Career Wardrobe Staples to Start Collecting Now - Part 2

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Olivia Palermo working at ELLE on The City

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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!

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