The first time I went shopping for professional clothes, I had just graduated from high school and had literally no idea what to look for. While I sort of knew what I should buy (blazers, pencil skirts, the usual) and how I should look, I still had trouble looking as ‘put together’ as I hoped to be. As I have learned in the past four years, there are a few simple reasons why that was happening. So before I get into the wardrobe staples that every career girl should have in her closet, I want to go over a few basic, guiding principles when it comes to buying work clothes:
- Quality over Quantity: When I was younger, I had the awful habit of buying lots of cheap quality, trendy clothing (well, actually I still do, if I’m being completely honest). While that’s completely fine for my school wardrobe, this doesn’t make sense when it comes to purchasing items for work. It’s much better to invest in a good quality classic item than a cheaper version. While the cheaper version might seem like a good deal at first, if that item is getting a lot of use (and classic items – a black blazer, pencil skirt, or other staples), it might start to fall apart if it isn’t well made.
- Fit, Fit, Fit: Make sure that the fit is right for you. I’m a petite girl (5’0″ and a size 0), so it’s often hard to find clothes that fit me right off the rack. That said, even though you might LOVE a particular piece or think it’s “workable” with a belt/jacket/some safety pins, don’t buy it! (The exception to this is if you’re willing to get it tailored to fit well – if not, put it back on the rack). Even the cutest outfits can look frumpy or sloppy if they don’t fit well. For fellow petite gals, I’d also encourage you to look around the Juniors (or even *gasp* the kids section) for certain basic items, like dressy black pants. It’s embarrassing to admit but I’ve found some great fitting pants in the children’s section before!
- Classic over Trendy: When it comes to work clothes, try to stick with as many classic shapes and colors as possible – at least when it comes to your priciest items. This will ensure that you get the most use out of your most expensive purchases.
So, with all of that said, here are the wardrobe essentials that every career girl should have in her closet.
1. A basic black (good quality) blazer that fits well
- Tahari by ASL Jacket, Notched Collar Button Front, $129
- Cheaper Alternative: H&M Fitted Blazer, $29.95
2. A classic white shirt
- Foxcroft Fitted Shirt, $74
- Cheaper Alternative: Merona Women’s Favorite Solid Shirt from Target, $13.78
3. Basic black pumps
4. Professional ballet flats
5. Pencil skirt
6. Dress pants
- Ann Taylor City Promenade Pants, $98
- Cheaper Alternative: Lee Relaxed Twill Pants from Kohl’s, $29.99
7. A classic bag/purse
8. A nice neutral-colored cardigan
- The Limited 2-Tone Boyfriend Cardigan, $54.95
- Cheaper Alternative: Croft and Barrow Essential Solid Cardigan, $19.99
9. A neutral-colored sheath dress
- B44 Dressed by Bailey 44 Ruched Cap Sleeve Sheath Dress, $148
- Cheaper Alternative: Chaps Pieced Sheath Dress, $47.50
Check out Jean Wang’s fashion blog, Extra Petite, for more ideas of what to wear to work (even if you’re not petite, she still posts lots of lovely, creative yet still work appropriate outfits). Also, check out Capitol Hill Style for more information on how to dress stylishly for the workplace!