Building a Women’s Work Wardrobe

I don’t care what Cosmo says, I just finished school, I just started working, I need to wear suits.

I really couldn’t find many resources for professional women who needs to start a professional wardrobe, so here is my research and the plan I’m following.  I don’t really like to wake up very early in the morning and put together an outfit.  Most of my suggestions center around this core concept : “I know I want to look professional and put-together everyday, I don’t want to think too hard or spend too much money.”


Basics of a Women’s Work Wardrobe

Basic pieces, buy “whole outfits.”  Buy suits, tops, bottoms, shoes, hosiery, jewelery, accessories, and functional items that coordinate with what you already own.

Basic care, buy “machine washable or dry clean only.”  Buy clothes that have care instructions clearly marked and no special requirements.

Basic numbers, buy “two week wardrobe.”  Buy the minimum number of pieces that will maximize your budget and rotation, utilizing what you already own.
  1. Basic colors, buy “traditional or neutral colors.” Because you want time-less pieces.
  2. Basic construction, buy “well fitting clothes.”  Because you will change over time. 
  3. Basic style, buy “classic cuts.”  Because you want time-less pieces.
  4. Basic materials, buy “all-season.”  Because you will not want to be uncomfortable.

Basic suits, buy “three piece suits.”  Buy the jacket, skirt and pant from the same designer or store. 

  1. Buy black, charcoal, gray, tweed/herringbone, light earth tone, and navy colored suits. 
  2. Buy your suits one size up and get them tailored down.
  3. Buy two or three button, single breast, hip-length, fully lined jackets, pencil or A-line, built-in slip, knee length skirts and mid-rise, straight or trouser cut pants.
  4. Buy medium weight, lined suits that will hold up through the year, weather and use.

Basic tops, buy “demure.”  Buy a variety of standards to mix with what you already have.

  1. Buy white, black, blue, striped and patterned tops in each style.
  2. Buy tops that stay tucked in and/or have seams that fall in the proper place and are not too tight or low cut
  3. Buy button up collared shirts, blouse, knits, twin-sets and sweaters.
  4. Buy natural fabrics or blends that won’t pile, with some stretch, sweaters should be light-weight so they won’t be bulky under jackets.

Basic bottoms, buy “interchangeable.”  Buy a few separates to mix with your suit pieces.

  1. Buy khaki, dark denim, seasonal colors, and/or colors that you don’t have a suit.
  2. Buy bottoms one size up and get them tailored down.
  3. Buy pencil or A-line, built-in slip, knee length skirts and mid-rise, straight or trouser cut pants.
  4. Buy quality, higher end separates that you won’t wear casually.

Basic shoes – buy mid-heel or high-heel pumps and boots, you won’t be walking in them, and after a month they won’t even feel different from flats.  Get each in black and brown “leather” to go with everything.  Have a pair of flats or “leather” sneakers or “comfort” shoes in your desk for errands or lunch breaks.  Everything must be closed toe.

Basic hosiery – buy some kind of shaping panty and/or leg in black or nude to coordinate with your suits.  Hosiery will always snag and run, don’t waste time or money on high-end.  Just buy low-end and replace every snag or run.  Hand-wash them every week.  Also try footless, knee-highs and trouser socks.

Basic jewelery – buy at least one pair of large “diamond” studs and seasonally assign different colored metals and stones to coordinate with each of your suits and jackets.  Buy big, and stylish, no one cares if its real as long as you look good and confident.

Basic accessories and functional items – have everything you need to handle the entire year of weather and situations.  Inside your file bag, carry your makeup bag, small purse and tote bag, so that you have every kind of carry-all with you at work, just pull out what you need when you leave through out the day.

25 Pieces You Need

  1. 4 three-piece suits – I like ones at The Limited and Ann Taylor Loft
  2. 1 separate blazer or jacket – The Gap and Express always have nice pieces
  3. 1 separate pants – believe it or not, Old Navy! and Express
  4. 1 separate skirt – Old Navy
  5. 8 button-up collared shirts or blouses – Victoria’s Secret has those body-suit button-ups
  6. 4 knit tops or twin-sets – Everywhere
  7. 4 v-neck light-weight sweaters – Old Navy and The Limited
  8. 2 khaki pants and/or denim trouser – Old Navy and The Gap
  9. 2 sheath dresses – Ann Taylor Loft and Old Navy
  10. 2 pairs of hosiery per suit – buy them every week! I like the Hanes from Target
  11. 4 pairs of trouser socks
  12. 2 pairs of mid-heel pumps – Diane Lawrence at Shoe Carnival, I get so many compliments!
  13. 2 pairs of mid-heel boots – Ann Taylor Loft has great sales
  14. 1 pair of flats or “leather” sneaker or “comfort” shoes – Old Navy and Payless
  15. 1 knee-length over coat – Look for something fab, mine are white and red
  16. 2 shawls, one black and one colored or patterned – go to an import store
  17. 1 umbrella and/or raincoat – I’d love rainboots too, but no where to put them!
  18. 1 weather proof watch
  19. 3 pairs of “diamond” studs – love CZs! I buy the same pair at Claire’s everytime I lose one, 2 “carat” rounds, so I can always replace the lost one, and buy the rubber backs
  20. 1 pair of earrings and/or necklace per suit – don’t think too hard in the A.M.

You also need:

  1. 1 file-sized bag
  2. 1 wallet-sized purse
  3. 1 make-up bag
  4. 1 tote-bag thats folds up
  5. 1 business card case

One thought on “Building a Women’s Work Wardrobe

  1. Pingback: Working on it: Professional Wardrobe | desire radiance

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