Work Wardrobe Essentials for Men and Women
Changing jobs or entering the workforce as a first timer can be daunting — for starters you want to make and keep a good first impression. In either scenario, you’re embarking on a journey that’s most likely different from your prior life and the one first-day stressor that many people point to is figuring out what should be in your work wardrobe.
Although we have general guidelines for what to wear in a work setting, the fine line that once separated appropriate and inappropriate workplace attire has become a grey area. For example, it would be no surprise to see the founder of a startup company conduct business in jeans and a T-shirt, yet that ensemble would most likely be frowned upon at a larger corporation.
Honing in on your job’s dress code will not only help you appropriately dress for your workplace, but a well-curated work wardrobe can also lead you down the path to success. The right clothes can be a big confidence booster. And while an employer should really be focused on your brilliant work, it definitely helps to have the whole package.
Below are JobGetter’s top 5 work wardrobe essentials for men and women that will not break the bank and have you looking your professional best:
5 Work Wardrobe Essentials for Women
A Well-Made Blazer
A great blazer can likely follow you throughout your entire career. Though one of the higher-ticket items on the list — it is the investment you’ll be most glad you made. You can dress it up or down, but either way, it is one wardrobe staple that will keep giving.
The Iconic has a great range to suit every budget and taste. As a work wardrobe staple, our advice would be to start with basics and neutral colours like black, grey or navy before you go wild and crazy with bolder colours and prints that are harder to match.
An All-Rounder Dress
A well-cut dress with room to sit comfortably and thick enough material to be flattering and appropriate is the non-negotiable, unobtrusive saviour that will take from interview to business meeting (and work drinks after!) A great all-rounder work dress sits at your knee or just below, has a flattering neckline that doesn’t fall more than an inch or two from your collarbone and has sleeves or straps that cover most of your shoulders — think Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy. The shift dress or sheath dress are your BFFs in this department.
You can definitely get your hands on a great work dress that reflects your style and budget at ASOS. Our advice, avoid the cheapest options because you want a good fabric that isn’t too thin because you want it to last. You may also want to avoid “dry clean only” if possible because it makes life just that little more difficult.
A Button-Up Shirt
The reliable, timeless button-up should be your weekly wardrobe staple as a companion for skirts or pants. The shirt never goes out of style and is always evolving thankfully. It’s classic and never fails to help you achieve a polished look.
Whether your style is contemporary, edgy or classic Forever21 has a fantastic range to suit every budget, so, go on and get one, two or maybe three?
As much as you’re going to love a great, non-descript dress to throw on in the morning, you’ll likely spend most of your working life living in a pair of pants. So, investing in well-made pants that fit your body shape should definitely be on your “build my staple wardrobe” radar.
One brand that does a good mix of work pants is Witchery. Good quality and on trend at an affordable price is their mantra. Our advice, always try them on and don’t settle for any that you’re not 100% happy with. If you take home a pair that sits too low, bunches, shows the pocket seams or has some other flaw that drives you nuts, they will sit in your closet and you’ll never get your money out of them. Great work pants can be difficult to find but it’s so worth it when you do.
A Pair of Heels
If you’re going to invest in a pair of work heels, neutral colours and low heels with a closed toe are going to make by far the most sense. You’ll be wearing them all day, so you’ll want to ditch the higher heels. Comfort is paramount, therefore, it pays to invest in a good pair made from natural materials not synthetic. Invest in a pair that will treat your tootsies nicely and they will love you back.
Wittner is our pick for all things shoes and for the budget but quality-conscious they have a sale section to pick from all year round. Our advice, look for heels that are less than 3-inches tall and be wary of any pair that may pinch or rub because if it’s giving you grief in the shop, it’s definitely going to be another lonely closet item you avoid because you just don’t want to wear them.
5 Work Wardrobe Essentials for Men
A Classic White Oxford Shirt
There’s little that won’t go well with an Oxford shirt. Because of its collar, it’s naturally smart but because it’s softer in construction than stiff-collared shirts it also has a casual feel, allowing it to straddle the line between informal and formal. Worn either with a suit for a dressed-up office look or under a crew neck jumper for the weekends, this is definitely one of the most versatile and timeless pieces you’ll ever have.
The Iconic has a great range that will have you buttoned up in style and on budget. Our advice, go for a few neutrals but don’t be afraid to add in some personality with bolder colours and patterns that you can pair with neutral pants. You can’t go wrong with blues — that’s why every man you see on their way to work is wearing one! But you may want to stand out a little by going for another colour in the spectrum.
A Navy Suit
No man can be without one. The signature masculine colour that works with a range of shirt and tie colours, not to mention black or brown (or tan or burgundy or camel) shoes and belts. Just make sure it fits well. The right navy suit can work for a whole range of occasions from interview to wedding. And a great suit gives you pieces that you can mix and match — where the jacket with jeans and a button up for a more casual look.
Myers and David Jones are two great places to start your “pursuit” as they have a fantastic range that caters to every budget and style. Plus, they both have fantastic staff who can walk you through all of the different styles to help you zero in on what works best for your style and shape. This is one of the most expensive investments in your work wardrobe so it’s well worth getting help making the right choice.
A Reliable Timepiece
You can spend a lot of money, you can spend a modest amount of money, but a masculine looking piece of wristwear is highly recommended for completing your look and getting you to your work commitments on time.
The collection at David Jones will keep you on time and on trend. Although if you’re in the creative or digital world, an Apple Watch may be more up your alley. Our advice, it doesn’t matter how much you spend as long as it works, does what you need it to do and it reflects your style. Just avoid anything with velcro and you should be safe.
A slim or straight-fitting pair of cotton chinos is a great alternative to jeans and tailored trousers as they hit the sweet spot between casual and formal. Their roots are military, so they have a uniform element that automatically gives them a smart vibe. Wear them with a button-down shirt and knitted tie for the office or with a nice (as in not offensive, faded or damaged) T-shirt for casual Fridays.
Check out the range at UNIQLO. Again, neutrals are your friend so you can mix them with more vibrant shirts.
Black Derby Shoes
Perfect with chinos and just as good with formal trousers, the Derby is the foundation of most shoe collections. Despite its chunky profile, the Derby possesses a certain minimalism that’s smart and modern, while the open front makes it more versatile than its Oxford counterpart. Their shape also makes them one of the more comfortable styles so they’ll quickly become your “go to” shoe.
The selection at ASOS will have you ticking this wardrobe essential off your checklist. Just make sure you’re happy with the fit before your time to return expires. No one wears an uncomfortable shoe so don’t throw your money away on a pair that doesn’t fit well.
Work Wardrobe Wrap Up
In summary, with these essential items as the foundation of your work wardrobe, you can continue to build your closet. By adding complementary pieces to achieve layering, convey personality and individuality, you will ensure you never look less than well turned out.