Ballin’ on a Budget

Dressing on a dime: How to look professional for less

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke

Anyone who knows me well knows that whenever I’m not in public, especially during the summer, one will most likely find me snuggled under a warm blanket, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt and probably reading a book or watching Netflix.

As this past summer drew to a close and I began packing for school, I came to the realization that the pajamas and sweatpants I continually wore simply wouldn’t fulfill my desire to be taken seriously as an academic – I needed some professional wear.

This posed an instant problem: I, a college student, did not have the funds to afford an $100 blazer, $50 dress pants or even $30 tops. As I searched through the Macy’s, Banana Republic, Target, H&M, JC Penny or Talbot’s websites, it quickly became apparent that my budget simply wouldn’t allow for dressing nicely.

Not to mention that, like many people, clothes never fit me quite right, and so I was confronted with the reality of hundreds of dollars of tailoring along with hundreds of dollars of clothes. Not willing to accept looking like I was run over by a truck this year, but also not wanting to pay tons of money for nice clothes, I knew I needed to get creative.

The first place worth checking out isn’t a long walk away. UW-Eau Claire has a really cool program called Campus Closet where students are able to find professional clothing for free. A dressing room is available to try on various combinations. Students only needs their Blugold ID to bring home fresh finds for important job interviews and professional meetings.

This is such a cool opportunity that I wish I had known about earlier! Campus Closet is located on the lowest level of Schofield, next to the Campus Food Pantry, and it’s open from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays. More information can be found by emailing [email protected]. If you ever decide that you don’t need professional clothes anymore, or dislike a color you had, you can donate the clothes to the Campus Closet, or to any thrift store.

If Campus Closet doesn’t suffice, a next best bet would be a thrift shop. My favorite hotspots include Goodwill, Plato’s Closet, Salvation Army or Savers, but many communities have thrift shops that are run by churches or small local businesses that aren’t part of mass chains.

Eau Claire has a couple local places, such as Bethesda Thrift Shop, Hope Gospel Mission Bargain Center or even Ragstock in the mall. The list goes on. Every thrift shop offers cheap, second-hand items. Not only does this help you save some change, but it’s also environmentally-friendly in that it encourages reusing items that some might just throw out.

When I was scouring the racks at Savers, I found a hardly-used women’s blazer for $3.50. Compared to hundreds of dollars, that’s a steal. (But not actually stealing, just to clarify. You do still have to pay for things. Otherwise that is theft, and you will go to jail.)

If no good professional clothing can be found, my advice is to check back at the store every week, or as often as time allows, as these stores get new donations all the time.

Finding cheap professional clothing isn’t hard to do, even with a tight budget. It’s all about knowing the good places to go.

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected].