Broadcasting Style: The Rachel Zane Capsule Wardrobe

Jul 17, 2019

Before she was the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle entered our lives as Rachel Zane from Suits.  The show has faltered some in later seasons, but the early years, oh, the early years.  And one of the show’s best attributes was Rachel Zane, the badass paralegal who knew the importance of good tailoring.

So let’s revive one of our favorite columns, Broadcasting Style, with an appearance from the woman who would one day be royalty.

What I loved about Rachel’s wardrobe was the attainability.  This is not Claire Underwood in skeins of Burberry and Balenciaga, or Olivia Pope and her closet of pricey blazers.  Any working woman, on virtually any budget, could recreate Rachel’s easy, professional style.  All she needed was an eye for simplicity and a (very) good tailor.

Here are the five essential pieces that comprise Rachel Zane’s wardrobe.  The easiest professional capsule wardrobe to ever grace the television screen.  And every linked piece is under-$125, because, after all, we’re shopping on a paralegal’s salary.

***

Fitted Pencil Skirts.  In nearly every episode, Rachel was wearing a perfectly-fitted pencil skirt.  Making this the foundation of any Zane-inspired look.

If you love a pencil skirt, I recommend having two black, one navy, one grey, one white, and one color in your wardrobe.  Why two black?  Because they get worn, and dry cleaned the most, so being able to alternate will keep them fresher longer.

My favorite pencil skirts come from Ann Taylor.  They’re good quality, affordably prices (esp. at sale), and they always have a good selection of colors and styles.  For a Zane-inspired look, try this white, herringbone skirt, this simple black pencil (in a curvy fit), and this black and white print that is just a little bit different.

Other pencil skirts I loved?  Try this Leith option with a slightly dramatic side slit (you can close it a bit if it’s too much), also in plus-size for $49.  This black-and-white water color print from Norma Kamali.  For color, Boden has a vibrant plum and this ASOS skirt in olive green (fall’s must have color).

The trick to fitting a pencil skirt?  Size up, and find a good tailor to mold it to your body.  It should be tight enough to show that you’re a woman, but loose enough to show that you’re a lady. (Thanks, Edith Head.) Alterations costs a little more, but the results are worth it.  Wellnesting has some tips on how to alter a skirt yourself, if you’re crafty.

Blouses.  Rachel’s blouses were usually fitted, in a silky material, and long sleeve.  Call them a more traditional take on the cotton button-up shirt.

First up, we have Everlane’s clean silk relaxed shirt.  This shirt comes in 10-colors and 100% silk.  Sadly, it is dry clean only.  If you’re looking for silk you can wash, try this BR blouse.  I also like this dotted-tie-neck blouse from Banana Republic.

Looking for some lovely under-$25 choices?  Try this Joan Vass piped blouse, and this fringed-stripe Alfani button up.  Plus-size?  LOFT is probably your best source for affordable blouses in sleeker styles.

Slim-Fitting Cardigans.  Rachel loves a fitted cardigan.  And just like in the photo above, she usually wears them without a top underneath.  It’s a sultrier take on the cardi we all know and love.

For this look, your standard J.Crew Jackie or Factory Clare will work.  Rachel’s cardigans also tend to be white or ivory, and work as blouse substitutes.  So I would also have a look at this pearl-button Kate Spade in a shorter length.

As for what to wear underneath, I have long loved the Halogen camisoles.  But if you’re looking for something more professional, I would go with the Brooks Brothers silk charmeuse camis.

Sleek Dresses. I love a beautifully tailored dress in an elegant shape.  Nothing looks better, is more versatile, or makes a woman feel more like a woman.  Rachel’s dresses are usually in a palette of soft neutrals — grey, taupe, beige — so that the fit, and the woman, stand out more than the dress.

This Ann Taylor boatneck, grey sheath (also in petite) caught my eye.  This taupe Donna Morgan dress with a tulip sleeve is also worth a look.  This white Express sheath with an symmetrical neckline, and this midi-length, short sleeve Preston and York dress are not to be missed.

Need black and navy?  T Tahari always has you covered with simple pieces in great cuts.  I like their crewneck and v-neck dresses.

Simple Pumps.  A pointed-toe, professional heel is a must.  For comfort, I like to keep mine between 2.5-3″ in height.  But did you know that your heel height should change based on the length of your foot?  Alterations Needed covered the topic a while back, and it’s one of the most game-changing pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

I highly recommend these Sam Edelman Jaina pumps in 2.5″ heel.  I also like Ann Taylor’s uber-comfortable Eryn pumps.  Or if you need a thicker heel, these Botkier block-heel pumps are worth a look.

Got your basics covered?  These INC heels come in black fishnet.  They’re work-friendly with a bit of edge.  Just keep the rest of the outfit very professional.  (Pro tip: These are not heels to wear with a suit.)

***

Looking for more Broadcasting Style?  Check out these previous posts.  Have a character to recommend for the next breakdown?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Charlotte says:

    Nicole Kidman on Big Little Lies

  2. cait says:

    This is where I miss old-school J. Crew with the perfect weight pencil skirts in fun colors.

  3. Allison says:

    I love this post! Thank you for affordable, stylish recommendations. I would give just about anything to have Rachel Zane’s wardrobe.

  4. Becky says:

    So glad you brought this series back! Petra Solano from Jane the Virgin please!

  5. M says:

    Love this post! Echo the request for Big Little Lies. What is the right silhouette or fit for pencil skirts for work in a professional office? To me, the dark pencil skirt pictured on the left seems too tight for a real work setting. Like Meghan looks awesome but is it a little NSFW to have the whole curve of the butt accented?

    • jo says:

      That was my immediate thought as well – she looks amazing, but that’s a much tighter skirt than would have been appropriate in any office I’ve worked in (all of which, to be fair, were conservative law offices)…in part because I question whether you could walk or sit easily in that particular skirt.

      Still love this post, though, and would love to see more! Lots of good character suggestions in these comments.

  6. MOnica T says:

    I love this post, even though I don’t wear pencil skirts or work in a dressy office. I love it because your tone is so…feminist and anti-misogynistic in regards to the female form. Yes, look professional, classy, ladylike even! But if I needed to hide my curves I’d have to wear a sack, and it just doesn’t seem fair that I would have to do that to make men more comfortable, or make myself less of a target or distraction…why DO we do it anyways? I’m just not sure of the reasoning around some of the advice for dressing a woman’s body professionally.

  7. April says:

    Jeryn Hogarth from Jessica Jones!

  8. Jessica says:

    This segment is so much fun. I’d love to see one for Molly from Insecure!

  9. Christine says:

    I’ve always loved Rachel Zane’s wardrobe, thanks so much for putting this together. I’m an attorney in big law and wish I looked as stylish as her character every day! I second the Big Little Lies (Celeste and Renata) and Jane the Virgin (Petra) recommendations below.

  10. Jamie Patton says:

    I love this style so much but my office has become super super casual nothing like this seems practical anymore. Maybe its just California? If I came into my consulting job wearing some of this, people would legitimately ask why I’m dressed up! Pants always look a little bit more casual so they work out ok.

  11. Laura Nguyen says:

    I love that you brought this back! It was one of many things that made the blog so relatable – you picked characters from all my favorite shows!

    I would LOVE if you would do Anne from Working Moms.

  12. Tina Olroyd says:

    Very good work! Love this! You nailed just what I need for inspiration for work!

    Thank you!!

  13. JLO says:

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus from VEEP!

    • Belle says:

      Everything in Selena’s wardrobe is either Narciso Rodriguez, Roland Mouret, Victoria Beckham, or Roland Mouret. Makes it tough. But I’ll give it a look.

  14. Courtney says:

    So glad to see this segment return! I second VEEP, and for fun I’d love a modern take on shows from the past—like what would a 2019 Murphy Brown wear?

  15. Opal says:

    I’m in the plus range and like Eloquii’s neoprene pencil skirts. The Viola fit is my favorite. It’s specifically designed for those of us with an ample derrière.

  16. Xat says:

    Anybody from The Good Wife and more recently The Good Fight! Primarily Alicia Florrick and Diane Lockhart. Also Kalinda Sharma (although her style isn’t appropriate at many offices…), Lucca Quinn, Liz Lawrence, Maia Rindell, Marissa Gold, I could go on.

  17. Diane says:

    Jen Harding/Christina Applegate in Dead to Me

  18. Carissa says:

    OOH, YES, Selena Myer from VEEP! Pretty please?

  19. Lex says:

    If you want a real challenge, try Zoey Johnson from Grownish (her mother Rainbow on Blackish might be another candidate but I’m not as familiar with her).

    Zoey is a fashion student in the series and her wardrobe is jaw dropping. Definitely for the creatives vs. those of us who work in a professional office but it would be cool to highlight on a day your reader is feeling adventurous.

  20. SM says:

    Love this segment and JLD from Veep has the most enviable wardrobe there is. On a more catty note, I immediately had a visceral reaction to more Meghan Markel. Kind of over her.

  21. Denise says:

    I might be the only person who watches this (as the later seasons got ridiculous but I was addicted by then), but i’d like to see you break down Emily Rhodes on Designated Survivor. I recognize some DvF in her wardrobe…maybe also some MM LaFleur? Not sure. There are a few pieces I’ve actually rented from RTR 🙂

  22. AmandA says:

    Mrs. Maisel!!

  23. SaraH says:

    Thanks for bringing this back! All of the outfits on Suits were to die for–serious business formal goals.

  24. Heather says:

    Elizabeth from The Americans. Even though it takes place in the early 80s I think there was a timeless quality about her clothes.

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