Putting together the perfect work day ensemble can be a stressful affair. You can spend hours trying to find an outfit that will be professional enough for that important department meeting, or polished enough for the presentation you’re leading. Even when the dress code is business casual, your outfit needs to be chic, stylish and one that flatters your figure. I’ve worked in both corporate and casual office environments, and I’ve learned that shopping for a work wardrobe is an ongoing process – you need to start with the basics and stick with more structured, classic styles that can be dressed up or down easily depending on the day’s agenda.
Whether you’re heading to the corporate boardroom or camping out in the cubicle on a given workday, make sure your wardrobe is well-stocked with these versatile pieces of clothing that you can layer and accessorize to create your signature look:
Plain Black Shift Dress
The classic ’50s-inspired shift dress is a great staple for any work wardrobe. You can accessorize this with a wide belt or scarf around your neck for a touch of vintage chic. The plain black shift dress pairs well with Mary Jane pumps or a pointed heel. Wear it with dark-colored tights during the Fall and winter season.
A simple, straight-cut skirt that can help you create a polished, pulled-together look in a flash, the pencil skirt is a versatile piece that you can wear year round. Pair it with a ruffled blouse or scoop-neck tee for a more feminine look. A v-neck shirt with a fitted blazer is another good match for the pencil skirt. Look for high-waisted styles if you’re trying to hide a small belly and make sure you find one that falls right above the knee to keep things office-friendly.
Another chic and stylish must-have for your office wardrobe is the sheath dress. This simple dress flatters most figures and can be accessorized with a statement necklace, a skinny belt or a wrap. Wear this with a belted cardigan during the cooler months for a fresh take on a classic ensemble.
A fitted blazer is an essential element of any work wardrobe, something that you can rely on when you need to take your outfit from casual to conservative at the last minute. Make sure the blazer you choose falls in a flattering place. If you have a thick waist, avoid the shorter, boxy-style blazers because these will only make you look wider and shorter than you really are. If you’re petite, look for a blazer that falls right below the hip bone. Longer, fitted blazers can create the illusion of length.
A simple, bold-colored button-front shirt is a staple for the work wardrobe, a piece that can be layered under a sweater, vest or blazer, or worn alone with a tank top or tight-fitting tee underneath. Look for a French cuff shirt if you want something with a more classic, sophisticated look. Go for the ¾ sleeve-length shirt during the warmer months. Stick with a basic, men’s style shirt for a simpler look and accessorize it with a skinny belt or a colorful scarf around your neck.
Plain black or grey wide-leg trousers can be paired with almost any type of top and blazer. Invest in a pair of well-fitting trousers with cuffs for a more professional look. You can wear these with sweaters, button-down shirts, wrap shirts, pintucked tops and dozens of other styles of tops and pull off a chic and stylish look for the office. If you work in a more casual work environment, consider wide-leg denim trousers instead. These can still give you that streamlined look without looking overdressed.