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Building Your Work Wardrobe Basics

Building Your Work Wardrobe Basics

Most corporate jobs either require business professional or business casual. Some smaller offices may even let their employees wear casual attire. Whatever your office dress code is, it can be difficult trying to be code appropriate and fashionable. Being fashionable and appropriate in the a work setting can be tricky.  You want to be cute while staying within the dress code. No one wants to work with or promote a sloppy or unkempt person, no matter how hard of a worker you are. Bottom line your appearance is important. This post will walk you through building the basics or foundation of your work wardrobe. This post will cover those three main dress codes.

Business Professional

Let’s start with the most formal of the three dress codes: business professional. Business professional is defined as mostly conservative, dark and restrained. This consists of pant suits and skirt suits with nice blouses or tops. You can also wear dresses with a jacket. Although it’s considered conservative, business professional does not have to be void of fashion.

Here are a few basic guidelines for business professional attire:

  • Stick to a neutral color palette
  • Simple accessories like pearls
  • All suits and skirts should be tailored to fit (Ladies, this does not mean tight)
  • Dresses and skirts should be no more than 1 to 2 inches above the knee
  • Shoes should be on the conservative side. Steer clear of heels over 3 to 4 inches

The Basics

To begin building your basics or foundation, you can start with the following items:

  • Three Blazers
  • Three pair of slacks
  • Three skirts
  • Three dresses
  • Eight tops
  • Start with two pairs of shoes (neural pump or flat, black pump or flat)
Work Wardrobe Basics1

Work Wardrobe Basics2

Business Casual

The business casual dress code was established to allow employees to work comfortably in the workplace. It was set for you to be comfortable yet still be professional. I think some people take casual a little too literally. Leggings may be comfortable but they are not appropriate for the office. At all! I’m dead serious about this one you guys. Absolutely no exceptions. Can you tell this is a sticking point for me?

Business casual entails neat yet casual attire. It is more casual than business formal but more formal than smart casual. I’m sorry but jeans are not considered business casual. You may also want to check to see if your office has casual Fridays where jeans can be worn. This is not an option in my office. When starting a new job, be sure to check with your manager or human resources department to find out what is considered appropriate or inappropriate. If that is not an option before the first day, I would go as conservative as possible. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.  The best way to start off when building your business casual basics is to keep it simple.

Here are a few basic guidelines for business casual attire:

  • Make sure any dresses or skirts you purchase are knee length
  • Neutral colors are good first choice for your foundation pieces like blazers, slacks, and skirts
  • Create options by changing up pieces so you can have maximum versatility. Purchase long sleeves, short sleeves, pencil skirts, cardigans, jackets and cropped trousers
  • If wearing a sleeveless top, make sure you have a blazer or cardigan you can throw over for meetings

The Basics

To begin building your basics or foundation, you can start with the following:

  • 2 blazers
  • 2 cardigans
  • 3 pair of slacks
  • 3 skirts
  • 8 tops (shirts/blouses)
  • 3 dresses
  • Start with two pairs of shoes (neutral pump or flat, black pump or flat)
Work Wardrobe Basics5

Work Wardrobe Basics


Casual can be defined as something more relaxed, informal or suited for everyday use. The casual dress code means different things in different industries. Overall, casual is more informal but you still need to be neat and professional.

Jeans can be worn in the casual dress code environment but I would lean more toward darker washed jeans. To be taken seriously in a casual environment, I would pair nice dark wash jeans or khakis with crisp,  button down shirts or polos. Flip flops, tennis shoes and worn jeans are still a no-no in the more casual office.

Here are a few basic guidelines for casual office attire:

  • Nice and neat shirts and blouses like polos and button downs
  • Casual dresses and skirts can be worn
  • Dark wash jeans and khakis are appropriate for the casual office
  • Shoes can be on the more casual side. Open toed shoes are appropriate but flip flops shouldn’t be worn.

The Basics

To begin building your basics, you can start with the following:

  • 8 tops (button downs/polos)
  • 3 pair of bottoms (dark wash jeans/ polos)
  • 3 casual dresses
  • Start with 2 pair of shoes (neutral or black flats)

Places to Find the Basics for Your Work Wardrobe

  • Banana Republic
  • Banana Republic Factory Store
  • Ann Taylor
  • J. Crew
  • J.Crew Factory
  • H&M
  • Zara
  • TJ Maxx
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Saks Off Fifth
  • Neiman Marcus Last Call
Work Wardrobe basics

Work Wardrobe Basics

Once you build your foundation, you can slowly start adding pieces that will work with at least 2 if not more of your basics. Your appearance and the way you carry yourself are the foundations of your personal brand. Don’t miss out on that next promotion or raise, because you didn’t want to be bothered or thought it was silly to make an effort to look nice. Let’s make an effort to put your best foot forward and get these coins.

For more tips on how to step up your work wardrobe, grab a copy of my ebook, How to Slay at the Office.

Need a little help figuring out your personal style? Grab a free copy of The Stye Guide.

Accessories included in each look can be found at House of Charlotte Boutique

Quiz: What's Your Personal Style Type

Quiz: What's Your Personal Style Type

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