You’re running out the door on a Monday morning, with a commuter mug in one hand and a half-eaten bagel, tote bag and car keys in the other. Stop for a sec and review what you’re wearing. Do you love your outfit? Are you dressed to own every conference room you enter for the day?
If you waffled — even for a split-sec — on saying yes to either question, then let’s talk. When you don’t feel fabulous about putting together a power outfit for the day, it doesn’t mean you’re lacking in trendy statement pieces. It’s usually just the opposite; you are missing the classics. These are the tried-and-true components that you can mix and match into several stylish, comfortable and completely professional outfits.
Before we jump into what pieces you need, I’ll share two shopping tips to keep your spend in check. First, stick with colors that you can wear together. It’s a beautiful thing when every top in your closet can pair nicely with every bottom in your closet. You’ll have so many different outfits, your coworkers will think you spend a ton on clothes.
Next, stick with mostly solids for your pants, cardigans and skirts. You’ll work in color and interest by way of patterned tops and accessories.
Now, let’s get to your shopping list.
White Oxford Shirt
There are few professional wardrobe pieces more versatile than the white oxford shirt. A classic white button-down offers a tailored shape that emits a crisp and conservative look.
Creating outfits with this top is also a cinch. Tuck it into a high-waisted, belted skirt or pair it with slim black trousers topped with a twill or tweed blazer for extra texture.
Navy or Grey Blazer
A high-quality, classic navy or grey blazer is a staple in every career girl’s closet. Think of a blazer as an investment piece that, if well cared for, will last for years. Look for a trim fit with darts at the sides, for a slim, tailored effect. But also make sure you have almost full range of motion — you need use of your arms for those heated creativity sessions that have you madly documenting your great ideas on the whiteboard.
In more formal offices, wear your blazer with trousers or a pencil skirt. If your office is on the casual side, your blazer will look fabulous with dark-wash jeans, a blouse and pumps.
Midi Pencil Skirt
The midi pencil skirt remains a career-woman’s staple, with its perfect balance of style and modesty. If you want to create the illusion of curves, opt for a high-waisted pencil skirt that sits at the smallest part of your waist. Finish off the look with a patterned blouse and a pair of heels.
While traditional leggings are often a no-no in the office, ponte pants provide the same flexibility without the controversy. This pant-legging hybrid features a double-knit construction that makes them firmer than leggings yet more stretchy than jeans. The office-appropriate version of the ponte pant has a zipper and pleats at the front. It should not be skin-tight, either.
Ponte pants look great with a long-cut blouse or embroidered smock top. You can even add your blazer over the top for more structure.
Knee-Length Sheath Dress
The knee-length sheath dress is a timeless piece that’s almost universally flattering. With its higher neckline, simple form, and conservative hem, it’s the ideal dress style for the workplace.
If you invest in a neutral-toned dress, you can change up your look with accent pieces and accessories. No one will even notice it’s the same dress! Cinch your waist with a belt to create curves and add a sophisticated handbag and classic pumps to finish the look. Or, add a lightweight cardigan or jacket over the top.
Patterned Shell Top
With spring and summer in full view, you’ll likely be switching out your winter wear for more season-appropriate attire. Be sure to add patterned shell tops to your list of must-have pieces for the upcoming seasons. These sleeveless and sometimes cap sleeve collarless blouses can be found in cotton, wool, or polyester blends. The polyester blends generally don’t require ironing, so they’re a good choice for low-maintenance career girls.
Cashmere and silk shell tops are best for very conservative office environments.
You can make your patterned shell top the focal point of the outfit by pairing it with a solid colored bottom.
Silk Neck Scarf
A silk neck scarf is a simple yet classy accessory for the office. And there are so many ways to wear them! Try it around your neck, wrapped around your wrist or tied into a knot at the crown of your head. You can even tie the scarf around the strap of your tote bag for an unexpected pop of color.
Closed-Toe Pumps with Cutout Sides
You can never go wrong with a pair of classic pumps, preferably in a solid color like black, gray or taupe. Closed-toe pumps with cutout sides add polish to every outfit and project an air of confidence when you enter a room.
Heeled Sock Boots
Step up your footwear game with a classic pair of heeled sock boots. This is the perfect day-to-night look that can be worn for nearly any occasion. These boots look great with denim, but can also pair with dress pants, skirts, and dresses effortlessly.
Choose pants that are skinny, cropped, or flared — and only tuck if the pants have no bulk at the bottom. The sock boot is also ideal for transitioning from winter to spring as it looks great with dresses that you wouldn’t want to wear with sandals on chillier days. Add tights if you don’t want to go bare-legged.
Pulling off your business chic look may be the last thing on your mind when you’re trying to get to work on time, but having the right tools in your fashion arsenal makes it oh-so-easy. Direct your clothing budget to these classic career essentials and you’ll have a range of fab career girl outfits at your fingertips.
Catherine Brock is a St. Louis style editor and writer who caters to the budget-minded fashion enthusiast on her website thebudgetfashionista.com. You can also connect with Catherine on Instagram @budget.fashionista.