dresses that hit the (much taller) models at the knee are mid-calf length on me.

  2. While we’re talking about clothes on a budget, does anyone want to do some ghost shopping for me? I’m looking for a dress to wear to a wedding in a couple weeks. It’s going to be an outdoor wedding in California. Dress code is something less than c*cktail attire but not quite sundress (it’s an evening wedding). Hope to spend less than $100. If anyone is up to the challenge, I’d appreciate it!

    • You should be able to find some great deals on summer dresses. I’d start with the clearance section of Boden. They usually have some good dresses are not too formal.

    • OC Lawyer :

      Don’t forget a sweater. Even down here, you will need it. Up north, you might as well wear a winter dress in the evening this time of year.

      Actually, I will share that I am in SF from now until Sunday. Dinner plans on Saturday, and I brought leather pants, short sleeved top and wool sweater/wrap to wear. Otherwise I would be cold because it it in the 50s at night.

    • Diana Barry :

      If you can go to a forever 21 store, they usually have some nice dresses that you can wear to a wedding. I got a maxi dress there a couple of years back that was PERFECT for exactly the kind of wedding you describe. Also check out Asos and the sales at Boden, Banana and J crew.

    • Look at Anthropologie’s sales section. I have had the best luck with their dresses suiting many of life’s occasion.


      • Or,

        • There are also 2 really cute black dresses (“Soie” for $79 and “Mesh Dancer” for $49) with really positive reviews.

    • anon in tejas :

      I know that sometimes I sound like a broken record, but I went shopping at mine and found a ton of dresses I really liked. Bought three on sale for less than $100 total.

    • locomotive :

      there are a ton of great j.crew dresses on sale right now. and i think the code ‘shop now’ will get you 30% off final sale – so if you know your size you can just order it online.

    • mezzaluna :

    • Thanks all! Mezzaluna, I fell in love with the color of that dress. Ended up going to Macy’s after work and getting something very similar in that color!

  3. Legally Brunette :

    I have never bought anything for work from Target – not because I don’t want to, but every Target store I’ve been to has been disheveled, disorganized, and there is no work-wear to be seen. The quality of the stores must vary quite a bit based on location (although I have been to one in a more affluent area and I still saw the same problem). Also, Target’s website is horrible to navigate, so I hate buying anything from them online.

    Final gripe – many of their dresses are too short and they don’t have enough hem at the bottom to let out.

    • other than that, mrs. lincoln, how was the play?

      (co-signing. Also, I’ve tried the Merona knits and found that they start showing wear very quickly (fibers poking out and fading in the wash, even using plenty of “inside out gentle cycle hang to dry” TLC))

    • I agree. Target is great in theory, horrible in practice. The few times I’ve actually been able to locate a nice workwear item in a store, I’ve been very happy with my purchase.

    • Agree about the Target stores. It just takes too much time to find anything decent that fits, and the savings do not quite make up for lost time (for me at least).
      I would recommend shopping at discount stores like Marshalls. It would take about the same amount of effort to find what you need, but you may find quality items from reliable mid-level brands like Calvin Klein or Tahari, at a comparable cost.
      No experience in comparative workwear shopping, but I usually find better values in exercise clothes at Marshalls, Loehmanns etc.

    • Diana Barry :

      Agreed. There are no good women’s clothes in the Target near me AT ALL.

    • Maine Associate :


      • I live in the midwest where shopping is limited so Targets around here are always well stocked. I totally agree RE: their website navigation. It is terrible.

    • Easily solved by ordering online then returning in stores. That’s what I do even though I have access to tons of Targets – why bother with the hassle? Free shipping over $50.

      • Didn’t see your gripe about the website, but yes I agree it’s a pain but I just got 4 fab pairs of shoes for under $60 total from clearance, so it was well worth the navigation for me!

    • Definitely order online if you don’t have a well-stocked Target near you. I get tons of work stuff from Target and I find that either gentle wash or dry cleaning helps maintain the garments. My ponte dresses are in decent shape after a few years because I dry clean them. Even though it’s an added expense, it’s worth it to me because the dresses are comfortable, fit well and always get a ton of compliments. Also, I work on the legal side of financial services though I am not a practicing atty… my office is conservative biz cas- i.e. suits for meetings, otherwise nice pants/skirt, sweater sets, blouses, blazers, etc. I might not bust out my Target stuff for client meetings but they’re great for everyday office wear.

  4. Cassie: Didn’t consider Target before. Interesting! Now that I am checking out the website, they have all these ponte dresses on sale….has anyone ever tried them on? Super cheap-o polyester or decent?

    • I think the ponte dresses are decent. I have a couple and I think they’ve held up well. Granted, I don’t wear them all that often (just because I have too many dresses!) but they seem to still be in good shape 1 or 2 years later.

  5. Plusses of the ponte knit pencil skirt: Awesome fabric, nice length for taller ladies, fun seasonal colors

    Cons: It is VERY fitted. I’m between a medium and a large, and even the large was way too curve-hugging to be office appropriate. I’d wear this to dinner, but I’d feel way self-conscious in my conservative office. I’m pear-shaped, so perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue for apples.

    Also, I cannot figure out why you’d buy three pairs of cheapo shoes that fall apart quickly instead of buying one nice pair of mid-range shoes.

    • I concur about the shoes! In the early stages of my career, I preferred one pair at $50-60 price point vice 4 pairs at Payless price point. Moderately priced shoes (Nine West/Steve Madden) are commonly found at a discount in the major department stores sales, DSW on an almost continual basis.

      • I have purchased higher priced shoes but have rarely had success in finding a pair that was really comfortable when I was doing alot of walking. I have wider feet so that could be the challenge in finding the perfect fit but Target’s have never left me with blisters so I have a special love for them.

        • I agree. For me, the moderately priced shoes aren’t any more comfortable or nicer than the cheapo shoes, especially with how much I walk (NYC subway commuter here). If I go up to Cole Haan-level shoes, they really are better. The more moderate shoes (Nine West, I’m looking at you!) just don’t work for me.

    • Similar here on the Target pencil skirts. I am a 14 traditionally, and in most Target clothes, and I cannot even possibly squeeze myself into the 18 in their pencils skirts. Just an FYI.

    • Midwest, how long is the skirt? I’m guessing that if it’s good for tall people, it will be way too long on my 5’2 self.

  6. TJ (but maybe you could incorporate this into your business wardobe!): Any intel on the Nordstrom Anniv. Sale scarf: Nordstrom Collection ‘Painted’ Jacquard Cashmere Scarf, which comes in many beautiful colors. I may have just ordered a whole bunch as gifts sight-unseen. Link to follow


      • Does anyone know how to tie a scarf as in the denim colorway? So pretty!

        • Yes. It’s super easy. Here are instructions.

    • Would you add me to your gift list? ;) No intel, but it looks gorgeous.

    • I ordered it in denim. It looked very nice. Lightweight. But I never took it out of the package before returning it because it was actually purple and too similar to one I already have.

  7. kerrycontrary :

    I think Target is a nice option for those who are on a tight budget, and whenever I see someone at work dressed poorly I know that they could’ve had the option of at least buying something from target. BUT I would rather invest in clothes that last than those that probably fit poorly and will fall apart quickly. I don’t buy cheap shoes because they are bad for your feet, especially classic black flats. Invest in a good pair that is actually comfortable! Because the writer is young she probably doesn’t notice the diservice she’s doing to her feet, knees, hips, and backs from wearing poorly made shoes. So even though I’m on a budget I’m that girl who will rotate 10 outfits made from quality material rather than have a ton of cheap clothes.

    • hear hear!

    • Cornellian :

      I want to be that girl, but continually fail at it. I’m working on it! My first Nordstrom purchase was made this morning!

      • kerrycontrary :

        It’s so worth it! And I do not have a lot of spending money due to living in an expensive city/graduate student loans. But I’ll buy one pair of designer jeans that fit so well and have them for 3 years. And boots that can last for 5-10 with re-soling.

        • anon for this :

          I wish I had thought about this at 20. I’ve been the same size since then and maybe could have slowly invested through the years. instead everytime I start a new job with a new dress code I have to get lots of new pieces all at once, which means they’re low quality, low labor standards, etc.

    • So hear you on the cheap shoes! I started out with shoes from Target and a couple of suits from Rosses, because I was broke. I actually really liked the shoes (very cute design), but even with all the drugstore inserts, they just got to be too uncomfortable. I’m in my 30s, and I need better quality support than they can give me. Once I could afford them, I started transitioning upwards in quality, and yes, price.

      The other thing is that people *do* notice the quality: it’s forgivable if you are young/starting out. But if you keep wearing only that level, or don’t indicate that you are improving the quality of your clothes slowly over time, people will begin to talk. At least they did in my company, which was in marketing/PR.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      This is my philosophy as well. I wear the same things over and over and over, but they are all high quality and are lasting very well. Same goes for shoes – I have four pairs of work shoes which I wear at some point every week. Now I just need to figure out that whole “accessories” thing to liven up my well made but classic (boring!) wardrobe.

    • locomotive :

      in this vein – does anyone have a rec for black flats that are really supportive? I am willing to pay up the wazoo for flats that don’t hurt my feet after a few hours of walking too. I have a medium/regular arch that often feels terrible at the end of the day.

      • Austin diva :

        Try for comfy flats.

        • Chilled Coyote :

          They are having a great sale right now, and I got an additional 15% off the sale price with promo code “natlovecc”. It worked today for me! Nice flats on their way here to me.

      • Have you thought about Danskos? They are super-supportive. They’re the kind of shoes nurses wear.

    • I don’t know…I buy a lot of higher quality shoes but wear through them SO FAST. They just don’t last in NYC, with the exception of cole haan but those shoes are so stiff for the first couple of months they give me blisters. I have tried getting special soles placed on my shoes but that doesn’t help too much. Sometimes I think I should buy cheaper shoes. My suits are all Theory but I like the idea of buying inexpensive, but still cute, shirts from target.

  8. momentsofabsurdity :

    I am barely holding it together today. My parents don’t want me to change my flight, but it looks like my grandfather won’t make it til tomorrow, when I fly out. I am trying to focus on work but I’m just a mess. I’ve got the funeral clothes all packed and ready and I wish I could just fast forward to actually getting to where he is.

    Not a fan of today.

    • UnTargeted :

      Fly out today. You only have on grandfather.

      Good luck.

      • UnTargeted :

        one grandfather.

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        I would but my parents are worried having too many people come at once will overwhelm him so relatives are coming in waves – my sister flies out today and I leave tomorrow.

        I’m worried about making things harder on them, especially on my dad (they’d have to loan me the money for flight changes, and they just spent a ton on last minute airfare for themselves). I’m trying to do what I can to make things easier for them – I compiled the email list of extended family/friends we’ll need to contact when he passes, drafted the email, that sort of thing. I’ve also sent emails to my grandfather that my mom is reading to him out loud – he’s pretty much consistently not conscious at this point, but it makes me feel better.

        • Fly out today and hold off on visiting him if it looks like he’ll make it through the night. That way if he takes a turn for the worst, you’re there.

    • I’ve been there (lost both my grandparents in the last three years). I’m so sorry. This part is so hard.

    • So sorry. This sucks. You could see this so many ways. You could move heaven and earth to get there and it could turn out that he is unconscious when you get there – or he could hang on. So uncertain. When my grandmother passed away, I was in grad school and my mom didn’t want me to go because she didn’t want me to see my grandmother that way. We had such great times together, I have lots of memories of her well. When my mom passed away a year later, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else but in that room holding her hand.

      • Cornellian :

        to the original poster, I’m sorry. I second that maybe if you can get there tonight, you can just hang around if it looks like he’ll make it through the night.

        My only grandparent and my only parent died two years apart, and I think the desire to sort of protect the next oldest generation from the youngsters’ eyes is a common and understandable one.

    • I’m so sorry. Tell your boss you need to go home and call the airlines and beg for mercy. hugs

    • Perhaps contact the airline and see if you can get a sympathetic agent to waive or reduce the change fee? Even if the family knew this was coming, its still such a hard time and your parents may be happier to have you there now than they anticipated. So sorry.

    • On second thought, if you feel comfortable (and I’m not sure this is possible) but what airline are you flying? I have some random points/miles that I would be more than willing to transfer if it would help.

      • Motoko Kusanagi :

        Regardless of whether or not the OP takes you up on this offer, you rock.

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        This is why I love this website!

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        Wow, thank you so much, but I couldn’t accept that. It’s an incredible offer though and I really truly appreciate it. I’m on the phone with the airline now to see what the cost is to change the flights (and if there even is a flight out today). If not, I will definitely be changing the flight to the first thing tomorrow as opposed to mid afternoon.

        • Yes, yes you can accept. This is exactly what (virtual) friends are for. I have a round trip on Southwest that’s expired that you can have if we can figure out how to transfer it over. I think it’s $50 to reactivate them.

          My grandfather is currently dying slowly after several rounds of “come now, he won’t make it through the night,” but I am fortunate enough to be an hour away via car and can make the trip quickly. It sucks that you’re a flight away. I would be happy to give my SW tix to you.

        • You are welcome, but seriously it is not big deal! I have some and never use them so if you change your mind, just let me know. I wish you and your family the best in going through this.

    • Hugs. Change your flight if you can.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Thanks everyone – this is the push I needed to go ahead and change the flights myself. I’m on hold now but I think I’ll feel better just doing something (traveling) rather than feeling stuck in this inertia of waiting.

      I really appreciate all the kind thoughts. This has been a rough week for me and this community is incredibly supportive.

      • Good luck with the airline. I really hope they come through. I am always touched by the amazing decency of people at difficult times like these, and hopefully you will encounter one of those good individuals. Don’t hesitate to ask to speak to someone else if you don’t.

        I am so sorry you are going through this.

    • OC Lawyer :

      Even if you don’t fly today, leave work. Go do something that feels right (take a walk, sit in a house of worship, whatever). My grandma died when I was in my early 20s and living 3500 miles away. I worked through the day. It still feels wrong, more than 20 years later.

  9. UnTargeted :

    I haven’t seen these particular items IRL, but I’ve been to Target, and their clothes often look cheap. I’d look for sales and buy two or three quality black skirts, a matching jacket, and a cardigan that could work as a jacket. I’d look for online sales and nice thrift stores for tops, etc.

    It probably can’t be done for $150, but I think dressing in Target for any kind of serious professional job is a mistake. Many people have an eye for details. Cheap fabric can be made to look OK with the right photography and lighting; not so in real life.

    • sugarmagnolia :

      I beg to differ. It depends on the salary range for that job. I am a legal aid lawyer. My salary is very very low, and it isn’t unusual to see other legal aid/non-profit lawyers wearing Target/Kohl’s clothing because they just cannot afford anything else.

      If someone making more money than I do scoffs at my “cheap” fabric clothing, they will quickly learn that I am a very competent, friendly and well-regarded professionally. To judge only on the quality of my skirt fabric is a mistake and quite rude IMHO. I would recommend that those who would harshly judge based on their belief my clothes didn’t cost enough to take their “eye for detail” and apply it to their work, not just their fashion sense.

      Sorry for being a little catty, but I really felt that comment was out of line.

      • So first, I completely agree and I think that many target pieces look fine and even great.

        lately there has been a ton of corpor3tt3 comments like this though. like “don’t judge me on the quality of my skirt fabric” “who are you to judge me based on my heel height” and this blog was literally founded on the judging of people based on work wear. I just find it really funny. back in the old days of r3tte people used to say you can’t wear a poly suit to an interview!

        • Agreed on both counts.

          Of course, I’m wearing one of my Target doubleweave skirts today, to my conservative law office job. The Horror. And I’ve even paired it with a Target cardigan over a silk shell.

          I also have “quality” pieces in my wardrobe. But I also have gems from Target that I adore, both for work and for play. Especially now, as I’m in the process of losing weight, it doesn’t make sense (for me, at least) to spend a lot of money on my clothing, as I don’t anticipate being able to wear it for years to come. When my weight stabilizes? Sure, I’ll look at a Brooks Brothers suit a little differently.

          • AttiredAttorney :

            Love that Target doubleweave skirt! I’ve bought it in six colors. For $20/each, they’ve been fantastic summer transition pieces as I’ve lost weight.

      • No she wasn’t out of line. She said you could do better buying used clothing. I purchased a brand new Jones New York suit for 6 dollars at a thrift store that I wore my first year out of law school.

        • There are trade-offs with thrifting, though – it takes a lot more time, may require alterations, and you won’t get much value out of the trip if you don’t know quite a bit about clothes.

          If I had thrifted my first professional wardrobe, I would have looked like a time traveler from the 80s and I would have been completely unaware of it. Do you think people would be more snarky about that then they would about a Target wardrobe?

    • MissJackson :

      I’m in BigLaw (and I think I have a pretty good eye for detail) and I’m wearing a top from Target today (it’s a cotton tie front blouse, and it’s adorable — this in the neutral print: So while it might be tricky to build an entire work wardrobe from Target, there are certainly pieces that can fit in nicely, and I don’t think that it should automatically be dismissed.

      I also agree that Target tends to be wildly unorganized and the website is a freaking nightmare. Which is why I either go browse in-store on a day when I have lots of time (and when I do not have my impatient husband in tow), or I just wait for one of the brilliant ladies here to link to something fabulous on the website.

      • MissJackson :

        By the way, if anyone wants to order the shirt that I linked to, size down. I’m pretty reliably a medium, sometimes a large in tops from designers that cut smaller (Theory, Nanette Lapore, Elie Tahari, etc.). I bought this Target top in a small and it’s still slightly blousey.

      • mintberrycrunch :

        I have that blouse in two colors and I’m wearing it today, too. Totally agree that if you’re willing to hunt, Target can have great pieces.

      • Agreed. An entire Target wardrobe would be hard to pull off beyond an entry-level position, but if the pieces fit well they can easily integrate with one’s professional wardrobe. The keys are fit, as mentioned, making sure that everything is well coordinated and polished, and (most importantly) wearing these pieces with confidence.

        Right now Target is probably 30% of my wardrobe; the bulk of the rest is Brooks Brothers, Eileen Fisher and Max Mara. Yesterday I wore black Target pants with a $350 sweater. I don’t have a ton of clothes, but I know what I like. I shop similarly for my kids — their wardrobes are probably 40% Target and 60% J Crew and Hanna Andersson, with some Gap mixed in.

        I also think that Target shoes have a place. I commute to work and its hard on my shoes; I have nice shoes that I wear in the office but I’m not opposed to a cheap pair of black flats that I don’t have to worry about preserving. Not related to my professional wardrobe, I also use Target pieces to try trends; skinny white jeans and turquoise sandals kind of stuff. I also used Target clothes a lot when coming back to work after materinty leave.

        Finally, ponte skirts are absolutely wonderful in the winter with thick black tights. I haven’t tried the Target version, but probably will now!

        • financial anon :

          Agreed as well! I’m a financial associate at a regional, mid-sized conservative financial firm. Our office is business casual, but a lot of the men still wear suits. Most of the women wear slacks/skirts and blouses, cardigans, and blazers. I’ve gotten some pencil skirts at Target that have lasted for 2+ years – I’m only 5’3″, so what’s short on the model is usually appropriate for me. I’m willing to spend a more money on some of my more classic pieces, but as for shells or cardigans that I want in 10 colors?? I would rather spend $15-$20 on them and have tons. Plus, you can usually ones at Target that are mostly cotton, which I love.

          I also do like Meep said, and try some of-the-moment trend pieces at Target – neons, colored pants, etc. I’ve also gotten some great bags at Target! I got a wonderfully constructed canvas tote that was used as book bag in college, and I’ve purchases some smaller clutches there that I knew I would only be using a few times.

          I think YMMV depending on your location/season/available stock, but I really enjoy being able to work more variety into my wardrboe by integrating more affordable pieces.

    • I disagree too. I mostly wear Target for non-work wear because most of their skirts and dresses are too short for me for the office (I’m 5’10”), but I have several jersey dresses that are in regular rotation during the summer at my (admittedly pretty casual) Biglaw office. I wear the Merona cardigans year-round. At $20 a pop (less on sale) they are incredibly affordable and have held up as well or better than cardigans from much more expensive brands like Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. They don’t pill and hold their shape well. I think sometimes you pay for a brand name as opposed to higher quality fabric.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Yep. I’m wearing a Target embellished knit top today that is still going strong in its second summer, along with my J Crew linen skirt and Ann Taylor striped blazer. And I definitely have a Serious Professional Job.

      Plus one of my favorite jackets ever was a black cotton summer jacket I got at Target some years ago for something like $35. I wore that thing at least once a week for two years until I lost weight and it no longer fit. The day I finally passed it on was a sad day!

  10. Boston Legal Eagle :

    I found some great work pieces at Target back when I was at my legal assistant job in 08-09, mostly from the Merona brand. I still wear some of the nicer tops – they’ve actually held up well despite many washes/dries. It seems like there are less nice pieces available now though, based on my cursory glance of the website. Too bad.

  11. LegalBeagle :

    Sorry for the threadjack. I’m going to a bal masque with a date. It is a work event, and something of a big deal since he’s getting honored there. I don’t want to embarrass him by going all-out in a poofy gown, but I don’t want to be under-dressed either. They will be providing the masks and other costume decor. What should I wear? short cocktail dress, mid-knee, or full-length? I’m thinking an lbd to play it safe, but would that be too casual for a bal masque?

    • Is there any way you can ask him if there’s someone you can ask about attire for this? I understand this might be awkward… Alternatively, have you googled to see if there are any pictures from previous events? Barring any inside intel, I would be inclined to wear a full-length dress, but something simple/sleek/chic. That way, if everyone else is in ball gowns, you still have a long dress and look sophisticated. If people are in shorter dresses, yours is longer, but still very elegant and would blend more than something long and elaborate.

  12. In Defense of this Post :

    Ooosh – everyone is being a little hard on this post.

    Obviously, if you have $2500 to drop on your wardrobe, then don’t shop at Target. Nobody is arguing that Target is comparable to true quality brands. Nobody is sitting around saying, hmmm, shall I go to Target or Brooks Brothers today?

    But for those of us who either are starting out, and genuinely do have less than $200 to spend on our wardrobe until after we start getting paychecks, or need to drop in and get something in hurry, for spilled coffee, unexpected travel snafu, etc – or if we just want to try a different type of dress but aren’t ready to drop $150 on a new style before we try it for $19.99 – then Target is perfect.

    So please be kind. Target has a place for us ladies. Let’s not overly bash it.

    • True story: the princess of a small European country once asked me, at a beach party, if my Target dress was Missoni.

      Moral: there is quality to be found there, and for the budget shopper, it can be a godsend. The young woman starting her first grown-up job is not going to be a Brooks Brothers shopepr, at least not if she’s on her own dime (or needs to stock up before she even has her first paycheck).*

      *With the obvious disclaimer that yes, some entry level positions in law, banking, consulting, etc. do pay very well – but that’s not who this is pitched to.

    • I sincerely wish these types of Target clothes had been available back when I was starting out (admittedly many years ago). Back then, Target was just t-shirts and cheap jeans. When I first graduated from college, there were not nearly as many options as there are today for inexpensive professional wear.

    • This. I know about the whole “fast fashion is bad” thing, and do agree with it to a point, but stores like Target, H&M, and Old Navy can be a nice way to try a new trend without sinking a ton of money into it. Where I work, Target, done right, is totally acceptable. By “done right” I mean sticking to the simpler clothing items (the ponte dresses and skirts would be great, and I still love love love my lime green doubleweave pencil skirt!), mostly the Merona and Mossimo lines, and not choosing anything that screams “juniors section” or “fashion victim.”

      I also agree that Target’s website is pretty bad, but on the other hand it’s very convenient (for me at least) to order a bunch of stuff from the website and just return it to one of the 3 stores near me. And the 90-day return policy rocks!
      I do agree, though, about the shoes. I would not buy Target shoes, mostly because I cannot tolerate non-leather shoes. You can find great deals on nice shoes at the DSW clearance section, sales at department stores, or places like

    • Diana Barry :

      I’m not trying to bash Target, I just find Old Navy stores and website much better to find things that fit me (long enough, etc) and look nice at the same price point. Plus I have a BR card so always get free shipping there.

      • Merabella :

        I agree that I’ve had more success at Old Navy than at Target, and that the ON website is SO much easier to navigate. I’ve worn ON dresses to work and I always get complemented on them.

        But with budget stores it is always hit or miss. I think that the great thing about this post is that it shows you there are other options out there.

      • The Old Navy brick and mortar stores are awful, though. Every one I’ve been in has been dirty, dusty, overstuffed, have clothes on the floor in various places, and have no employees on the floor. I hate shopping there.

    • Legally Brunette :

      My former secretary bought most all of her dresses at Target and always looked really put together and professional. Not bashing Target’s clothes, I’m more annoyed at how disorganized their stores are and how difficult their website is to navigate.

    • Lady Harriet :

      If you have a small amount of money, but a reasonable amount of time to shop, thrifting will get you much farther for professional clothing than Target will. I’m a university research assistant, so I don’t have to wear suits to work, although my university is much more formal than the average, so we’re on the upper end of business casual (men have to wear ties and a jacket, at least during the school year). I have gotten every piece of my work wardrobe aside from shoes from thrift stores or garage sales and probably spent less than $150.

      I don’t make a lot of money even now (certainly not compared to most!) but I was able to assemble most of what I wear to work now when I was either unemployed after graduating college last year or making $8 an hour in my last job. I even bought a wool Pendleton pantsuit for $15 at a thrift store this spring. I can buy Talbots and Ann Taylor used for less than I can buy Target new, and the clothes last a whole lot longer. I do buy work shoes new, since cheap unsupportive shoes cause me pain and it’s hard to thrift good ones, but I try to get them on sale. If you do get cheap shoes, it’s worth spending $10 on some good insoles for them.

      I realize that buying used takes more time and effort that buying new, but if time is easier to come by than money then I think it’s the most reasonable option.

      • I also agree with this. I have thrifted most of my blazers and most of my jeans (so I can try on a ton of sizes & brands all in one place). It’s hard to beat a BCBG blazer for less than $20. Unfortunately my favorite thrift store is 2.5 hours away and I haven’t found one near me that has anything worthwhile to buy.

        The down side of thrifting is it takes time and patience. Lots of time & patience. And it can be hard to find a good thrift store IME.

        • Lady Harriet :

          Yeah, I’ve noticed a huge variation by geography. I’m originally from Wisconsin, where there were a decent number of thrift stores, but they often were expensive, full of junky clothes, or both. I’m in Florida now and it is thrift heaven! The number of stores isn’t much higher (especially relative to the population), but they’re cheaper and have nicer clothes in them. The closest one to me is a Goodwill in an extremely impoverished town, but donations get sent there from ritzy areas nearby, so I’ve seen some amazing deals ( a$2 Brooks Brothers cashmere knit shell, for example)

      • Merabella :

        The real caveat to buying thrifted clothing is size. I think most of the time the availability of plus sized clothes at thrift stores is limited (honestly it is limited everywhere). If you are on the smaller end there really are some great things to be had at thrift stores.

        • Lady Harriet :

          Oh absolutely! I’ve dropped from around a size 18-20 to a 12-14 over the last 5 years, and it definitely makes it easier to find things. My mom wears around a 20-22 and she has more trouble finding clothes than I do. It’s still possible when you wear larger sizes, but the selection is smaller. Depending on where I shop there are still some places where the clothes are all too small. The worst are things that don’t even have number sizes. It’s bad enough that I can wear anywhere between a 10 and a 16 from brand to brand, but when S-XXL all has a possibility of fitting depending on the maker shopping takes much longer. I enjoy the thrill of the chase, so to speak, so I don’t mind trying on dozens of garments to find a few that fit, but that’s completely off-putting for some.

      • Agreed. And consignment stores! Love them.

    • I agree. I live in Canada so I don’t get to shop at Target very often (yet) but 2.5 years ago I bought a zebra print knit dress at Target that is like a shirt dress but the buttons don’t go all the way down the front. Anyway, it works well in my business casual workplace although I usually wear a blazer or cardi over to tone it down a little – it’s a lot of print.

      Anyway, it fits & flatters me very well and every time I wear it (which isn’t super often because it’s so distinctive) I get compliments. Not bad for a $20 dress!

      I’m just hoping that I will be able to get some of these cute dresses that are often posted here at the Canadian Target stores when they open!

    • Research, Not Law :

      Agree. I’m excited to see this post. I would have loved something like this when I was a fresh graduate. It’s hard when you need to start on Monday but won’t get paid for at least two weeks. This was a great layout of how someone could put together enough to make it until they slowly assembled a full work wardrobe.

      It’s certainly a heck of a lot better than what I’ve see newbies wear when they start.

      • You’re absolute right, Research, Not Law. It’s hard when you need to start on Monday but won’t get paid for at least two weeks. A lot of folks on this website forget what that was (is) like. Wear what you can afford and take care of your clothes, no matter where you bought them from.

  13. manomanon :

    TJ but…
    Please cross your fingers for me? I have my first interview for a grown up job in a few hours and I’m terrified! I’m well prepared but that doesn’t stop nerves.
    Send me good vibes ‘ettes?

    • Boston Legal Eagle :

      Good luck! Keep telling yourself how much you’ve accomplished so far and how you deserve to get this. I think one of my best interviews came after I found out I got a callback somewhere else – it just put me more at ease and probably made me more confident, or at least appear that way!

  14. TurtleWexler :

    TJ: the Blue Angels are flying around outside my office window. This is making it very hard to get work done. Thank goodness it’s a slow day…

    • I love the Blue Angels! I’m so jealous.


      Sigh…I miss Seafair.

      • TurtleWexler :

        Yep! They’ll be practicing tomorrow, too. Yesterday was the Parade of Ships, and as our office suite looks over the Sound and gave perfect views of the event, it was hard to get work done then, as well. So basically, this week is a write-off. I’m just glad to have a boss who is even more interested in all this than I am :)

        • Last year (my last Seafair in Seattle), I was stuck inside doing a horrible deal the whole Blue Angels weekend. Which was, as I’m sure you remember, also only of the only nice weekeneds ALL SUMMER.

    • Yay Seafair! I work way north of the city, and we don’t get them flying near us like the lucky people in Seattle.

    • So glad I’m traveling and not trying to work from home today! They are so loud.

  15. I am a banana. :

    Litigator here, if that matters to anyone.

    Half of my work dresses are from Target. I’ve found them to hold up very well, about the same as similar fabrics from Ann Taylor, Banana or J.Crew (but not as well as the ponte dresses from Talbots, which are my favorite). My favorite dress ever was a black tab waist ponte one from Target. I think it was my first C*rette inspired purchase. I wore it into the ground but got two solid years of compliments and cuteness out of it, if that helps anyone. Their Mossimo sheaths are also solid buys. I have two which are well into their third year of roughly once a month wear.

    On to what Target does not do well (shoes and suits). I bought that really cute pair of suede wedges they had (I think they were featured on this site, even). They were uncomfortable and the suede literally separated from the shoe after a few wears. Their suiting does not fit well and usually screams rayon blend, but I’m going to check out those skirts featured here, because they look cute.

    Finally, I do not buy things on the Target website. The fits are all over the place. It is a try before you buy kind of place. Their best workwear selections are in suburban areas, at least in California.

    • I have the Mossimo sheath in several colors. I consistently get compliments on them, and everyone in the office is shocked when I tell them they’re from Target.

      And FWIW: Mine are also in their third year of wear, each about once or twice a month. They still look new.

  16. anon for this :

    I just went to a new ob/gyn for an annual, and had two strange experiences

    1. My breast is lumpy :( I have to go to get a sonogram.

    2. I explained I had been on NuvaRing (LOVE) for 8 years, and that I loved it, but I was worried because I knew there were interactions with anticonvulsants like depakote (which I’ve started taking). She asked me if I was epileptic, and I said I had bipolar. I know she meant well, but she made a series of three comments about how I seemed so normal! and she knew people who were sick with bipolar, and I wasn’t like them! etc. Awkward. Mental health awareness level isn’t something I look for in my ob/gyn, really, but if my diagnosis were something more “shameful” or I were in a less stable mood, that could have gone badly. Weird.

    • Yikes. Maybe this is just a foot-in-mouth situation, but I would not be thrilled and would switch doctors!

      • sugarmagnolia :

        I agree. This is incredibly unprofessional, and shows that she might have a poor bedside manner. I am the type that would have said something about it being inappropriate but I am just “like that” as most of you who read my posts probably noticed. :)

    • Wow. How unprofessional. That would be out of line from anyone, but you expect much, much more from a doctor.

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      She totally crossed the line. I would have called her out on it and if she wasn’t sincerely sorry I would probably get another doctor. I just won’t stand for it when the people I pay for a service treat me like crap.

      • lawsuited :

        Barrister in the Bayou – not that this is the perfect moment to say this, but I love, love, love your handle, and wish, wish, wish that I were a barrister in the Bayou!

        • I love that she uses “in” the bayou. I picture her actually in a bayou.

    • i'm like this too :

      You may have fibrocystic breasts – I do. Its very common and not at all dangerous. Good on you for getting a sonogram and taking care of this now!

      On a different note, I actually have had several tumors removed from my left breast but none were dangerous enough to be worried – although I do check every month for any new growths. So even if something is wonky, it can be generally caught very early and there is no need to panic too much. When I read my diary from that time, I almost laugh at how big of a panic I got myself into over the big c- word.

    • Anonymous :

      #1: I wouldn’t be too scared about it – my breasts are lumpy as well and I had to have a sonogram. Not knowing how how old you are, my doctor described it as “young” breasts (I’m in my early 30s) are more prone to lumps than “older” breasts, and also if you’re about to start your period, you will have more lumps than normal. Good luck.

    • Liz (Europe) :

      Don’t worry just yet about the boobies – could be anything from hormones to inflammation.
      Relax on the comment. She essentially complimented how you’re coping so well; think, “I’ve got them all fooled, mwuahahaha!”

    • Agree with everyone else that the comments were inappropriate. I used to love the PA/RN at my doctor’s office (she did the annual exams) until she made some really inappropriate comments that I won’t go into here… I ended up moving so I haven’t seen her again, but even if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gone back to her. I’m completely understanding of people having a bad day and saying something that is less than appropriate, but when comments reveal a certain bias it’s hard to come back from that.

      On the “lumpy” point… it’s probably nothing to be concerned about. I had a benign fibroadenoma years ago, and had surgery so I wouldn’t constantly have to monitor and agonize over it, and nothing since. If it is something, you will cross that bridge when you come to it, and be able to avail yourself of wonderful medical and tech advancements that previous generations couldn’t, and this site will be a source of ready support. I still remember when soulfusion found her lump and got her diagnosis… the support of people in real life is likely more important, but I was so touched by the outpouring of support and checking in that the women of this site exhibited. So know that — good or bad — your c0rp0rett3 sisters are here for you :-)

      • anon for this :

        This site really is pretty awesome.

        • Another sister here with lumpy B’s.

          A doctor told me once that there was some suspicion that caffeine caused some lumps/density, but that wasn’t conclusive. So I cut to 2 cups of coffee a day.

  17. I find the occasional cute thing for work at Target. I wouldn’t get suiting separates there, but some of their skirts and dresses are very cute and in nice sheath shapes. Especially in winter they have some sleeved dresses in really pretty jewel tones. Unfortunately I am rather tall, so sometimes when I find something at Target that is otherwise perfectly acceptable, just the length makes me say no. In general, I’d say Target is for mixing fun/ more trendy items/colors you will wear less often into your wardrobe though without breaking the bank, not for providing the basis of your work wear.

  18. Any suggestions for places to shop for us Canadians who are sadly Target-less?

    • Canadianon :

      Sometimes, Zellers has surprisingly nice things. The Alfred Sung line mostly, and you have to hunt through a lot of not-great things. But I’ve found a couple dresses that would work well under a blazer or cardigan, and they seem to be holding up.

      My mom has had some luck with Joe Fresh (the Superstore/Loblaws clothing brand). Their stuff never seems to fit me that well, and I don’t find their prices *that* good, but your mileage may vary.

      Finally, Sears’ Jessica line is kind of boring, but serviceable. (Again, a lot of frumpyish things, but you can find some solid basic dress pants/skirts.) Good value for the price, and the material doesn’t look cheap.

  19. eastbaybanker :

    I shop at Target and at Nordstrom, so I don’t buy into this us/them mentality. I like my quick fun fashion fixes, but I also get that some basics should be of higher quality. I shop in person at Target always. It’s impossible to gauge quality online, and it varies widely. There tend to be more professional clothes in the fall and winter.

    Things I heart from Target:
    > Trendy printed cotton scarves for under $13. You could get tissue weight wool scarves from J Crew or Nordstrom or BR, but the thin gauzy cotton scarves drape very well. I always carefully remove the tag so hopefully nobody will know the difference.
    > Skinny leather belts for $10-$15. Just as cute as J Crew and great if you don’t want to pay $40 for a trendy color, like this summer’s neons.
    > Undergarments. There are cute cotton panties for $5. Also, the Spanx line for Target is good quality and cheaper. I also stock up on camisoles.
    > Merona cardigans for $22. I avoid the polyster ones and also patterns and prints, which scream Target. But I like my white cardigans to be very bright and new looking, and since my laundry skills are mediocre, I’d rather replace a cheap white cotton cardigan regularly than buy a pricier one.
    > Tanks for layering. So many fun colored tanks, perfect for layering without making a big financial commitment. I think it’s crazy to pay Nordstrom prices for a tank top.
    > Black knit or jersey anything. I’ve found that I can get away with cheaper stuff in black knits and jersey. Maybe because the dark color disguises cheap clothes giveaways like a seam at the bottom of a skirt, instead of a hem stitch. The dress cuts lately have been awful but ever once in a while, a well designed jersey dress will come along.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      This Nordie’s kung fu black belt needs scarves, leather belts, and cheap Spanx. I know what I’m doing this weekend :) Thanks eastbaybanker!

    • Senior Attorney :

      In addition to all of the above, don’t forget the Gilligan and O’Malley knockoffs of the Soma Vanishing Edge panties!

      And I have had great luck with Target’s Champion line of workout wear. It goes on sale all the time and holds up really well.

      • Ditto on the Champion workout gear. I also get my gym socks and pajamas at Target.

    • I second all of your hearts. However, I don’t really buy the cardigans anymore (I just don’t need them…) unless I need a specific color for a specific outfit for a specific event (say, I need a teal cropped cardi to throw over a dress that I’m wearing to a casual wedding.) The long sleeved v-neck Ts are also great.

  20. Anne Shirley :

    Love this post and would like more like it. Transitioning to fall for $200?

  21. Advertising? :

    This is not a post about building a professional wardrobe on a budget. This is post about buying clothes at Target.

    I read that Cassie “has no affiliation with Target” but is this a sponsored post? Is she, or Kat, hoping to become “affiliated” with Target? I’m asking because the buzzmarketing for Target has gotten a little excessive on this site— every Friday features a Target piece, and now we have yet another Target post.

    • That’s a fair comment. I think that this could have been written differently as “here are some things to help build a work wardrobe and cheap versions I found at Target.” It does feel a lot like the basic idea is Mossimo from Target is good for work. I think the added value the author brings is that she has checked out a lot of these pieces in person. And she did find some good sale pieces (pumps for $13, pants for $10). I’m a Target fan so I actually started looking forward to Friday being Kat’s favorite new thing from Target day. But I understand what you’re saying.

  22. londongirl :

    I love corporette really….I just feel a lil bit left out when stores based in the US are being discussed. Does anyone know of any UK based substitute for target?

  23. Liz (Europe) :

    Well over here where I live we don’t have target, but we have – from what I understand – similar stores. A shopping spree at the end of the summer or winter sales will usually yield several wool pencil skirts in black, and a ton of decent basic collared shirts, all for under 10 euros a piece. Same for wool v-neck knit sweaters and the like, and those replace jackets for most occasions readily. Getting everything (except shirts) in black helps with the mix’n’match (not advised for furry pet owners!) If you’re just starting your first job, it’s a great way to get started; it’s what I did. Eventually you’re going to need to upgrade though.
    Not sure what you would need a black dress for, just pair a pencil skirt with something fancy for a shirt.

    • londongirl :

      Thanks Liz, I’ll look out for what the sales in shops like mango and oasis could yield, especially for pencil skirts and tailored trousers.

      • Liz (Europe) :

        If you hit the mainland, try C&A as well; and frankly, one of my cashmere v-necks is from Lidl… Nothing wrong with the quality.
        Nothing at H&M fits well for my figure type but it may be different for other figure shapes. They rarely have wool though.

  24. So, a few things.

    A.) I OWN my PR agency. My clients are mostly NFL players, and I bill over six figures a year.

    B.) I buy almost EVERYTHING I wear at Target, mixing and matching with other pieces.

    C.) I am complimented all the time on how I dress.

    It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. Furthermore, I like my money in the bank and in stock, where it earns interest for me to do fun things like fly wherever the heck I want for the weekend with a moment’s notice, or by a painting from an artist I love that I’ll have forever.

    Some of you need to chill out.

  25. *buy.

  26. IME, Target is hit or miss. Like most stores. But I’ve found some great dresses there that have lasted a few seasons. I like their Merona easy care-easy wear stuff because I can wear it without having to iron. But I have not had success lately with their pants or shoes.

  27. Cassie- I love your article. I always, always keep an open mind to shopping for workwear in nontraditional places. It is not necessary to spend $350 for a ruffle-front blouse that will circulate through my ensembles only once every couple of months. I appreciate you writing an article for those of us who are a bit more down to earth.

  28. Target is great . . . if you stay away from the clothes! Part of looking professional is wearing quality clothing in good condition. If you buy a $20 top from Target, it’s going to show wear and fall apart more quickly than if you purchased a quality top from Marshalls (like another commenter suggested), GAP, or Banana Republic (on sale, of course). Ultimately, you’re going to spend MORE money on clothing to continue to replace pieces that keep falling apart. Save your money, buy classic pieces in the best quality that you can afford, and take care of your clothing so that you’ll look polished and professional.