Happy Wednesday, everyone! So, as I near the end of my first full year working full-time in an office setting, I’m starting to realize that a lot of my staple pieces from my “business-casual” college wardrobe are getting a little threadbare- and in a lot of cases, don’t fit with the image of the young working professional woman I am trying to become.
I thought it could be a fun exercise for me to take a closer look at some of the professional workwear essentials for women like me, in the early stages of their career. You know I’m all about affordable everything, and want to put together a list of workwear essentials that won’t break the bank.
1. A Basic Blouse
Opening up this list with a plain, ivory or white shirt that can be used to create a classic look. I love blouses because they instantly make you look more polished, especially since it’s now widely acceptable to wear jeans in the office. Give me a good blouse/jean combo any day (French Tuck, obv- thanks, Tan)!
Pictured: Cotton Shirt, H&M- $12.99
2. A Chic Cardigan
One of my struggles, fashion-wise, has always been finding the right thing to pair with a particularly bold printed shirt. I really want to invest in a light, solid-color indoor jacket and/or cardigan. I feel that I can really make a splash with some depth and layering, especially in the fall.
Pictured: Shawl Collar Cardigan, Nordstrom Rack- $19.97
3. A Tailored Pant
ATTENTION, LADIES OF THE WORKFORCE! We know that nothing makes us feel quite like strutting our stuff in a well-fitting pair of pants. Furthermore, nothing is more powerful to me than a woman just owning. it. in a fierce pair of pants. I’m especially enamored with the tapered ankle pants that are having a moment currently. (Like, get in my cart already).
Pictured: Women’s Work Pant, Everlane- $50
4. A Statement Blouse
I tend to go a little crazy at the thrift store when it comes to statement pieces, but they’re just so fun. Plus, I think people tend to shy away from the bolder prints because they don’t know if they can pull them off, but that’s where the fun really begins. It’s important to experiment with fabrics (silk, linen, etc) and seasonal colors (jewel tones for fall, pastels for spring, vibrant hues for summer) in order to build up confidence and a killer wardrobe.
Pictured: Delightful Demeanor Short-Sleeved Blouse, Modcloth- $49
5. A Casual Shirt-Dress
Shirt-dresses are so easy. Even though they might not be practical during the colder winter months, they’re sublimely chic when paired with a cinched belt and chunky ankle boots- and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. or two, or five 🙂
Pictured: Long Shirt Dress, H&M- $29.99
6. White Sneakers
I know, I know- it seems a little casual, but there is a way to dress up a pair of simple white sneakers- and since they go with everything, they’re an easy addition to your wardrobe. I love, love, love Steve Madden sneakers for the office, but if you’re not a fan of the price tag, there are definitely more affordable options out there, like Keds or even Old Navy in some seasons.
Pictured: Bertie Sneaker, Steve Madden- $59.95
7. A Cozy Sweater
I love to drown in an oversize sweater (preferably with a turtleneck or mock-neck) in the fall and winter, I just need to be careful not to go too big or I will be dwarfed by it. There is something effortlessly cool about a baggier sweater made from a comfortable, slouchy material over tighter pants- the play on proportion and material really works.
Pictured: Oversized Chenille Turtleneck, Aerie- $41.96
8. A Dark Wash, Skinny Leg Jean
Like I said before, pants. are. power. I love that I can wear jeans in the office, but I have to be careful not to allow myself to get too casual. I personally think a darker wash is more office-friendly, and skinny legs are the way to go if you ask me. Especially if you happen to be shorter like me, and rely on the cut and fit of your garments to give you length.
Pictured: Modern Fit High Rise Raw Hem Skinny Jeans, Lee® for Target- $29.99
9. A Manageable Heel
Now, I’ve historically been heels-averse, but I cannot get over the idea of owning a ridiculously cute pair of low-slung editor or kitten heels in my repertoire. I don’t know yet if I’d get a lot of wear out of them, but I am more than willing to try!
Pictured: Esme Suede Kitten Heels, J. Crew Factory- $59
10. Ballet Flats
My forever friend, ballet flats are a must for any woman. I have a pair I bought for $3 at the thrift store, but I could definitely use a new pair. I ideally would want a more muted pair and a fun, patterned pair so I could alternate with my mood.
Pictured: Seen Strolling d’Orsay Flats, Modcloth- $45
11. A Versatile Bag
This is more of an optional in the world of wallets, wristlets, and phone card-holder thingies, but I still think a good tote, crossbody or bucket bag pulls a look together. As tempting as it can be to spring for an obviously labelled bag as a symbol of status, I think that a non-branded, neutral colored bag, not too large or conspicuous, makes more of an impact than trying to show off with a more juvenile bag.
Pictured: Approvisora Women’s Crossbody, Aldo- $49
12. A Layering Tee
I struggle with layering tees because I prefer the necks of my tops to be higher, out of personal modesty, but I need to get them on my list ASAP because you can’t have a work wardrobe without at least a few. In the mercurial fall weather, it’s always a good idea to layer with scarves and light jackets since you never know how hot or cold you’re going to end up being.
Pictured: Women’s Supima® Cotton Ribbed Crew Neck, Uniqlo- $9.90
13. A Midi-Skirt
As I mentioned, I’m really short, so skirts and shorts always end up looking longer than anticipated, but since I’m also curvier on my bottom half, with stretchier fabrics I run the risk of things riding up and looking a tad more risqué than would be ideal. So, I want to go for a midi-skirt that would hit me around mid-shin, and definitely want to choose a more forgiving, flowy fabric that will flatter me.
Pictured: Breathtaking Tiger Lilies Midi Skirt, Modcloth- $59
14. A Fierce Pair of Ankle Boots
Capping out this list with the thing that’s highest on my wishlist- a truly funky pair of ankle booties. I think it could look incredibly chic to have a fun animal print boot with dark jeans and a nice blouse- I just have to make sure to keep the heel wide and stacked so I’m not tripping all over the place.
Pictured: Porta 2 Genuine Calf Hair Chelsea Boot, Vince Camuto- $39.97
I can’t wait to invest in my new wardrobe over the next several months. I’m setting money aside in the budget to really go after the pieces I want, because I think if you splurge a little, it’ll be worth it in the end. Image is important, and your clothes tell a story about who you are- and how much you put into yourself. Don’t sell yourself short!
Keep it real,