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When I graduated from college and started working, the most exciting part was building my first work wardrobe. Of course it is never-ending and I still add to it from time to time. But if I had known then what I know now, my closet would only be filled with affordable, high quality, long-lasting pieces and I wouldn’t have spent as much money stumbling along the way.
Before I started working on this post, I researched on Google and read every article and blog posts about building your work closet. I picked through the ones that were useful and used them to supplement my list and reasons.
My Wardrobe Selections – Basics
#. Suggested Style (Acceptable price range): Brief description.
My pick: What I chose for my wardrobe $original Price $price I paid
1. Crisp White Button-Down Shirt ($20-40): This should be the staple of your work wardrobe. Everyone should have at least one. It can be paired with skirt or pants, with or without jacket. They are practical and appropriate for work place and for looking a little more polished. It is preferable to choose good material like cotton and choose non-iron to save you the hassle with ironing.
My pick: Ann Taylor Petite Perfect Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt
2. Blouse ($20-35): Start with just one piece with a color you like. As we advanced to intermediate, we can start adding pattern and what not. Choose a slip-on such as a shell. Stick with material that doesn’t wrinkle easily like silk.
My pick: Ann Taylor Crepe Cowl Neck Shell
3. Sheath Dress ($50): Instead of the LBD that many people recommended, I would rather go with a sheath dress with solid, neutral hue or simple pattern. It should fit your form without being too snug. Go for one that you can transfer from day wear to night wear. And one that can go from warmer season to pairing with leggings for colder season. It should be versatile.
My pick: Ann Taylor Graphic Sketch Sleeveless Dress
4. Black Trouser ($30-50): Pick a high-quality straight legged pants that fit comfortably. Look out for pleats because they will accentuate the wrong areas. Select a length for the heel height you most commonly wear. It should hit just at the middle section of your heel. If it doesn’t, have it tailored. The last thing you want is awkwardly length pants that hangs at your ankle or drags on the floor.
My pick: Express Stretch Tab Waist Slim Flare Columnist Pants
5. Black Pencil Skirt ($30-40): Whether it is pencil skirt or A-line, be sure to select a skirt that is knee length and fits your figure. A figure-flattering dark skirt can be paired with so many items in your closet that it can go from season to season.
My pick: Ann Taylor All-Season Stretch Seamed High Waist Pencil Skirt
6. Black Blazer ($50-100): The perfect black blazer is key to making your wardrobe work. With the right piece, you can pair it with virtually everything you have: dresses, skirts, pants, and jeans. Choose a blazer that is versatile and fits comfortably. Make sure the blazer falls right at your shoulder and the length is where it can elongate your height.
My pick: Mango Suit Jacket Bimba1 $69.99 (Apparently it’s now called Double-Breasted Crepe Blazer for $99.95)
7. Cardigan ($20-30): Cardigans are one of my favorite pieces. It can be worn in all seasons for layering over tops, dresses, and skirts. The basic colors are black, grey, and navy. Choose one to start with and add other pops of color later on. It’s just such a convenient item to have in your purse that you can pull it out for a cold air-conditioned place or to cover stains. Purchase a quality cardigan that can last years after the purchase date.
My pick: J Crew Factory Clare Cardigan
8. Trench Coat ($50-100): Perfect for wearing three seasons a year, a beige trench coat is a coat worth investing. Look for the classic trench that never goes out of style. Instead of going for a Burberry that is known for their trench coat, consider more affordable options such as Zara, The Gap, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. The coat should fit in the shoulders with a style and length that suits you.
My pick: Ann Taylor Iris Trench
9. Black Leather Pumps ($50-100): Black pumps go with everything and do not get stained easily. They can easily go from day to night. The most important thing with picking your staple black pump is how comfortable they are. It is unrealistic to expect to “break in” to your shoes. Preferably invest in one that is leather so it breathes and conforms to your feet. I’ve purchased many many pairs of pumps and none I could last more than a few hours walking except Brooks Brothers. These beauties are so comfortable even after wearing for long hours. Try them if you don’t believe me and you will never return to other brands.
My pick: Brooks Brothers Classic Calfskin Leather Pumps
10. Black Leather Flats ($40-50): It’s good to have a pair in your office when your feet gets tired or when you need to walk around a lot. A nice pair of black leather flats will let you relax your feet while not appearing too casual. I would recommend a leather flats for the same reason as the pumps. Ann Taylor has them extra padded and hence super comfy.
My pick: Ann Taylor Laddy Quilted Leather Ballet Flats
11. Camisole ($5-10): These can be the ones found in your closet. A white and a black camisoles are musts.
12. Legging ($5-10): I prefer the none see-through ones that are supple and not prone to snags. Purchase slightly better quality ones to avoid awkward moments when your legging snags in office.
13. Skinny Leather Belt ($10-20): A simple belt can make you look even more put together. It will accent your whole look when belted with trousers or it can make you look more sophisticated over a cardigan and skirt.
My pick: White House Black Market Calfskin Leopard Print Bow Belt (Similar 1 & 2)
14. Medium-Sized Leather Handbag ($100-185): It should be a perfect everywhere bag whether going to work, to lunch, to dinner, or go shopping. It should be large enough to hold whatever you need during the day, but not so large that it makes you look out of proportion or if it makes you look awkward running with it. And always go for leather because it lasts years after purchase and color will not become dull after years of use.
My pick: Leather Tote from Loehmann’s
15. Statement Scarf ($20-30): I was never a big scarf person, but it accents your basic t-shirt, trench and LBD.
My Pick: Ann Taylor Striped Silk Square Scarf
Here’s how I put my looks together. Total Spent: $513.57 instead of $1252.38
I will discuss in length in my next post how I was able to score good deals from Ann Taylor, Express, WHBM, Brooks Brothers, and others.
Here’s a guide I find useful for wardrobe essential. It analyzes whether to splurge or to save on wardrobe essential.