Putting together the perfect work outfit is kind of like building a house: Start with a solid foundation and go from there. Uh, easier said than done.
To help you grasp this ambiguous concept, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 elements to a highly functional--and not one bit boring--work wardrobe.
Here you’ll find a handful of classic shapes, all of which you can tweak to suit your personality, environment and budget. Oh, the best part? Every single item can be mixed and matched. Take a look.
1. THE STREAMLINED BLAZER
Every woman needs a great blazer in her closet, whether she works on Wall Street or in the neighborhood coffeehouse. It?s one of those magical pieces that pull an outfit together and, in turn, make you look like a boss--even if it?s just worn over a basic T-shirt. Pro tip: Take the time to get it tailored.
2. THE DRESS SHIRT
Lightweight with a slightly relaxed fit, you can wear this top any day of the week, whether tucked into your trousers or peaking out from underneath your cashmere sweater. Remember: This is the shirt you?ll wear pretty much everywhere so buy it in a neutral hue like blue, white or blush.
3. THE SHIFT DRESS
Flattering on almost any figure, this dress looks good with heels or flats, layered up or worn alone--and it always makes you appear presentable (even if you?re--cough, cough--hungover from the company happy hour). Choose one in a solid color or small pattern so it pairs well with other items.
4. THE ANKLE-LENGTH PANTS
When you’d rather be wearing jeans but have to meet with the department head, turn to the little black pant. Tailor them to make sure the hem hits just above the ankle--the length works with any body type or shoe style. For a corporate environment, we love Modern Citizen’s classic pants but if you want a more trend-driven style, try a slouchy belted pair.
5. THE CASHMERE CREWNECK SWEATER
Come winter, there?s nothing a good cashmere sweater can?t fix. Unlike a turtleneck, the crewneck lends itself to layering: Wear it over that new blouse of yours, solo with a pencil skirt or even under your blazer. Our vote? Heather gray.
6. THE WRAP COAT
Sure, there are plenty of great coats out there, but here’s why we love a wrap: The silhouette cinches your waist but also draws the eye up with an open neckline and it’s easy to wear with both structured and casual weekend duds alike. Plus, if it’s good enough for Olivia Pope, it’s good enough for you. (Although we might advise against purchasing in white.)
8. THE A-LINE SKIRT
Different from a pencil skirt, the A-line is a little more forgiving, as it juts out from your hips to conceal the thighs (rather than hug them). If you already have a solid pencil skirt in your arsenal, have some fun with this little number. Think fringe accents, like the piece above, or accordion pleats.
11. THE TISSUE TURTLENECK
A cotton turtleneck is essential for layering under dresses (er, layering under everything) in the winter. It pairs perfectly when tucked into high-waisted trousers and balances out that A-line skirt.
12. THE PRINTED BLOUSE
This is where you can have a bit of fun, using a great printed blouse to add some color underneath your neutral blazer. We recommend long sleeves and a thinner, silk (or like) fabric that's suitable for easy layering.
13. THE KITTEN HEEL
These shoes may be practical, but with a pointed toe, they?re just as chic as your four-inch pumps. They also come in handy on the days you have to run to make it to the marketing meeting on time.
14. THE ANKLE BOOTIE
With countless versions available, finding a heel height, cut and color that suits your style is easy. Personally, we love sleek Chelsea boots--the pointed toe works to elongate your legs, much like stilettos.