+ Building a Wardrobe, + Three Ways

Building a Wardrobe: Outfits from 15 Pieces

Yesterday, I posted about the 15 pieces that I would use to start building a professional wardrobe.  Today, I wanted to show you a few of the outfits that you could make using those pieces.

Women worry too much, in my opinion, about repeating outfits.  I think you can easily repeat an outfit every two weeks.  So, in theory, you need 10 outfits when you’re starting out.

I’ll be showing you 10 outfits in this post, but by my count, you should be able to make at least 16 outfits with these pieces, by switching out skirts, blouses and jackets.  And once you have a good foundation in place, adding in just one more piece, another blouse for example, would give you at least three new outfits.  So let’s dive right in…


Blouse: Sleeveless Tie Neck $52

From Left, Earrings: Akoya Pearl Earrings ($75) Ring: Bittar Molten Ring ($125) Watch: Kors Chronograph Watch ($250) Bag: Piazza Lucca Satchel $125 Heels: Nine West Andriana $79 Suit: J.Crew Stretch Wool Blazer $288, Skirt $118

From Right, Earrings: C. Wonder Logo Stud ($28) Bracelet: Circle Cutout Cuff ($8) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 Shoes: Edelman Patent Flats $100 SweaterJ.Crew Tippi Cardigan $85 SkirtJ.Crew Telegraph Skirt $138

The outfit on the left is your standard interview, big meeting, I need this outfit to be “inside the box”, look.  Sometimes it’s okay, or even preferable, to be boring.  I chose subtle accessories to complement the subdued look.

As for the makeup and hair, when wearing conservative outfits, feel free to do a bit more with the rest of your look.  Wear a colored lipstick (berry or red), wear a bit more mascara or eyeliner and brighten up the look with pink blush.  And soften the hair with waves or put it into a pretty, twisted updo.  You’re wearing slightly masculine clothing, so really emphasize your femininity with makeup.

The on the right is a bit more relaxed for a casual Monday or a regular business casual workday. Add a pop of color on the feet and some fun jewelry.  I would leave the cardigan open and push up the sleeve, but if you want to define the waist a bit more, add a grey belt.


Skirt: Topshop Floral Skirt ($96)

From Left, Earrings: Fornash Murphy Earring ($26) Bracelets: Fornash Bamboo Bracelet ($28) and Crystal Detail Hinge Bangle ($25) Bag: Piazza Lucca Satchel $125 Shoes: Nine West Andriana $79 Top: Sleeveless Tie Neck $52 Sweater: J.Crew Tippi Sweater ($85)

From Right, Ring: Gorjana Cat Eye Ring ($55) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 ShoesNine West Andriana $79 Necklace: Hive & Honey Two-Tone Necklace ($36) Blouse: Iris & Ink Blouse ($95) 

A bright flirty skirt is a great warm weather separate.  It’s perfect for casual Fridays when the Boss is still in the office or recess days when you have meetings coming in.  It’s dressy and pulled together but not boring.

The outfit on the left pairs neutral separates with contrasting navy bangles for a bit more color.  I also like the simple gold earring, but if you want to achieve a softer look, you could swap in pearls.  I think it would look pretty with a soft, low bun and a sheer red lip.

The outfit on the right is a bit more relaxed with the silk tee and the statement necklace.  I also thought about using the red flats with this outfit, but I’d have to see it in person to know whether it would work in practice or just in theory.

I love the ring because it has such a clean look but it’s a bit edgy at the same time.  Looking back, the only thing I wish I’d done differently was incorporate another bag into the foundation post.  Over time, I tired of putting the grey bag with every outfit, and with the neutral shoe, I think a green or cobalt bag would be pretty.

More after the jump…


Skirt:  J.Crew Telegraph Skirt $138

From Left, EarringsAkoya Pearl Earrings ($75) BraceletCircle Cutout Cuff ($8) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 ShoesEdelman Patent Flats $100 TopSleeveless Tie Neck $52 Jacket: Tildon Vintage Drape Blazer $78

From Right, Ring: Fornash Atocha Ring ($32) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 ShoesEdelman Patent Flats $100 Blouse: Mango Plumeti Blouse $99

Because we have two pencil skirts in the mix, any outfit that you can create with one, you can create with the other.  They are fully interchangeable.  Here, I paired the grey skirt with the mint blouse and the red shoes (love mint and red together), I also used the more relaxed blazer to lighten up a look that might be a bit too “Senate Page/school uniform” if I had used the blazer.

Also, how great is the ring on the right?  It’s a replica silver coin from the Atocha shipwreck and I love how it’s substantial, but also soft and pretty.  Plus, you could wear it with gold and/or silver pieces to pull them together.

BWOutfit4Dress: Mint Pleated Sheath $55

From Left, Bracelet: Pale Green Cuff ($22) Belt: Vimse Belt ($17) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 Shoes:  Nine West Andriana $79

From Right, Earrings: Graziano Twisted Oval ($35) RingGorjana Cat Eye Ring ($55) BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 Shoes: Edelman Patent Flats $100

I swore I wasn’t going to buy any clothes or shoes this month, or at least until I clean some pieces out of my wardrobe that I’m not wearing, but I totally bought this mint dress.  At $55, I couldn’t pass up its soft color and versatility.

On the left, I dressed up the look for a regular work day with a cool coordinating bracelet, an interesting belt and high heels. I’d wear a raspberry lip gloss and pale pink polish, and style my hair in a low updo.

On the right, I set it up for a more casual day with the red flat and hoop earrings.  If I wanted to really pull it together (I see this more as a Friday throw-on), I’d go for a greige nail polish and wavy hair.  And were I still in my 20s, I’d add a thin gold headband.


ShoesJ.Crew Miri Pump $198

From Left, Bracelets: Perkins Sparkly Bracelet ($15) Belt: Kate Spade Bow Belt ($68) Bag: Piazza Lucca Satchel $125 Dress: Lace Inset Dress $97

From Right, Earrings: Dome Earrings ($28) Bracelet: BagPiazza Lucca Satchel $125 Dress: Faux-Wrap Dress $25

Dresses are my salvation.  I think I own probably 20 work dresses, most of which I can wear summer, winter, spring and fall.  What I love about them is the ease.  You don’t have to think too hard about how to accessorize a dress to make it look good.  I can gain or lose weight (I yo-yo in a 10lb range) and they will still “fit” with the addition of some Higher Power Spanx.

This lace dress can be worn to work with a good, basic shoe and a simple belt.  You could also wear it to after hours functions with a high-heel black sandal and a clutch.  For day, I would wear my hair up in a Gibson roll with a glossy lip.  For evening, I would wear it down with black liquid liner and grey shadow.

For the outfit, I brought in a hint of color with the earrings and chose a silver bracelet to complement the silver buckle on the dress.  This is a great, “I have a closet full of nothing to wear and I need to be dressed right now” standby outfit.  I wouldn’t wear it too a big meeting, but it’s fine for a more relaxed day.  And with wrap dresses, unless I’m wearing a scarf, I wear my hair down to tone down the exposed skin.



  1. Shauna says:

    Belle, I read your blog every day, and agree with almost everything you have to say career- and fashion-wise. The only tweak, since I am both a senior political staffer and a statistics grad, is that the “rule of threes” is much more attractive generally speaking. So, if you are going to wear the two navy bangles, which are lovely by the way, you should really add another, and I would put in a contrasting colour to particularly highlight and heighten the interest (orange in this case, since is it the perfect opposite on the colour wheel to blue). And I agree on your reservations about the grey bag. It’s nice, but I want to see what my staffers’ personalities are – if the rest of the outfit is as conservative as you generally suggest (and your outfits are fabulous in my eyes, but still fairly conservative) then I think you can splash out a little with your bag. I’ve never gone wrong with my vintage alligator or a stand out colour with my dull spring rain coat for instance…

    May 9, 2013/Reply
  2. Erin says:

    @belle I LOVE these two posts. This may be a stupid question… but do you button up your cardigan or leave it open?

    May 10, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Typically, I leave it open unless I’m belting it.

      May 10, 2013/Reply
  3. Jssaustintx says:

    Eeeek! Love the Tippis but with merino wool they are winter ware only for this Texas gal. Crew’s Jackie is a nice 3/4 sleeve cotton option.

    May 11, 2013/Reply
  4. Jssaustintx says:

    Oops- wear

    May 11, 2013/Reply
  5. Sarah says:

    This is a fun post! I live in Colorado but may be moving to DC, so I am trying to wrap my head around a business professional wardrobe. That doesn’t really exist around here… I was surprised to read the last wrap dress was probably too casual for a big meeting. I will have to learn to step it up.

    May 13, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Sarah, that depends on where you work. If your company is business casual, then you’d be fine for a meeting. But in more conservative environs, a jersey wrap is a non-busy day dress.

      May 13, 2013/Reply