bougie on a budget.
alright, y'all know I'm the bougie medical student, and one of the things that is important to me is looking the part without blowing a bag. I like to dress nice. I always have. Looking good helps me feel good and feeling good helps me do good. In med school, "doing good" means being productive, getting through my material well, and doing well in my patient encounters. As my body has been changing and I saw what the dress code for my school is like, I quickly realized I needed some new clothes. Because I'm on a pretty fixed budget with my loans for school, I needed to figure out how I could get cute stuff without spending an irresponsible amount of money. When I post my outfits, I get lots of questions, so this post will just be me answering those the best that I can.
What do I wear and how do I decide what to buy?
The dress code at my school is business casual Monday-Friday before 5, except during test week. During test week, after 5 PM, or on the weekends, I can wear what I want, so I was specifically shopping for business casual stuff. At the HBCU I attended for undergrad, business attire meant something different than it does here, so my old stuff wasn't gonna cut it the same way it did before.
I typically look for separates (tops and bottoms instead of dresses) when I shop for a couple of reasons. 1) I can maximize the number of outfits I can get out of a limited number of pieces. 2) I like dresses, but they aren't always practical for me. When I'm just going to school to watch lectures or study, dresses are fine because I'm just sitting. I typically don't wear dresses for patient encounters because we have to do a lot of moving around, so I don't want what I'm wearing to interfere with me doing what I'm there to do. I will occasionally wear a skirt for my encounters, but I always check to see what I'm doing in the encounter and make sure my skirts are around knee length when I do. I'll get more into this a little later. Another reason I don't usually do dresses is because I have to wear a name badge whenever I'm at school, and when I wear dresses, there isn't always somewhere to clip the badge that isn't awkward.
What do I buy?
Like I said, I usually go for separates. I'll get a couple cardigans or blazers, but for the most part, I just get blouses and sweaters for tops. I like neutrals and I like patterns/color-blocking, so I aim for shirts that I can wear with multiple bottoms and shoes. That part is pretty simple. I also try to get pieces I can layer so I don't have to buy all new stuff when the weather changes. I typically buy long sleeve shirts because I'm usually always cold when I at school, so if I do wear a shirt with short sleeves, I usually have a jacket or cardigan with me. Long sleeve shirts just make things easier for me personally. Another thing I'm always conscious of when shopping are my body dimensions. I'm a little "blessed" up top, so I don't buy anything with too low of a neckline. It might be a look, but there's a time and place for everything. School ain't it.
Bottoms are always a little tricky for me though. I'm 5'9" and weigh about 160 lbs. My height:waist:yams ratio is NOT the same as the models' on any of the places where I shop, so pants and skirts require a little more work. The first thing I usually do is see if the website has a tall section for women. Most of these sites deem "tall" as 5'7" and up, but it's usually written somewhere on the site if you're not sure. If there isn't a tall section, I just look at the model information when I see items I like. A lot of the sites list the model's height and size, so I just try to make my judgement from there. Now for me and my body, I know what looks good on me and what I feel good in. High-waisted pants are my go-to. I have a small waist and long legs, so I like for my clothes to accentuate the features I've come to love. I don't usually have to worry about shirts coming untucked and they just look good on me. That's why I wear high-waisted stuff most of the time. I like skinny fit or wide leg pants, but I don't usually go for straight leg out of personal preference. Another thing I look for are pockets. Pockets are clutch and they aren't always there in women's clothes like they are in men's. Having or not having pockets isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, it's just easier for me on days where I have to do more running around. I try to keep my pants basic, as in solid colors. Mine are mostly black because that's my favorite color and it goes with everything. If I do spice it up and get pants that are colored or have patterns, I try to make sure I have at least three tops, cardigans, or blazers that I can wear with them. Pro tip: Don't buy a whole lot of stuff that can be worn with specific outfits. That's limiting what you can do with a set amount of money.
Now as far as shoes go, I typically go for flats nowadays. I love a good heel, but again, time and place. If I'm gonna be standing a lot or walking around a lot, I usually won't do heels because I need to make sure I'm comfortable. I try to keep my shoes neutral too. Black, nude, etc. I also have some patterned shoes because patterned shoes can spice up any outfit and take it from a lil basic to a lil bougie. I stick to loafers, mules, and regular flats. Now I don't do round-toe shoes if I can help it because my feet are long and I don't like how they make my feet look, but if that's your jam then go for it.
Where do I shop and how do I know if the clothes are good?
Since there's still a pon de replay outside, most of my shopping gets done online. When I do shop in person, I'll usually go to TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, Clothes Mentor, or New York & Company if they have a sale going on. The NY&C here went out of business, but I made sure to grab some basic black pants and a couple of other things as part of their closeout sale. You can also find good tops that you can finesse into business casual at stores like Forever 21 and H&M also has a business section, but those have been too hit or miss for me. Oh, Target comes in clutch too. They have nice clothes, but they also have shoes that are nude for my skin tone, which is rare for me so I appreciate that.
SHEIN and Boohoo have been my go-to websites for online shopping. I do have some pieces from FashionNova, but if I am shopping there, it's usually for more casual stuff. I also have some suits from PrettyLittleThing, but that's about it from them.
To know if items are a good buy when I'm shopping online, I follow the same basic rules:
1) I always check the reviews. - I usually won't buy something that doesn't have reviews and I definitely won't buy items with a lot of poor reviews. Customer reviews are typically where the tea is. These websites be catfishing and I don't have time or money to waste on bad stuff. Customer reviews will usually tell if an item feels like good quality, is see-through, tears easily, etc. Some customers are just picky, so try to read a couple to make sure you have a good idea.
2) I look for customer pictures of an item if I can. - Like I said, these websites be catfishing. They can alter lighting, colors, the clothes on the model, etc. to make the items look different than they will when they get to you. I usually look for customer pictures so I can see what the item looks like on a real person with a real body. If possible, I try to look at customer pictures on Black women and women with bodies similar to mine so I know if the material is see-through on darker skin or to get an idea of how it'll look on me.
3) I refuse to pay full price for an order. - Big B and the B stands for BUDGET. Anybody who knows me knows I will say I'm bougie on a budget. My biggest example of this is my online shopping for clothes. There is literally always a coupon code or sale going on with these websites. A lot of them have student discounts if you look for them. If you aren't subscribed to a website's mailing list, there's usually a discount that comes with that. There are also almost ALWAYS sales around holidays or season changes. Don't sleep on the clearance section either. Just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's a bad item. Clearance can always be hit or miss, but hits are still available. On some sites, you can also load up your cart and just let the items sit there. The website will see that you're interested in items but didn't go through with the purchase and a lot of them will send follow-up emails with coupon codes in them. A quick Google search could save you some coin. Don't pay full price when you
Bonus pro tip: Set your budget BEFORE you start looking for stuff. I always have a budget in mind before shopping so that I don't go overboard. I still have bills to pay and I'm not tryna be hungry, in the dark, or asking my parents for money in a couple months. Setting a budget before I start to look makes me prioritize the items I get and make sure I'm getting my money's worth.
I hope this helped! I tried to be detailed, but if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up and ask! Happy shopping!