Design a Work-able Wardrobe with These Essential Items

Updated: May 6, 2020

"Nothing looks worse than a woman wobbling around the office in sky-high stilettos."

I have written in previous posts about the conundrum a woman faces when deciding what to wear to work. Ever heard the saying, “a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear?” The person who coined this phrase was almost certainly a woman. A recent study by ClosetMaid revealed that the average American woman has 103 items of clothing in her wardrobe, however, only wears approximately 10% on a regular basis. I attribute this statistic to the fact that most women have a lot of nice pieces, but not enough basics to build multiple outfits with the clothes they have.

To help solve this problem, it is important to pare down what you own and start with timeless staples that will allow you to mix and match throughout the year.

I have created a list of pieces that will help you feel better and cut down on your morning routine.

1. Dress Slacks

Every working woman should have a least seven pairs to get her through the year. I suggest at least two formal pairs in neutral colors such as black, grey, and navy. Purchase a pair of beige for spring/summer and some fall colors like dark brown and burgundy. Mix it up by including slacks with classic prints. Plaid and pinstripe are my favorite, as they are slightly retro yet modest.

2. Button Down Blouses

Button downs are classic workplace attire and are a great choice for women who prefer the menswear look. These shirts are best worn in silk and cotton and come in both long and short sleeve. Be sure to include mostly white and neutral options with few additional patterned shirts mixed in. I recommend having at least five of these tops as they can be worn alone or under a sweater, blazer, or cardigan. Wearing these shirts tucked in is the best look, however if you are uncomfortable with your tummy area you can leave them out so long as they are still tailored and not sloppy looking.

3. A Blazer

I believe that a woman is not owning her true professional self until show owns a blazer. You don’t have to wear one all the time, but just having the option to pull it out of your closet will give you the confidence to create a professional look in a pinch. You don’t have to shell out a ton of money for one of these bad boys. Stores like H&M often sell them for under $50 and no one will ever know the difference.

4. Camis

Camisoles are super cheap and can be worn under pretty much anything. Buy as many of these as you can… trust me you can never have enough. Purchase an assortment of colors including black, white, grey, navy, and taupe.

5. Dresses

Many women own more dresses than they need for the shear reason that they believe that they cannot recreate different outfits with the same dress. The truth is that you only need two or three dresses for work. Stick with basic colors that you can layer with a sweater, blazer, or cardigan. Throw on a scarf, belt, or statement jewelry and you can completely change the look of the outfit.

6. Skirts

The philosophy on dresses holds true for skirts as well. Only spend your money on one or two skirts and keep the colors simple. Black is a key color for the office, as you can pair it with basically any color these days. Best styles for the office are A-line and pencil skirts and should fall no shorter than right above the knee.

7. Accessories

Accessories are where you can really recreate your outfit. Invest in a few printed scarves, headbands, and hats and change out your jewelry for every season.

I believe every woman should wear a watch as it shows she is serious about keeping the time and is courteous enough not to whip out a smartphone at every impulse. Buy a winter and summer bag and keep in mind the primary colors in your wardrobe so that you do not buy a bag that clashes with your outfit.

8. Shoes

Depending on the responsibilities of your job, what you wear on your feet will vary. Regardless, it is a good idea to have two pairs of heels and two pairs of work flats. Heels should be no more than 2 ½ inches and should be black and a neutral color. Nothing looks worse than a woman wobbling around the office in sky high stilettos. If you are trying to exude confidence you need to make sure your walk is tip top.

**Tip: Were to Buy

Best Places to Find Work Attire: Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Loft.

Best Bargain Steals: Nordstrom Rack, TopShop, T.J. Maxx, and Off Fifth.

High End Looks: Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman’s, and Anthropology (Side Note: these stores are great for statement pieces but not number one for classic work attire).

Remember, what you wear to work tells the world how you feel about yourself. That said, there is no need to start your day off stressing over putting together an outfit. The best way to minimize the hassle and ensure you look good is by cutting down your wardrobe and building off the basics. Do this and you will be one step closer to defining your professional brand.

Pro tip:

“Make sure your (men’s white button-down) is crisp, well-tailored, fitted all the way up to your under arms and with a good, starchy collar” – Victoria Beckham from her book, That Extra Half Inch.

Shannon Slack helps her clients craft irresistible resumes and establish career paths. For more tips or if you would like to work with me click below:







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