After a long time applying for various jobs and going through multiple different interview processes, I have finally landed a job. And it’s a legal job so it’s following in the direction of my law degree. It’s such fabulous news and I’m so happy that I will be back into working full time again.
Having not worked in a corporate environment since June, this got me thinking that I need to update my corporate wardrobe. What better way to start this off then by coming up with some corporate wardrobe essentials.
Obviously every job is different, but if you are just starting out in a corporate job where you pick your own clothes, this post might be helpful in deciding what you should stock up on. Whilst every workplace is different, I think the following items are the cornerstone of a professional yet stylish work wardrobe.
Black trousers: the first essential you should buy. Make sure they fit well and that you can easily sit in them all day long. Wide leg pants look great but you can also wear some of the slim fit styles. Just don’t get anything that looks like you’re wearing leggings. You also want something that is easy to clean and iron, especially if you are wearing it most days. It is best if they are not too light in fabric as thin trousers are likely to wear out or fade quickly. If you get thin cotton material trousers, you will only wear these in summer. You want something that can be worn all year round. Also pick a style with belt loops so you can accessorise and also avoid the awkward “there’s my underwear poking out” incident.
Black blazer: you want something that matches well with your pants. Blazers with small (not too thick) shoulder pads are the best choice. Make sure it fits well and has one or two buttons at the front. You should be able to button up the blazer easily without any pulling or “busting out.” Get someone to check the back of the jacket to see if it looks too small from the back. It should not have puckering or lines of it pulling. Also make sure it is not too small around the arms. You should be able to comfortably raise your arms. The shoulder pads should not stick out of the sides of your arms. It is ok to go up a size if that fits you better, especially as you will need to wear shirts under this blazer, so keep that in mind when shopping. Make sure you can wear this blazer with a variety of outfits – from skirts, pants, to work dresses, different style shits, layered with a cardigan or sweater, even with jeans in casual Friday.
Black skirt: pencil skirts are best, but a-line is also a good choice. Just make sure it is an appropriate length. Appropriate length is anything knee length and lower. Even if your corporate environment is more creative, make sure you keep the length appropriate and classy otherwise you might raise eyebrows for the wrong reasons. Once again, make sure it is not too tight, especially around the thighs and bottom.
Tip: the above three tems don’t have to be black. Other work appropriate colours include grey and navy. You might also pick beige, just as long as it all works together and can be mixed and matched easily.
White collared button up shirt: it matches well with everything and you can find them almost anywhere. Just like your jacket, make sure it fits well. You do not want the buttons popping out and exposing your breasts. Also be careful to make sure it’s not see through. Look for a crisp white shirt that is light enough for warmer days and warm enough for the cooler days. I would choose a long sleeve one that can have the sleevs rolled up. This way you’ll get more wears out of it and it can easily be layered with a sweater or your blazer. A collared shirt is also easier to style with short statement necklaces.
Silk Blouses and Ladylike Shirts: you need enough to get you through at least one week without having to do any washing. I would go for pussybow shirts because they are ladylike and work appropriate. Make sure nothing is too short and can be tucked in. It’s also a good idea to steer clear from sleeveless shirts, although some sleeveless shirts can be work appropriate. It’s best to wait and see what others wear before you make the decision to rock out the sleeveless shirts. I think it’s best to stick to neutral colours and stay away from crazy prints until you know what is expected of you clothes wise. Plus you want to make sure it matches the rest of your work wardrobe. If you want to go for prints, I would recommend spots or stripes to begin with.
Light knit: a sweater that is light and in a neutral or light colour is great for work. It can be worn with a collared shirt underneath and matched with your skirt or trousers. Or wear it on casual Friday. I would pick a beige or grey colour, or even a black and white striped one is perfect for work.
Cardigan: same as your knit, a neutral coloured cardigan is essential and it should match all your other items. You can wear it with a work dress or over sleeveless shirts. It can also be used for casual days at work. A lot of offices pump out the air conditioning so it’s good to have a cardi to throw on when it gets cool inside.
Corporate dress: you will need to find a nice fitted dress that is not too tight nor too loose. You also need something that is not revealing, so it should be a high neckline and should be at least knee length. It’s great that so many dresses are midi length at the moment because this would be the perfect length for work. Target actually has a great range of corporate dresses for reasonable prices. My first corporate dress came from there and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are just beginning to style your corporate wardrobe.
Dark denim bootleg jeans: most offices do casual Fridays or occasionally have a casual day. You need to make sure that your casual attire is not sloppy and is still work appropriate. Bootleg jeans are the best because they are not too tight nor are they too out there. Never, I repeat never, wear ripped denim to work. It’s completely inappropriate. Skinny jeans might be ok, but if it’s very tight denim, you might turn a few heads. So stick with the bootleg style until you know what is considered appropriate in your workplace. Bootleg styles still look really good with heels, flats and boots so you can still be stylish with these kind of jeans.
Casual blazer: it is nice to have a more casual blazer for casual days at work. Your black blazer should already be able to work for this, but you may need to have a backup just in case. Plus it’s nice to dress in a different blazer. I would pick a grey or light blue with sleeves that can be rolled up. This way it’s still professional but a little bit fun. So it’s not really an essential, but something you could add to the wardrobe after a little while.
Black closed toe heels: closed toe shoes are completely work appropriate because you can wear them with stockings and they make you look put together. There’s lots of styles you can choose from, but I would stick to plain patent black shoes. Choose pointy or round toes depending on your own style. Just make sure it’s not too high and not stilettos – remember that it’s work, not a nightclub.
Pointed toe heels: these add a bit of extra style to your wardrobe. Pick something that goes with your other tops. For example, white or beige often work well with this kind of work heel. Just make sure they are closed toe heels so you can wear them with stockings.
Ballet flats: good for casual days and days when you go for walks on your lunch break. Make sure they are clean, can be cleaned easily and are good quality. Nothing looks worse than a girl who is dressed beautifully in clothes but has ratty shoes. Plus it reflects badly on you and makes you look unprofessional. (I am guilty of this sin! I even had an older colleague comment on my ratty shoes… Luckily it wasn’t in front of the boss! So make sure you keep your shoes looking neat, tidy and professional.)
Knee or calve high heel boots: great for colder days or in winter when you need to keep your feet warm. Many boots are made with the professional in mind, so make sure you shop for some good quality boots that will last you a few seasons. You can often wear boots with your trousers, skirts and jeans. I would recommend having almost-knee-length boots in a dark colour such as brown or black. Stick with a chunky heel for good support.
Ankle boots: these are also great shoes for work. If you’re on a budget, choose either ankle boots or the knee/calve high boots. Once again, keep the heel small. But you might want to pick a different type of heel if you have a chunky heel for your knee high boots.
Low heel wedge shoes: not really an essential, but great way to change up your wardrobe. Just stick with low heels in a neutral colour so they can easily be matched with other items in your work wardrobe.
Some girls may wear sandal heels to work. I personally would not recommend this as open toe shoes are often considered inappropriate at work, as well as being an occupational health and safety risk. Check with your workplace before buying any open toe or strappy sandal shoes.
Belts: pick a few different belts that work well in your wardrobe. You will need a belt for your pants, and sometimes your skirts, as well as a waist belt for dresses. Pick a few neutral colours and choose one accent colour that compliments the rest of your work wardrobe.
Sunglasses: you should always have a nice pair of shades when entering or exiting the office. Simple neutral coloured shades are the best option. (Think Jackie O style)
Handbag: having a nice handbag with all your days essentials is imperative for your corporate work wardrobe. Black or beige work best because it means you don’t have to change your handbag each day or week to match your outfits (besides, that’s too time consuming for the working woman like yourself!)
Watch: Choose a favourite in gold or silver. These colours often match best with the rest of your wardrobe. They are also neutral tones meaning that they do not unnecessarily stand out in your corporate wardrobe. A watch finishes off an outfit and makes you look classy. Plus you’ll always be on time to work (well, in theory you should be!)
Chunky necklaces: these will become your best friend when you want to change the look of your outfits. A beaded necklace here, a statement necklace there, and a dangly necklace here… This is a great way of expressing your personal style and flair without being too outrageous or unprofessional. Plus it’s often cheaper to buy a few new necklaces each season than buy new clothes.
I hope these tips are helpful for you.
Obviously, this is just a guide and every workplace and lifestyle is different. I would say it would take most people a year or two to build up their work wardrobe, so don’t go out and buy everything at once. If you are just starting out in the corporate world, stick to a blazer, pants, a dress, white top and a few silk blouses. Everything else you can build up from there depending on the organisation you work for.
Do you agree with my tips? What is a staple in your work or corporate wardrobe?
Stay tuned for my post on my first week of work in outfits!