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I am frequently asked, how I shop for professional clothes on a budget. The answer is simple. It takes work. Hard work, folks. It’s a matter of knowing the rules of the game and then learning to play it. It takes practice.

What are the rules? Well, it depends on the season. Fashion rules change constantly. There are some however, that remain true throughout the decades.

For example, when dressing for work, you should dress conservatively. I’m talking closed-toed shoes, no cleavage, no mini-skirts, etc. Hopefully you’re getting the picture.

There are basics that every girl should own. These include: a blazer, a black pencil skirt, black flats, a “grown-up woman’s handbag” and a variety of blouses that can be rotated. What you choose to mix in there is up to you. If animal print is hot one season, incorporate leopard flats in an otherwise conservative outfit.

Now, how to do this on a budget? It’s the “high & low” concept. A successful outfit has both high and low pieces.

Here’s what I mean-Invest in a couple things that will go the distance (leather shoes, leather handbag, pencil skirt, blazer.) For these items I recommend Nordstrom Rack, DSW, Rue La La and Marshalls. If you do go to bigger brand name stores, my favorites are Nordstrom, J.Crew Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic, shop the sales, really shop the sales. I’m taking about waiting until there’s 50 percent off sale items to buy that pencil skirt or those italian leather ballet flats. In between your investment pieces, weave trendy pieces. For these items, I shop at Target, Old Navy and H&M. These are great stores for costume jewelry, blouses, cardigans, tank tops, tees and dresses. A cardigan that’s made of 100 percent cotton is a cotton cardigan whether you buy it at Nordstrom or Old Navy. Look for what the garment is made of.

I do a happy dance when I fool people with my clothes. For example, in the outfit below a friend asked if it was from Nordstrom. Nope. Old Navy, folks. Win! I actually bought it because it really reminded me of Tory Burch.

Read fashion magazines (now that’s cheap to do!) and look for trends and look for what the designers are putting out on a particular season. Then, go try and find that at a fraction of the cost.

I’m beefing up the “Style” section on my blog and starting today you’ll begin to see a steady stream of professional outfits that live out this “high & low” concept.

Hope you enjoy and I hope it’s helpful as you build you own high & low outfits! As I begin this process, let me know how you dress for work and where you find pieces. I want to hear from YOU!

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(Photos by Kelly Montgomery)

Blouse: Old Navy
Skirt: J.Crew
Shoes: Tory Burch
Bag: Kate Spade
Necklace: Banana Republic (old, but similar here)
Watch: Kate Spade