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Career Wardrobe Staples to Start Collecting Now – Part 1


Career staples inspirational header
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If you’re like us, you probably have some gift cards lying around from Christmas gifts and returns. We know that those are easy to spend (you don’t need help with that!), but with New Year’s resolutions come thoughts about the future… so why not get started on your future wardrobe now?

No matter what stage of college you’re in, it’s never a bad idea to plan for what’s coming and begin prepping for your dream career. So why not allocate some of that Christmas money to high-quality pieces you know are essential to first-impression job interviews and a successful career?

Here are some of our favorite items that are worth getting now to kick-start your future job:

1. The Perfect Black Blazer

Black blazer
Product Information: Black Lightweight Wool Fitted Blazer -Banana Republic

Nothing says “professional” quite like a basic black blazer. And because blazers are so “in” right now, a sharp-looking jacket is easy to come by.

A classic black blazer is easy to pair with almost anything! Wear it with slacks, dresses, skirts, or even with nice denim. Try it over a tank in the summer or a light-weight sweater in the winter; dress it up with a silky blouse or dress it down with a cotton V-neck. Any way you wear it, the versatility of this piece can’t be beat.

When picking out your blazer, keep these things in mind:

  • The perfect fit – This blazer is something you’re going to wear over and over again; you want it to look sharp! If your blazer is too tight or too loose, not only will you not look your best, you’ll also be uncomfortable. Make sure it fits in the shoulders – the shoulder seams should hit exactly at the tips of your shoulder bones. You also need a good fit at the waist – you should be able to button it without it pulling, but if you can fit your fist between you and the jacket, it’s too loose.
  • Simplicity – Don’t get us wrong; we love a fun detail. But this particular blazer should be something that will stand the test of time. Trust us, there will be plenty of opportunity to indulge in detailed blazers after you’ve started your career, but for now, we suggest sticking to something classic that will work in all office settings, from ultra-conservative to casual.

2. The Classic White Button-Up

White button up shirt
Product Information: Oxford Shirt – Banana Republic

A white collared shirt is another absolute career essential. You can wear it under cardigans, blazers (remember that black blazer we just talked about?), or by itself. And like the black blazer, it can be paired with a skirt, slacks, or even jeans for casual days. A nice white shirt looks crisp and fresh in any setting.

As you look for your own white shirt, think about the following:

  • Again, the perfect fit – You want this shirt to fit your body in a way that is comfortable and tailored. You don’t want it to be so loose that it bunches under a sweater, or so tight that the buttons are about to pop! Look for a shirt that lays flat – as seen in the photo – for a professional finish.
  • The right white – It’s important to realize that bright white doesn’t complement every skin tone – and that’s OK! There are different shades of white, so be careful to find the best one for you. Some whites are warmer or cooler than others; it’s a matter of finding the shade that looks best on you.
  • Invest in quality – When choosing your perfect shirt, pay attention to the fabric quality. Is it something that will wrinkle easily? Will it absorb stains or will it fight them? You want a shirt that will look good on you and that isn’t too difficult to maintain!

3. Comfortable Black Pumps

Black pump
Product Information: Charles David ‘Sway’ Pump –

What wardrobe is complete without a solid pair of black pumps? You probably own this staple already, but if not, these are a must-have.

When shopping for a black pump, you have tons of options: round toe versus pointed toe, flat leather versus patent leather versus textured leather, stiletto heel versus block heel, etc. Feel free to invest in whatever you prefer (maybe think about splurging on a couple different pairs!), but always consider these things as you test them out:

  • Comfort – This is crucial. Your pumps need to be comfortable enough that you can wear them all day! You could be walking from meeting to meeting or walking through city streets for lunch. There’s nothing worse than having sore, blistered feet at the end of a long work day. So when you’re shopping, try shoes on and walk around in them for a while. Often more expensive shoes have better internal cushion and arch support. It’s worth paying more for all-day comfort!
  • A style that flatters – Certain styles of pumps look better on some body types, so don’t feel discouraged if some shoes look better on you than others! If you feel like your pumps don’t flatter your legs, try a pair with a different heel height or maybe a different toe (keep in mind that pointed toes tend to visually elongate the leg!). Heels that flatter your legs are a great way to pump up your confidence (forgive the pun!).

That’s all for this week! Keep a look-out for part two of this series to continue growing your career wardrobe collection!

What do you think?

Are there other pieces that you think are career essentials? What do you recommend? What have you already invested in or plan to invest in? If you already have a job, what do you wear most often? Please let us know with a comment! We want to hear from you!

Posted on on January 5, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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20 Responses to “Career Wardrobe Staples to Start Collecting Now – Part 1”

  1. 1
    January 5th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I agree with this so hard. I actually had to go shopping for what I called “customer-appropriate clothes” last summer because while I had plenty of the comfortable clothes for my classes and the fun, dressier stuff for going out, I realized I had to dress more mature than my actual age to be taken seriously by senior citizen customers.

    I’d also recommended pencil skirts (I bought 3 pairs!), a pair of black pants, cardigans/vests and colorful/printed blouses.

  2. 2
    January 5th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

  3. 3
    January 5th, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    This article is great – looking forward to part 2 :)
    But I do have a couple questions: when shopping for suits, it seems that the suit jacket tends to be a little thicker than a casual blazer and also has padded shoulders. The padded shoulders seem to make it too, well, suit-ish to wear casually, and conversely blazers without padded shoulders seem too informal for conservative work environments. Thoughts?
    Secondly, most suits are sold in pairs of a jacket and pant/skirt so that the fabrics are the same. I know in the fashion world it’s OK to wear a black blazer and pencil skirt combo when the blacks don’t match exactly, but isn’t this still a little taboo in more conservative workplaces?

  4. 4
    January 5th, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I love this article. I would also say whatever you do keep the classic items modern and young. A black boyfriend blazer works just as well on a young business woman in a modern company :)

  5. 5
    January 5th, 2013 at 6:26 pm


    I get around that by shopping in stores like Express that have a limited amount of merchandise but are geared towards young business professionals…key word being young. Maybe it’s my build but when I shop in Ann Taylor or Banana Republic I look like someone’s mom or something lol…Loft is okay though. Anyways, I have a (super overpriced) black very professional blazer from them that matches exactly a pair of slacks and a pencil skirt I also bought from them.

    As far as going out blazers? I have a 15 dollar one from forever 21 lol

  6. 6
    January 5th, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I really loved this post, I´m still looking for the perfect white shirt, haha.


  7. 7
    January 5th, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    I was just about to sell my black blazer! I figured since I don’t really wear it, I should find it a new home, but I might actually need it in the future.

  8. 8
    January 5th, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    As a busty lady, I find it very difficult to wear button down shirts. I either have to wear an undershirt or there’s a huge gap showing off the ladies. I’ve seen great button downs designed for your bra size but they are extremely expensive. I’ve never once had a need to wear a button down and I’m post-grad school into my career.

  9. 9
    January 5th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    This is such a useful post! Even as a freshman, I’ve had to wear all of these at one point or another last semester. Maybe it’s because I’m a business major but I think it’s important for everyone to know how to dress professionally. My business casual is very different from how my roommate, an engineering student, sees it.

  10. 10
    January 6th, 2013 at 12:34 am

    well my career will involve me wearing scrubs 99% of the time, but this is a good list of stuff to have for interviews!

  11. 11
    January 6th, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Hey. I really love this article but I’d really love to see other shoes appropriate for the workplace because I can’t wear heels. I would definitely appreciate to see other options

  12. 12
    January 6th, 2013 at 10:27 am

    @Willow Haha, me too! But, we will still need clothes for conferences and stuff ;)
    @ Alesha Brouges/oxfords? Neutral ones?

    I would ad a stuctured/neutral purse/bag with clean lines, brown or black, maybe leather for meetings/interviews. Not something blinged out, and something that looks classic and great. Not cheap PU that screams “fake!” from 20 meters away.

    Also a classic watch, if you like your accessories. Bangles and necklaces are so subjective, and might not be fitting for the company you are interviewing/interning/working with, or your clients. In my opinion, a watch is never wrong! (and then you won’t have to check your cell for the time, which might be interpretated as VERY unprofessional!).

    The white skirt is perhaps not the garment I would spend the most money on, since they tend to become yellow at the armpits – and then you would have to get a new one. Or, at least buy one in a fabric that can be cleaned properly!

    As for pumps, I would recommend the brand Unisa. Classic, and I have never ever had better pumps (and I seriously can’t wear heels normally, it hurts like hell/I’m all for comfort), these are awesome!

  13. 13
    January 6th, 2013 at 10:29 am

    GREAT post, btw!

  14. 14
    January 6th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    This would work for me if I was heading to an office job. Any tips for girls that have to wear steel-toed boots, things that are sweat proof and won’t get caught on things? I’m going into live event lighting (concerts/theatre lighting) and although I need to be functional, I also would like to be fashionable has well.

  15. 15
    January 6th, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    This article is really interesting, I’d live to know the CF recommendations for what whites go with what skin tone and what pumps for what body shape though….

  16. 16
    January 6th, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Wow, thanks for the fantastic feedback, everyone!

    Lauren: I definitely see what you mean. I would say when it comes to formal vs. informal, you can’t go wrong with padded shoulders. I have a cotton blazer with padded shoulders that I love to wear casually because it adds that little bit of structure that my outfit needs to look casual but still sharp. Regarding matching jackets and pants/skirts in a conservative work environment, I would try to match your blacks as much as possible! It’s never a bad idea to err on the side of caution, especially when you’re new to the company. Thanks for your questions!

    Alesha: Of course! Keep an eye out for Part Two :)

    Dorkella: Wow, live event lighting sounds fun! I don’t have experience in that field so I can’t say I know specific pieces that are appropriate for your environment, but keep an eye out for items that fit you well and that have clean, crisp lines. I could be wrong, but I imagine a fitted, lightweight sweater and skinny jeans would be a good option. This way, you can stay comfortable and cool without excess fabric in your way. Good luck, and thanks for commenting!

  17. 17
    January 6th, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Monique: Great questions. For pumps, it isn’t necessarily that if you have a certain body type then you can ONLY wear one type of pump. Instead, there are a few tricks to picking a shoe that will flatter you. Like I mentioned in the post, in general, pointed toes make your legs look longer (and nude-hued heels will do the same thing!). Also, I’d avoid shoes that have any sort of ankle strap – those can break up your leg and make it look shorter. But if, for example, you want your feet to look smaller, then I’d recommend a rounded toe or a chunky heel that will visually balance your foot.

    When it comes to picking your best white, if your skin has cool undertones (blue, pink, purple), then you can pull off bright whites. Conversely, if you have warm undertones (yellow, gold, beige), then a better option will be ivory or something similarly warm.

    Thanks for the questions; feel free to let me know if you have more! I hope this helps!

  18. 18
    January 6th, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    As someone recently out of college, and in a workplace…I would replace that black blazer with a black suit, matching pieces, and both the pants and skirt if you can swing it. If you buy the pieces separately and wear them together it looks really bad. Trust. Also, pay attention to the number of buttons in the blazer and the width of the lapel – I have a chest and one button looks terrible on me, but better on my willowy friends. You will definitely wear all of the pieces separately and together.

    Also, the comments about Express and Forever 21…I would say to be careful about cheap, casual, or trendy – your first impression is important in establishing your credibility, and as a young woman you’re already likely to be mistaken for an intern. Wearing a short skirt or a cheap-looking blazer just makes you look like you aren’t taking your job, or yourself, seriously.

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