You’ve heard it before: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
I’d like to add: Dress for the woman you want to be, not the woman others want you to be.
That’s because it’s easy to fall to pressure or follow the pack in the workplace, especially when it comes to fashion. For decades, women had to dress to fit in with a man’s world. But now, women are ruling the workplace - and rightfully so! We want work fashion to be functional and comfortable while still professional. We want outfits that make us feel strong, not self-conscious.
When dressing for an interview, remember: power and polish. When you look like a million bucks, you’ll feel like a million bucks. A quality outfit will make you feel confident and strong, which can help you nail that interview. Most businesses, whether conservative or trendy, require a put-together appearance. They want you to embody the professionalism of their brand.
Designers have made it so easy to shop for work-wear clothing now, even creating full lines dedicated to professional fashion. Theory is very popular with our consignment shoppers and is our #1 seller for work wear. Theory is known for simple, neutral palettes with gorgeous silhouettes that look good on just about every body shape. Ted Baker has conservative cuts of clothing appropriate for work, but they also tend to have fun and more stylish pieces available as well. Karen Millen offers a wide variety of dresses, pantsuits, and skirts that are perfect for year-round work-wear. When in doubt, try Zara. For appropriate fast fashion, Zara can help you find gorgeous blazers and skirts in their business section.
Here are 15 Work Wardrobe Essentials For Every Boss-Lady that will make you look and feel like a professional powerhouse. These versatile basics are perfect to dress up for the boardroom or dress down for happy hour.
15 Work Wardrobe Essentials For Every Boss-Lady
1. White button down
The simple white button down is a business staple because of their simplistic elegance. You can pair it with a pencil skirt for a more professional look, or you can tuck it into dark jeans with a blazer for a more casual workplace ensemble.
Every woman should have one plain white button down in the closet that isn’t too tight or too sheer. Check out Theory for the classic white button down. If you want a more casual look, don’t be afraid to have an array of button downs in your closet. Blouses with a few ruffles, a unique collar, or a small print can add a little flair to your work attire. I especially love the sleekness of a white silk button down with a black collar.
2. Black blazer
A fitted black blazer is all you really need to turn any outfit into workplace attire. The blazer can take any casual piece - even a t-shirt or tank top - and make it look more professional.
Make sure your blazer is well fitted. If it’s too big, it will lose that professional feel. If you want a less conventional blazer, go for something that’s longer (rather than bigger). This can create the trendy oversized appearance without looking frumpy.
Office tip: Keep a blazer at work. If you spill coffee on your shirt or have a wardrobe malfunction, you can throw on a black blazer to stay professional and fresh.
3. Short sleeve dress
A simple short sleeve dress is one of the easiest work wardrobe essentials. You can wear it by itself in the summer, and the sleeves maintain the professionalism of the outfit. In the winter, you can throw a blazer over it to dress it up. It’s great for days when you have a big meeting, because it’s lighter and more breathable than a typical suit.
Color tip: Usually black is the simplest option for the workplace. But with a short sleeve dress, I love going for a bold solid color that can spice up your daily routine. Even better, choose a dress that matches the color palette of your company’s brand. You’ll start to embody the brand and show a new layer of commitment to your work through your style!
Pearls are the quintessential feminine accessory. A pair of pearl studs or a pearl string necklace can instantly add a layer of charm and class to your look. Think Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
Did you know there are actually different colors of pearls? White pearls are the strongest most classic color, so I recommend each girl invest in a string of white pearls. There are also pink, black, lavender, gold, and chocolate pearls as well. If you love the look of pearls, different colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and jewelry pieces are a great way to expand your accessory array.
Comfort is key, which is why we love pumps for the workplace. The platform makes them easier to walk in, but you still get the beauty and power that comes from the stiletto. Even if you don’t need to wear heels every day, it doesn’t hurt to have a go-to pair of pumps for a big meeting or a job interview.
Black tends to match with most workplaces clothes. However, we also love a pair of nude pumps because they’re casual and professional at the same time. Nude pumps work especially well to dress up work jeans.
Care tip: Clean your pumps with petroleum jelly to keep them fresh and shining. Get more clothes care tips here.
On those days where heels aren’t wanted or necessary, you’ll want a pair of professional loafers. Ballet flats and sandals are often too casual for some offices, but loafers and oxfords can be a happy medium between professionalism and comfort.
We recommend black loafers with a black or brown sole. Avoid white soles, which look too casual and can get dirty quickly. Loafers are a great way to show some of your style in a subtly stunning way!
7. Pencil skirt
A knee-length pencil skirt is a staple in the work wardrobe essentials. A pencil skirt hugs the hips to show off a gorgeous silhouette of your lower body. It’s not only attractive and put-together, but it’s also incredibly sexy and powerful. Tuck in a blouse and pair with heels for an outfit that looks good on every woman.
Tip: Choose a pencil skirt that has a small slit in the back between the legs. The slit shouldn’t be too large (which can be unprofessional), but a small slit allows for more movement so you don’t end up walking akward down the halls.
8. Tote bag
A quality tote bag is practical, polished, and chic. With lots of space and pockets, you can organize your papers and business cards while still owning the city with your sophisticated style.
Look for tote bags that have a zipper pocket for your laptop or tablet. We especially love Kate Spade totes at Current Boutique because they’re large, lightweight, and super stylish. Throw them over your shoulder for functional fashion!
A warm, versatile cardigan is a must-have for every professional’s closet. Like a blazer, it can instantly dress up a more casual outfit. But a cardigan can also dress down a fancier outfit, so it can help ensure you always fit right in with the “business casual level” of those around you.
Besides, a cardigan is one of the most comforting pieces of clothing you can own. It’s like a warm embrace that will motivate you to ask for the promotion or soothe your more stressful moments.
Tip: Go for a black cardigan to match with your jeans and pencil skirt. Colored or pattern cardigans can sometimes be too much for the workplace unless the rest of your outfit is completely neutral.
10. Diamond studs
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend because they accentuate your facial features and instantly draw the eye. You’ll be the envy of all of your coworkers with a pair of quality diamond studs. Diamond earrings can actually make your face pop, highlighting the jaw and cheekbones for a natural glow.
Tiffany & Co. is a great option for diamond jewelry that is high quality but won’t break the bank.
11. Silk blouse
Silk is a breathable, gorgeous fabric that can instantly upgrade any outfit. Whether you’re wearing a white silk blouse or a red silk scarf, you’ll transform your ensemble instantly.
Silk is lightweight and soft, so it’s perfect for layering. You can go from the heat to the AC without breaking a sweat. Plus, it doesn’t create static, so it won’t cling, crease, or wrinkle easily. You can throw it on before work without worrying about ironing or steaming!
12. Black pants
Black pants are one of the most versatile items in your closet. These work wardrobe essentials can be paired with a white button down for a chic look or a graphic tee for an expressive ensemble.
Fit tip: Tight, black “editor” pants used to be trending. But it’s so hard to find pants that fit well without being too baggy or too tight. So opt for a looser pant that crop at the ankle. This is professional while still relaxed and casual - and incredibly comfortable too!
Want an idea? Athleta’s Brooklyn Ankle Pant is loose and comfortable, but it tapers from the knee down for a slim and professional look. They’re perfect for work, play, or travel.
13. Dark denim
Business casual almost always includes dark denim. That means a pair of dark wash, low rise jeans are a must for your work wardrobe essentials. Pair with a blouse, blazer, and pumps for a commanding and stylish outfit. Or pair with a sweater for a laid-back, warm look.
Make sure your jeans fit well, taper at the ankle, and don’t have any rips or fading. Keep professional jeans simple in color and cut. Learn how to care for your denim here.
14. Ponytail holder
This is the least expensive - but arguably one of the most important - work wardrobe essentials. A power ponytail is an instant way to show you mean business. By pulling the hair out of your face and slicking it back, you create a polished look that dominates any boardroom.
There are two popular types of ponytail holders now that won’t damage or crinkle hair. L. Erickson ponytail holders are made from a soft fabric that hold hair in place, but the elastic doesn’t damage hair. Invisibobble hair rings have also become popular because they grip hair while creating a delicate, elegant up-do.
Don’t forget that your hair-do can completely change the look of your outfit!
15. Accent piece
Everything on this list has been essentially “neutral.” But don’t forget to show a little bit of your own style in there!
We love the “accent piece.” If you’re wearing a plain shirt, throw on a large and audacious necklace. If you’re wearing a white blouse with a black blazer and black pencil skirt, throw in a pair of red shoes if you’re feeling bold. (P.S. Red is considered a dominant color, which makes it great if you’re selling a product or idea.)
An accent piece shows off your style and confidence. You’re not afraid to stand out in the workplace, because you’re comfortable with the amazing woman you are.
Remember that clothes are a representation of you. What you wear should show off who you are—which is a strong, hardworking boss who’s ready to take on the workweek!
What are your work wardrobe essentials?