Working in an office with a business-casual dress code has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it takes a lot of the guesswork out when you’re only able to wear certain things. But on the negative side, it doesn’t allow for a ton of creativity. That is, unless you stack your wardrobe with timeless essentials that are easy to mix and match—and always look chic.
SLIM-CUT TROUSERS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A BOSS
Your favorite skinnies these are not. Though they’re slim-cut, this style reads much more "power presentation" than "weekend trip to the farmers’ market." They should fit snugly around the hips and butt and a bit looser down the leg (for all-day comfort), and the hem should be cropped just above your ankle (for the most flattering look).
A PENCIL SKIRT YOU CAN ACTUALLY BREATHE IN
The pencil skirt is a total workplace classic, but it’s surprisingly hard to find the perfect one. That’s why it’s beneficial to take this baby to the tailor before wearing it to work. For a little extra money, your skirt will become way more wearable thanks to a little professional TLC. Ask your tailor to fit it snugly around your midsection and a touch looser around your butt and thighs (like the trousers above).
A SHARP BLAZER THAT IMPROVES YOUR POSTURE
A blazer is one of those pieces that makes you stand a little taller and feel a little more confident. It’s professional without being stuffy, and it looks great with pretty much everything in your closet.
A WHITE BUTTON-DOWN FOR ALL OCCASIONS
No frills, no nonsense, no problem. That’s pretty much how we feel about our go-to white button-down, which can be paired with a pencil skirt, trousers or casual-Friday jeans (more on those in a bit). Opt for a no-wrinkle version to keep it from looking sloppy come 4:30 p.m.
HIGH-WAIST TROUSERS THAT MAKE YOUR LEGS LOOK MILES LONG
Yes, you have room in your wardrobe for both slim-cut and wide-leg pants. (Variety is the spice of life.) Keep a pair of high-waist wide-leg trousers on hand in a sturdy material like wool to elevate your everyday look. Bonus: These pants, when paired with heels, make your legs look super long.
BLACK PUMPS THAT DON’T KILL YOUR FEET
If you have to wear heels to work every day, they’d better be as walkable as possible. That might mean trying on a bunch of pairs before settling on the perfect ones, but in the long run it’s totally worth it. Look for styles with a mid-height heel and a toe that is pointed (to make your legs look longer) but not too pointy (so you won’t be hobbling home in the evening).
A PAIR OF FLATS YOU CAN SECRETLY SLIP INTO
No matter how comfortable your work pumps are, chances are you’re not going to want to wear them every moment of the day (if you can avoid it). Keep a pair of comfier flats under your desk to wear when your legs and feet aren’t in plain sight. When you have to leave your desk, switch back into your pumps and your coworkers will be non the wiser.
A SHEATH DRESS YOU CAN TAKE TO POST-WORK COCKTAILS
An easy throw-on-and-go sheath requires very little thought but still looks put together. Stick to neutral colors like black, navy and gray, which can give off totally different vibes depending on how you accessorize.
CULOTTES THAT LOOK LIKE A MIDI SKIRT
If you still haven’t hopped on the culottes train, now’s the time. These super-flattering pants look like a skirt but are as comfortable as loose-fitting trousers. Worn with a crisp button-down and simple black pumps, they’re also a terrific and more fashion-forward option for a dressier office.
A TRENCH COAT YOU’LL WEAR FOREVER
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: A trench coat should absolutely have a place in your closet, whether you work in an office or not. Elegant and timeless, it looks just as great over a shift dress as it does with jeans and sneakers.
DARK-WASH JEANS YOU CAN WEAR ON CASUAL FRIDAYS
Casual Fridays are a glorious opportunity to relax a little wardrobe-wise, but they’re not an excuse to wear your most distressed boyfriend jeans and a sweatshirt. Look for a pair of dark-wash jeans in a trouser or wide-leg silhouette. They’re clearly more relaxed than a pencil skirt, but not so casual that they look sloppy.
A SILK SHELL TOP TO LAYER WHEN IT’S WARM
Sure, this isn’t the most groundbreaking piece in your wardrobe, but it is one of the pieces you’ll wear the most. Tucked into pants or a skirt and topped with a blazer, sweater or jacket, a shell top in a neutral color like black, navy or even blush is a total closet mainstay.
A CASHMERE TURTLENECK TO LAYER WHEN IT’S COLD
Think of this as the fall/winter version of a silk shell. You can layer it under a blazer, vest or jacket or, unlike a shell top (since there are sleeves), wear it alone with a skirt or pants. The cashmere part is just a suggestion (any turtleneck will do), but we’re all about ramping up the coziness while still being work appropriate.
A COZY WRAP YOU CAN STASH AT YOUR DESK
Offices can get chilly. Whether you prefer a wrap, shawl or blanket scarf, this should basically just be a big, warm piece of fabric you can drape around your shoulders or over your legs when you feel goosebumps coming on.
A STURDY BUT STREAMLINED TOTE TO HOLD ALL YOUR STUFF
Your wallet, keys, phone, Kindle, receipts, notepad and countless other odds and ends…. It all has to fit into a bag that doesn’t look like it’s bursting at the seams. A sturdy tote with a well-defined shape will hold your entire life without making you look like a bag lady.