April showers bring May flowers…college graduations…and the dread of knowing your comfortable and casual collegiate wardrobe of jeans, leggings, yoga pants, hoodies, t-shirts and baseball caps is less than appropriate for today’s competitive marketplace.
While building a professional wardrobe may sound intimidating, a few basic wardrobe staples can make a huge difference. I’ve compiled some ideas on how to create a wardrobe that’s budget-friendly and business appropriate for graduating females that will convey professionalism and make getting dressed for the real world quick and easy.
Don’t feel you have to buy your business wardrobe all at once. There’s no need to tax your bank account or set an unreasonable deadline of a weekend in which to assemble the basics of work appropriate apparel. The pressure of feeling hurried may cause you to buy items that aren’t well made, don’t fit well or simply don’t mix with your other pieces. Shopping sales allows you to buy better quality items for less money.
Your image is important. People will make assumptions within five seconds of meeting you. When starting a career, it’s important to build a wardrobe of tailored basic work wear that will hold its own in any professional environment. A polished image shows you’re serious about your career.So, what are the right pieces needed to start building a capsule professional wardrobe where a minimal amount of quality clothing pieces gives you lots of mix and match options.
Invest in two well-fitting, classic suits –a jacket with a pencil skirt that hits not more than two inches above the knee and a jacket with slacks.
Seasonless fabrics and timeless and always appropriate neutral colors like black, gray and navy make these suits a great cornerstone to build your wardrobe on.
Two cardigan sweaters – one in a solid and one in a print – will change the look of your suits and provide you with more options.
Don’t underestimate the versatility and impact of a crisp white blouse. When paired with your skirt suit or pant suit, you’ve got an easy and polished look. For a less traditional but no less business appropriate look, wear the skirt or pants and white blouse with a print or solid cardigan and a statement necklace or a pop of color from a scarf.
The wearability and adaptability of a “little black dress” make it a wardrobe staple. A flattering sheath provides lots of options depending on whether you wear it alone or under a blazer or a cardigan and what accessories you pair with it.
After assembling your wardrobe of neutral basics, add a rich jewel tone blouse in a luxe fabric, a couple of print blouses and a simple t-shirt. Consider adding separates like a pair of dress slacks and a skirt that will coordinate with your blouses, jackets and cardigans. Pick pieces that mix well to give you a variety of options that make dressing easy.
A grown-up handbag in a neutral color, a timeless timepiece, elegant gold or silver hoop earrings, classic gold or silver stud earrings, a sleek tote bag and a classic trench coat are great additions.Embrace the versatility of accessories and your wardrobe won’t be dull, boring or uninteresting. Accessories let you inject your personal style, add color and texture and update and extend your wardrobe by helping you create different looks. Consider adding a statement necklace and a couple of brightly-colored scarves to add freshness and interest to your work wardrobe.
A comfortable and classic pair of black pumps and a neutral pair of lower-heeled pumps or flats, worn with hosiery, help complete your head-to-toe professional look.
Now that you know what you need, where do you find it?
Stores like The Limited, Ann Taylor, Loft, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Macy’s and J.C. Penney can be found in most malls and carry the essentials for building a business wardrobe.
Don’t overlook off-price stores like T. J. Maxx, Marshalls, Burlington and Dress Barn/Roz & Ali, all of which stock a variety of brand-name clothing, footwear and accessory options, with affordable price points, periodic markdowns and end-of-season clearances. Dress Barn/Roz & Ali carries a lot of Jones of NY separates including well-made and affordable classic mix-and-match blazers, skirts, dress slacks and dresses.
Kohl’s is my favorite place for one-stop-shopping. I never pay full price for anything at Kohl’s – business, casual and special occasion clothing, footwear, accessories, giftware, house wares, domestics – it all goes on sale, at 30% off and more. And a Kohl’s blockbuster clearance, where prices drop 60-90%, coupled with a coupon for an additional 15-30% off, makes for bargains worth bragging about.
Once you’ve started assembling your work wardrobe, don’t be afraid to visit a tailor to make sure the pieces fit well. It’s an investment worth making. And if you take care of your clothing, footwear and accessories, they’ll serve you well for years. Keep your shoes polished and check your clothing for missing buttons, tears or stains.
Complete and enhance your professional look with a polished haircut and subtle, natural-looking makeup.
WHERE DO YOU PURCHASE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL WORK WEAR CLOTHING PIECES AND ACCESSORIES?
Please let me know by dropping me a line in the comments below.
I’d love to hear from you.