Have you ever had one of those panic-stricken mornings when you feel like you own absolutely nothing to wear to work? It hardly seems possible given the countless pieces you’ve acquired throughout the years. Aren’t those treasures just waiting to be delved from the deep black hole you call your closet? Maybe, you’re a recent college graduate or back-to-work mom who’s lived in t-shirts and jeans for the last five years. Where do you begin to figure out your career wardrobe? It’s costly to go on an aimless shopping spree before you’ve even set eyes on your first paycheck. For those of you who’ve remained employed and active career wear shoppers, there may be too many unfitting choices in your closet. Luckily, building a practical workplace wardrobe need not be expensive or overwhelming. In fact, the key is to invest in fundamental garment pieces that will support your wooziest, dreariest, or hastiest morning ever. Some of my picks may already live in your closet. You’ll just need to breathe new life into those items you identify as your “go to” pieces. Regardless of whether you’re building or revamping a business wardrobe, let this post serve as your career style navigation system. Shop online, a boutique, a mall, or in your closet. Done purposefully it will be the best source of ‘retail therapy’ you’ll ever experience.
✓ White Collared Shirt
A blank canvas waiting to be painted is what a white collared shirt is within your wardrobe. It instantly brightens your eyes, skin, and teeth; and it epitomizes meticulous grooming when worn pressed and stain-free. The white collar of a shirt highlights your face the way a picture frame accentuates a beautiful painting. On its own or layered under a jacket, cardigan, or colorful scarf, a white collared shirt is the universal staple of every career wardrobe.
✓ Sheath Dress
Classic and chic, with a simple silhouette and tailored fit, the sheath dress is an indispensable piece that magnificently transitions from daywear to after work cocktails wear in a flash. Choose one with a neckline that compliments your face shape. “V” and cowl necklines elongate a round face and short neck. Round, mock, and turtle necklines camouflage a long neck. Bateau necklines balance oblong faces. Accentuate with an oblong scarf to kick up the style factor. Works well under a suit jacket for a formal office look.
✓ Suit Jacket
Impeccable fit, construction, and fabric are essential to this focal point garment in your wardrobe. The suit jacket formalizes any outfit and transforms it into a professional ‘power’ look. A suit jacket worn over your shirt, collared shirt, or camisole commands status and attention. Solid colors and tone-on-tone patterns are most practical as your first or only suit jacket option. Since it is the most ‘influential’ career wardrobe staple, you should invest in the most timeless and well-constructed one you can afford.
A-line skirts for women with rounder derrieres and stomachs work best, while pencil or straight skirts compliment sleeker physiques. Matching a skirt with your suit jacket works well for a job interview, but choosing a skirt in a complimentary color and fabric will give you a polished look with a modern edge. Reveal a youthful image with a hemline that brushes the top of your knee cap. Show a more conservative appearance with a hemline that falls right below your knee cap. Look for one with a front, back, or side slit for a hint of feminine flair.
Find a pair of ready-to-wear slacks that fit well and you will live in them (a hint of spandex—about 2%—often helps with proper fit). Choose a straight leg for a traditional look, tapered leg for a contemporary look, or a wide leg for more a glamorous look. Vertical patterns lengthen your legs, while plaids shorten your legs. Select slacks that match your suit jacket so you have the flexibility of wearing them as a suit or as separate pieces.
✓ Cardigan Sweater
What’s not to love about the cardigan sweater? It is your ‘all-occasion’ friend. Select a cotton or cashmere cardigan over your collared shirt or camisole for a polished year-round look. Add energy and excitement to your wardrobe with a vibrant-hued cardigan that becomes your favorite transitional garment. As a layered piece or on its own, the knit cardigan sweater withstands the test of stretch-n-grow; especially if you’re one whose weight tends to fluctuate with office picnics and holiday parties.
✓ Camisole Top
Camisole tops are a necessity in your wardrobe regardless of your size, age, or style. I really can’t say enough about them since I own one (or more) in just about every color. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re trying to keep it simple so one will have to do. Camisoles are amazing as they add a layer of support, comfort, protection, texture, and color. Sport one under your white collared shirt, cardigan sweater, or use a dressy silk one under your suit jacket. Select a ‘cami’ with compression qualities to smoothen and slim your bust line and midriff area.
✓ Mid-heel Pump Shoes
Invest in quality mid-heel pump shoes that you can presumably wear every single day. When it comes to a work shoe, comfort trumps glamour. Think of shoes as you would car tires—they must fit and be in great condition for reliability and speed. I can’t stress the importance of being able to walk gracefully in heels. Observe yourself or ask an honest friend to watch how you walk in up to 3 inch heels. If you feel wobbly or insecure, reduce the height by half inch increments. Your confidence and poise should be communicated through your gait. Therefore, avoid awkwardness. A note about color: regardless of the color the value (referring to the lightness or darkness of the color) should be similar to the value of your hair. Think of your hair and shoes as bookends which securely hold the complete you.
✓ Tote Bag
A roomy tote is your cost-effective answer to staying organized with one main bag for work and play. Totes come in a variety of styles, shapes, materials, and price points. Also, in case you were wondering, tote bags needn’t match your shoes, belt, or other accessories. Totes are sort of an upgraded retail store shopping bag so they don’t really have to even match your outfit. Show your artistic side with a mixed media tote or your conservative side with a traditional choice.
✓ Oblong Scarf
Even if you’re normally intimidated or can’t be bothered with scarves, you should incorporate at least one into your wardrobe essentials. An oblong scarf can easily replace a belt, a long necklace, or tote bag charm. In addition, a scarf will add flush, flair, and fusion to any dull outfit in need of a jolt. Scarves with geometric patterns will offset curvy body types, while scarves with swirl motif designs will balance angular body types. If you prefer to accentuate your body type, choose a pattern that replicates your natural body lines.
Refer to this list of career style essentials whenever you need guidance on assembling or replenishing your mainstay wardrobe items. If you’re downsizing your overloaded closet, these 10 fundamental pieces will turn your morning dressing into a worry-free practice you’ll never dread again.