Today, we’ll be covering the 15 pieces that you can use to build a professional wardrobe. These are the foundation of a wardrobe that is versatile, feminine and chic.
Tomorrow, I’ll turn these pieces into outfits. So if you already have your wardrobe together, you can get some ideas for how to mix in accessories to create different looks. But let’s start here, shall we?
Even though I’m not as in love with the new J.Crew suits as I was with the old ones, I still think they’re the best suit for the money if you’re looking to make an investment. This is especially true if you can catch them on sale. Other stores to check for suiting include: Limited, Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Banana Republic. I recommend buying navy if you’re interning or starting work in the spring/summer and black if you start in the fall/winter.
If you like pants, feel free to sub-in a pair of grey pants for the grey pencil (I like these), but I prefer skirts. A longer pencil skirt, like this Telegraph skirt, is a sleek way to bring a hint of vintage into your wardrobe. I chose the second skirt because I wanted to bring in a more relaxed, printed piece. If you’re anti-print, you could try a colored pencil or a solid pleated skirt.
You can make it the entire summer with just three pairs of work shoes: a black pair, a “nude” pair and a pair of colored flats. You should also add a pair of commute flats if you’ll be in a city where you walk a lot. If you’re not crazy about red, feel free to choose another color (like coral or green), but red is my go to.
My wardrobe is heavily dress-dependent. They’re the easiest summer outfit imaginable. You just pick a dress, choose the shoes, add a couple of pieces of jewelry and you’re off. I like sheath dresses like this lace inset dress and this cap-sleeve mint dress because they can be dressed up or down. And wrap dresses are great for casual Mondays or days when you need to be in the office but don’t have meetings.
If you’re looking for a few more dresses, I like the Antonio Melani line at Dillard’s. I’m also a huge fan of hitting Nordstrom Rack online and Neiman Marcus Last Call. And if you’ll be working during the August recess, you might want to invest in some casual dresses like this printed shirt dress and this short sleeve jersey dress. I highly recommend stripe jersey for recess attire.
More pieces after the jump…
I like to have a nice selection of long sleeve, short sleeve and sleeveless tops on hand. Here, we have one of each. Notice that the sleeveless top still comes all the way to the edge of the shoulder. This is so you can remove it without exposing too much skin. And the sleeved tops can be worn with or without a jacket or cardigan.
Looking for some more inexpensive blouses? Try this long-sleeve placket blouse that comes in a myriad of colors. I also like this Broderie short sleeve shirt and this crisp short sleeve poplin shirt. And this printed ikat short sleeve shirt.
6. One Cardigan. (J.Crew Tippi Cardigan $85)
7. One Jacket. (Tildon Vintage Drape Blazer $78)
I like to have one jacket that’s not a blazer on hand. You can pair it with pencil skirts for a less staid look. You can wear it with jeans on casual Friday or with more relaxed pieces. The draped jacket is a nice choice, but you could also buy a tweed jacket, a bright collarless number or a cropped jacket.
8. One Handbag. (Piazza Lucca Satchel $125)
If you’re only going to buy one professional bag, I think a medium-size satchel is the way to go. I like this Dooney-knock off, but this black Steve Madden and the Kelly and Katie bag from yesterday are nice too. ASOS is also a great resource for inexpensive, stylish handbags.
However, if you were going to use some of your graduation cash to invest in a good work bag, I highly recommend it. This Michael Kors tote is one of my favorites. I also love this Coach bag. And if you do splurge on an inexpensive bag, I recommend buying it from a really nice department store like Saks or Neiman’s and asking for the gift wrapping/gift box service. It makes it even more special.