Whether you’re just about to join the workforce or have been climbing the corporate ladder for several years now, your work outfit says a lot about what you can bring to the table. Don’t get the wrong idea; looks certainly aren’t everything. However, your choice of outfit does mirror your personality and how you value yourself, to some extent. Even if you may not have to look business-ready every day, your professional wardrobe can influence your mood and ability to command a room.
So, whether you’re making things happen at a hip new startup or crunching numbers at an established institution, it always helps to have an accessible professional wardrobe. From pencil skirts and blazers to sheer tights and a classic black pump, you’ll want to stock up on classic staples to keep in your closet. Let’s take a look at some elements that are crucial to building a professional wardrobe that will have you soaring to the top.
What Constitutes a Professional-looking Outfit
Casual corporate, business formal, cocktail chic—there are so many terms used today that it can sometimes be a struggle to keep track of them all. Additionally, each workplace may have different ideas of what’s appropriate to wear to the office.
In more relaxed environments, open-toed shoes may be permitted, while stricter offices may only allow closed-toe shoes. Other, more traditional firms may only admit those who are dressed to the nines in full business attire. What’s important is to know where your company stands in regard to dress codes and to equip your closet accordingly.
This isn’t to say that you can just show up in jeans and a hoodie if you work for a company with lax dress codes. Technically, you may get away with it, but that ensemble doesn’t exactly exude professionalism. A good rule of thumb is to dress in a manner that wouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable if you had to suddenly be pulled into an important meeting with external clients or heads of industry.
What to Consider Before Shopping for Work Clothes
Now that you have an idea of what would be considered appropriate workwear, here are some other guidelines to take into consideration before you go on a shopping spree:
Set a Budget
It can be so easy to keep adding items to your cart, whether you’re in a physical retail store or an online shop. By now, though, you should already have an idea of how much you have stashed away in your savings account, and you should already know how much of your monthly income you can set aside for your wardrobe needs.
With this information in mind, take the time to create a fashion budget so that you don’t end up overspending during your shopping sessions. Make sure to set a realistic number as well, or else you might stifle yourself too much. Your wallet will thank you for it.
Identify Stores That Carry the Items You’re Looking For
It can be such a waste of time wandering from one store to the next and getting distracted by other items that may not be on your shopping list. Stay focused by coming up with a list of establishments that are likely to carry only the items you need. That way, you don’t end up dilly-dallying and getting sidetracked by less important purchases.
Determine Exactly How Many New Pieces You Need
A budget can be helpful, but that doesn’t mean that you can spend all of it on a single item if you still need to fill out your starter wardrobe. To make smarter purchasing decisions, don’t just stop at setting a dollar value. You should also try to get a rough idea of how many articles of clothing you need to add to your collection. That way, you’ll know exactly how much money you can spend on each item.
How to Look for the Right Key Pieces for a Professional Wardrobe
After getting everything above out of the way, it’s finally time to get to the fun part. You want your wardrobe to work for you, so here are some tips for choosing items that will give you the best bang for your buck:
Pick a Color Palette
The worst thing that can happen to you is to buy a ton of new stuff, only to realize that none of them go together. Avoid this by choosing a color scheme you’d like to stick to. Then, anchor your purchases around this chosen palette. Whether it be nudes and neutrals or shades of gray, it’s a huge lifesaver when you can confidently match different pieces without having to worry about them clashing visually.
Opt for Transitional Items
Go for options that can be dressed up or down depending on the mood and occasion. For example, a black blazer can look cool and casual when paired with jeans and strappy heels. It can also explicitly show that you mean business when paired with a shift dress and power pumps.
Consider Fabric and Material
Looking the part means choosing clothes made of fabrics that don’t make you look like you just rolled out of bed. For instance, linen may be light and breezy, but twill is better at staying wrinkle- and crease-free.
Go for Timelessness
Some fashion items simply never go out of style. Take your little black dress, for example. Women throughout the generations have been wearing this item in a variety of styles and it won’t be going anywhere soon. Indeed, choosing outfits that exude lasting elegance will end up saving you money in the long run.
Building on Those Key Wardrobe Fundamentals
At this point, you’ve probably set the foundations of your wardrobe and are looking for ways to up the ante without breaking the bank. Here are some things you can do to elevate what you already have to the next level:
Accessories can be a cheaper way of updating your current outfits without requiring a complete wardrobe overhaul. A nice bag, a statement belt, or some dangling earrings—there are endless possibilities when it comes to modifying your look.
Add a Pop of Color
Though it’s a good idea to pick a single color palette to start with, that’s not to say that you should only stick to just one color scheme forever. Sometimes, adding an accent color to your outfit can be a great way to give it some new life.
Maintain Your Tresses
Looking professional isn’t limited to your choice of clothes; your hair also matters. Whether you want it sleeked back in a polished ponytail or cascading in loose waves framing your face, how you style your mane also influences the overall vibe of your ensemble.
Get Dolled Up
As a finishing touch, a bit of make-up can go a long way. For working women who never have the time for complicated make-up routines, adding a touch of blush to your cheeks or swiping on your favorite lip tint are quick and easy ways to add some color to your face.
Looking professional doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. With the above guidelines, you’ll be able to build a professional wardrobe and be on your way to climbing that career ladder and looking and feeling great in the process. So, the next time you get dressed for work, don’t just think of it as another mundane task to accomplish. Rather, view it as an opportunity to inject some personality into your outfits.