Friday, October 30, 2015

Disguised as a Civilian

So I have been a civilian now for about a year.  One of the oft stated challenges of those transitioning out of the military is figuring out what to wear every day.  Not me! I love picking out my own clothes.  Uniforms were convenient, no doubt, but were never made to fit a body shape like mine (aka girl shaped, with hips and stuff).   

Assembling a civilian work wardrobe can seem spendy, and since I was going to a job as a contractor for a federal agency (meaning, potentially vulnerable to budget cuts), I wasn't willing to invest significantly.  So here is what I did (over time, not all at once :-)):

1.  Check out the closest outlet mall.  Stores like Back and White, Chicos, Ann Taylor and Talbots are usually there.  Most of the stores at the one by us give a 10-15% military discount :-) and have great sales on holiday weekends.

2.  Find an awesome TJ Maxx (or similar).  I am not sure if this is a fact or not, (since I have checked out a total of 2 locations) but I found the inventory varies somewhat depending on the store.  The TJ Maxx in ritzy Georgetown had lots of great stuff.  

3.  Find good consignment/thrift stores.  Really.  There is a chain called Buffalo Exchange where I have found some great stuff, and we have a local thrift store that my daughter loves that occasionally has a rack of blazers and jackets that I have pounced on.  A $8 wool blazer that you spend $8 to dry clean (thus removing any stranger cooties) is a way better deal than you'll find at the mall.  

4.  Always, always scour the sales racks.  And don't overlook the BX, they carry a couple work-appropriate-but-not-old-ladyish lines that are great.  I have a dress I grabbed off of the sale rack at the BX for $24 that ended up fitting perfectly, is super comfortable, and I get complimented on every time I wear it. (Was I there for a dress? Of course not.)

5.  Shop in your own closet.  There are quite a few things that I hadn't worn very much that now make great work clothes.  I have a top I bought at Target I think in 2004 that still looks great and with black pants and a cardigan is totally work appropriate.  

6.  Take someone shopping with you that isn't afraid to give an opinion.  My 15 year old is good in this role - and she has about a 90 minute shopping trip tolerance that suits us both.  My friend Susan is also a great shopping partner - she knows her stuff! She is great at paring down a full shopping cart into an acceptable (affordable) amount.  

So you all might be shopping pros with a carefully curated closet to whom all of this is obvious, but I am not.  I hope this helps!

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