Monday’s conversation about nude tanks got me thinking about wardrobe basics. When this blog started (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), there was a short-lived column called “D.C. Essentials” that highlighted the foundation pieces of a professional wardrobe. And since we’re preparing to enter a new season, I thought it might be a good time to highlight the essentials.
If you’re a professional, working woman, the first thing you need is a good suit. I recommend black, some people prefer navy. I also recommend buying the skirt and the pants, but if you can only choose one, buy the one you will wear most often. I’m a skirt person, so for me that’s the pencil skirt.
My favorite mid-priced suit brand is J.Crew’s Super 120s line. They’re well-made basics and I can replace the pieces if they wear out or get lost at the dry cleaner.
So a good suit is foundation piece number one, but a woman cannot live by suits alone. So here are the other 11 pieces that make up the Professional Dashing Dozen.
1. Astley Clarke Pendant ($95) // 2. The Icon Shirt ($145) // 3. Love Quotes Linen Scarf ($90) // 4. Madewell Leopard Skimmer ($135) // 5. Beltrami Fish Scale Skirt ($160) // 6. London Fog Trench ($99) // 7. Citizens Amber Bootcut ($189) // 8. Kevia Rococo Ring (sold out, similar here) // 9. 3.1 Philip Lim Pashli Satchel ($900) // 10. Colette Sleeveless Shell ($196) // 11. Vivienne Westwood Audrey Dress ($825)
One. A delicate gold pendant is the perfect necklace. It adds a hint of lustre to your neckline without being overwhelming. I love this pendant from Astley Clarke for its sweet and simple sensibilities. Want something less expensive? Try this Gorjana Feather Pendant at $25.
I love The Shirt from Rochelle Behrens because it has a button design that keeps it gaping at the bust. But if $145 is more than you’re willing to pay, I like the Tailored Non-Iron Shirt from Banana Republic for $59.
Three. During the colder months, I wear my ivory and metallic scarf three to four times per week. I also wear it on the airplane and in my chilly, air-conditioned office. It’s a great basic that livens up an outfit and keeps you warm. Need help styling a scarf, head over to my Pinterest page for 40 scarf-tying ideas.
Four. I love flats, but few things irritate me more than women who only own boring black flats. Ick. Spice it up with leopard print, or a pattern, or a color, don’t settle for basic black. Plus, the great thing about leopard is that it goes with everything. If you’re looking to keep your shoe purchase under-$100, these Steve Madden’s leopard flats are $89.
Five. Since my business suit came with a black pencil skirt, I don’t need to include a neutral pencil in this set. So let’s jazz it up with a trendy colored pencil. You can pair it with a simple blouse or a crewneck sweater (another great basic). I just love the textured fish scales on this skirt.
Six. Every woman needs a trench coat, especially if you live in a moderate climate. This London Fog trench is a great piece for under-$100, but if you want to reach for the stars, Burberry is the gold standard.
Seven. Dark, bootcut denim is a casual Friday essential. The Amber from Citizens of Humanity has a dark rinse, a light bootcut and a mid-rise. They’re the perfect year-round office jean.
Eight. Every woman needs a statement ring, a substantial bauble to spruce up any outfit. This Kevia ring is sadly sold out, but this pearl ring from Max & Chloe is also fantastic.
Nine. I want a 3.1 Philip Lim Pashli Satchel so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever coveted an item of clothing like this in my life. But I just can.not.spend a week’s pay on a bag. It feels kind of wrong…but still, so right. Regardless, a structured satchel is a work-attire must-have. This Urban Expressions satchel is a similar style and just $90.
Ten. A sleeveless silk shell is the perfect piece to layer under suit jackets and cardigans (another great basic) for work, or wear with a fun pencil skirt for dinner and drinks. I love this nude blouse, but if you prefer to wear color, go for it. A jewel-toned shell, like this $44 option from The Loft, would be lovely too.
Eleven. A simple, black sheath is the ultimate work/after-work dress. It can be glitzed up or dressed down. Sadly, this Vivienne Westwood is hostile to my budget, but this Ralph Lauren Asymmetric Sheath is much friendlier at $130. And if you need sleeves, this gorgeous Les Copains sheath is $460.
P.S. Upon futher consideration, I should have included a basic pump. Nude-to-you or black, dealer’s choice. Make sure it’s comfortable and that the heel height is at or under 4″. These d’orsay heels from Nine West are stylish and, with a Dr. Scholl’s insole, comfortable. They also come in a variety of colors.