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Career Wardrobe Staples to Start Collecting Now – Part 2


Olivia Palermo working at ELLE on The City
Photo via

So, you already read Part 1. You already have your professional black blazer, white button-down shirt, and comfortable heels. You’ve been sorting through job listings and dreaming of your future career. Now what?

The answer? You still have time; you’re in college! Keep dreaming, job-hunting, saving, and building your future career wardrobe! Here are the rest of our career wardrobe staples that are worth buying now (or once you save up!):

4. A Sleek Pencil Skirt

Pencil skirt
Black Lightweight Wool Pencil Skirt – Banana Republic

If possible, it’s a great idea to get a pencil skirt that matches your blazer (go for the set, if you can!). The sleekness of a pencil skirt is certainly a subtle way to convey your professionalism. The clean, simple lines flatter your figure without drawing inappropriate attention, and unlike other skirt styles, you can rely on a pencil skirt to be both stylish and timeless in nearly any setting.

When shopping for your skirt, keep these things in mind:

  • Length - This is a no-brainer, ladies. It’s a good idea to start at or below the knee cap, but slightly above the knee (say, an inch or so) is fine, too. We recommend starting conservative, but take your cues from the other women in your field. Mid-thigh, however, is always too short!
  • Fitted, but not tight – It’s important that your skirt isn’t too loose; you don’t want to look sloppy! However, too tight is just as bad – you’re going for “professional”, NOT “sexy”. When you’re looking for a good fit, make sure you can move comfortably. If you see areas where the fabric is stretching, that’s a warning sign that you need to size up. Also, see what it feels like to sit down, bend over, walk up stairs, etc., before you buy.
  • Texture and color – So basic black is an obvious “must-buy”. But assuming it’s appropriate for your office, your skirt is a great place to bring some pizzazz to your ensemble. Save up for a skirt in a fun color (emerald green, anyone?) or a stand-out texture. Don’t go too wild, but have fun with it!

5. A Selection of Cardigans

J.Crew Jackie cardigans in assorted colors
The “Jackie” Cardigan in Fresh Mint, Iced Lilac, and White – J.Crew

Cardigans, cardigans, cardigans! If you’re like us, chances are you have accumulated several of these already. Cardigans give you unlimited versatility when it comes to layering and mix-and-match outfits – they’re essential to any wardrobe! Keep your closets stocked with these guys throughout college and keep them for your transition into a career.

Here are some things to think about when shopping for career-caliber cardigans:

  • Fabric quality – Look for durable fabrics that won’t stretch out or “pill” with wear! You want your cardigans to always look fresh, not shabby. As a general rule, the softer the fabric, the more likely it is to pill – so tightly woven acrylics, cottons or wools may be the best bet. (If you invest in supersoft cashmere, which we love, expect to take your sweater to the dry cleaners periodically!) When in doubt, it can never hurt to ask a salesperson about how a particular cardigan wears over time.
  • Quantity – Don’t be afraid to get the same cardigan in more than one color! If you find a fit and style that works for you, don’t hold back. Cardigans are basic enough and the variations between styles are small enough that most people won’t notice if you have more than one of a kind, especially if you’re mixing and matching!

6. Dressy Flats

Tory Burch Reva flat
Tory Burch ‘Reva’ Flat – Nordstrom

You already have a great pair of comfortable black heels, but say your feet are sore from breaking in that new pair of Louboutins you wore yesterday. (Hey, we’re talking future career here – dream big!) You have absolutely no desire to wear heels again. This is when it’s just as crucial to have a good pair of high-quality flats as it is to have some comfortable pumps. But keep in mind they still need to be professional!

Some good qualities to look for:

  • Again, comfort – Just like your pumps need to be comfortable, so do your flats! Look for flats that fit your foot well and have great support, and don’t be afraid to try on a million pairs before you find your perfect ones. (Also, always try on shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest/most swollen. This will ensure a comfortable fit at all times.)
  • Professional style – “Professional” is what we keep coming back to. It’s a good idea of have a pair of modest black flats in your inventory, even if you only want to wear them between the bus stop and your office (where you put on your heels, of course). You never know who you’ll see in the elevator! And if your flats are the shoes of the day, you want them to represent you just as well as your heels do. Experiment with colors, prints and textures so long as they remain professional!

What do you think?

That’s it for our list of buy-now career essentials! There are plenty of other pieces that are worth investing in, but if you start with these, you’re guaranteed to look sharp whether it’s for an interview or every day of the week. Good luck out there!

Now we want to hear from you: What do you plan to wear for your future career? How many of these staples do you already own? Any brand recommendations? What career do you want to have? What’s the one thing you’re most excited to wear? Please let us know with a comment! We’d love to hear from you!

Posted on on January 19, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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16 Responses to “Career Wardrobe Staples to Start Collecting Now – Part 2”

  1. 1
    January 19th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    do you guys think it is alright to wear flats to a jobinterview and office jobs? I have a knee problem and can’t wear heals.

  2. 2
    January 19th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I agree with Iris, I can’t wear heels because of heel spurs, plus I have a tendency of falling on my face. Also id like to point out that for getting to the office a flat might not be appropriate based on your climate: a snow boot or water proof boot might be more appropriate.

  3. 3
    January 19th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    @ Iris: I’m not sure if more conservative offices have different rules, but the offices I’ve been at were fine with flats, as long as they were business-appropriate (neutral colors, no overly trendy details). Be sure to get flats that are well constructed, because flimsy flats may be cheaper but are probably as bad for your knees as heels are. And like steph said, boots are probably the best for commuting.

  4. 4
    January 19th, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Iris – I don’t think it would be a problem; heels do seem more professional, but as long as you meet the other standards for the dress code I think it would be fine, especially after you’re hired. For the interview, you might put a pair of heels on in the bathroom before hand; since you’re sitting anyway it probably wouldn’t be bad for your knees.
    Question: Are cardigans really office appropriate? They seem so casual to me… would you style them?

  5. 5
    January 20th, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Yay for flats!!! Unfortunately I won’t be able to enjoy such cute professional clothing on a daily basis because I’ll likely be working in a lab! Oh well. :)

  6. 6
    January 20th, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Love this article! Thanks :)

  7. 7
    January 20th, 2013 at 6:18 am

    For me flats are often less comfortable than little wedge or low, wide heel. Also, I think that even one inch wedge makes your legs look much better and it is even healthier than completely flat shoe.

  8. 8
    January 20th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    lol does the girl in the photo look like Emily from the blog cupcakesandcashemere, or is it just me?

  9. 9
    January 20th, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for the opinions, I live in the Netherlands where it is cold and snow in the winter and warm in the summer. Right now Im in college and wear what I want but I was worried about internships next year. I can find some classy boots and good summershoes for my job then. X

  10. 10
    January 20th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    @Lauren: Do you watch Glee? Emma Pillsbury is a great example for how to make cardigans office appropriate!
    As Dani pointed out, the Jackie cardigan from J.Crew is totally classic…while their catalogs have been “edgier” lately, they used to always show belted crewneck cardigans paired with pencil skirts or trousers. (Also, I can attest to the quality: I have a Jackie cardigan that I bought 6 years ago…not a single pill or tear!)

  11. 11
    January 21st, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    A nice basic pair of black (or other neutral colour) trousers is definitely an office staple for me. I was a bit surprised it wasn’t listed in the first two articles, but finding the perfect pair was actually more challenging for me than anything else that was listed.

  12. 12
    January 21st, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    For me thought buyng a pair of TB shoes were an investment but after 20 wears they fell apart. Can find nice ones without the name

  13. 13
    January 22nd, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Maybe do an article about accessories? :) Great post(s)!

  14. 14
    January 22nd, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Marianne: Absolutely! That’s a great idea. Keep an eye out for that; I’ll start working right away! Thanks for the feedback!

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