How to Build a Basic Wardrobe for the Professional Woman

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Getting that first professional job is a wonderful feeling; when the offer is made you find yourself standing on the world and then it hits you. You have nothing to wear to your new office except for your interviews suit. One great suit is all that is needed for interviews but you can’t wear the same suit to the same job everyday, unless it’s a uniform.

If you have ever given your wardrobe a face lift then you know how expensive and confusing the process can be. Do those fashion magazines really think you need 3 pairs of slacks for each shade of pink known to man?  Who really wears all 50 of the white cotton blouses in their closet? They say we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, so maybe we should concentrate our wardrobe dollars on the 20%. If you start with the wardrobe basics you can control the cost and add additional items as needed, as your budget allows and only what you really want.

Step #1. First thing is to purchase a pair of nice black slacks. Choose a pair of slacks that can be worn through multiple seasons; you can always wear stockings or tights underneath the slacks during cold weather. A light wool blend is a great material or how about a heavy cotton with a touch of spandex for shape. If you want to avoid the dry-cleaners then a polyester blend may work best, it may not last for as many years as wool but it will not need to be dry-cleaned and will hold a crease with out much ironing. If you do choose a polyester blend try to choose a heavy material it will last longer.

Step #2. The second purchase for a basic professional wardrobe is a white blouse. A white blouse can be dressed up or down, worn to work or for play. For material only cotton will do, with between 5-10% spandex for shape. For the most versatility I like my blouse to have a little length, to right below the hip and to have a slight nipping in the waist, not tight but just a little shaping. This length and shaping gives the ability to wear the blouse tucked in or out and still look very professional. This wardrobe basic can be worn with anything and everything, jeans for casual Friday, slacks for any other workday.

Step #3. The third purchase for a basic wardrobe is a pencil skirt that comes to the knee or just below. To be a wardrobe basic the skirt should be a neutral color such as black or tan. Black provides the most usability and versatility; with a jazzy top it can be dressed up for a date or with a black top it can be worn to many occasions and made as dressy as needed with proper jewelry and shoes.

The three pieces listed above are the wardrobe basic bare bones I mean the bare minimum. The next few wardrobe basics are nice to have for versatility but are not absolutely necessary.

Step #4. If and when the money allows the next purchase for a professional wardrobe is a black sheath dress. It can be worn with a tailored jacket for meetings, with a sparkly brooch or scarf for an after work date or under a white blouse for a two piece look. To change the look of the sheath dress all you need to do is change your handbag and shoes. Ballerina flats will make the dress casual, pumps for business or a heeled pair of knee boots for some added kick.

Step #5. To round out the perfect wardrobe a jacket is needed. If your office or job is more straight laced such as a bank or law firm then a tailored jacket in black, tan or gray would be best. If you work in a less structured environment that allows for more individuality then a boy friend jacket might be for you; the looser fit and longer length makes the boyfriend jacket perfect for more casual work environments and great for weekends. The basic wardrobe jacket can be worn with anything, slacks, skirts, sheath dress, jeans, anything at all. A jacket takes your outfit and brings it up a notch, making the outfit a little more business and a little less causal.

Step #6. Shoes, you must have the proper shoes to go with the wardrobe. All that is really needed is one good pair of work shoes in leather of course. If you are going to wear the same shoes 5 times a week for 10+ hours comfort and quality is a must.  Now a basic kitten heel in black leather can be worn year round, looks good with anything and is very comfortable.

Once you have the six wardrobe basics you have a solid foundation, perfect for adding some color with jazzy pieces. To get the most bang for your buck your basic wardrobe pieces should be neutral colors, simple classic designs and the best quality you can afford. This will insure that you get the most life out of the pieces and should be able to wear them for years. Seasonal pieces do not need to be of great quality since they are only meant to be worn for a year or two so there is no need to spend large amounts of money on them. Really how long will that see through, tiger print ruffle top be in vogue? To make wardrobe basic pieces last a tip is to dry-clean even if the pieces are washable. Dry-cleaning will not only add life to your wardrobe basics but will keep them looking tailored and in shape longer. If you prefer to laundry yourself then wash on gentle cycle to extend the life of your new wardrobe basics. Remember quality in your wardrobe basics is important; you are going to be wearing them 80% of the time.


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