Finishing school and entering the workforce is an exciting endeavor—and also a stressful one. College days are over, you’re entering the next phase of your life, and you’ll soon discover a whole new world. You want to make a great first impression, learn the office culture, and do your job well, and it can be a little overwhelming at first. One of these stressors, at least for women, is figuring out what to wear. Men have it a little easier in this department with the standard “office uniform” of button-down shirts, slacks, and dress shoes. Women have more workwear options, which can be both a blessing and a curse. But once you are clear on your office’s dress code and have a few essential pieces, dressing for the office won’t add to your stress load.
A Business-Ready Dress
You absolutely need an office-ready dress in your closet at all times. Find a dress that is well-cut and flatters your figure without being constrictive or revealing. Be sure the material is thick enough that nothing shows through, that it’s at least knee length, and just loose enough to be able for you to sit comfortably. Neutral colors are best so you can wear them with different accessories, making them extra versatile. A dress is great because it’s an outfit all in one piece— just zip it up, add shoes, and you’re done! You’ll be grateful for them, especially on those days when you’re running late and need to look dressy in a hurry (without looking like you were in a hurry, of course). Dresses are sophisticated and elegant, and are a great go-to for job interviews as well if you haven’t landed that dream office job quite yet.
Of all the things you buy for your office wardrobe, a good-quality blazer will probably be the one you use the longest. It also may be the priciest, but it truly is worth the investment. The more expensive the blazer, the better quality you’ll be getting. You’ll want one that is fitted correctly so that it is flattering on the natural curves of your body without ever restricting your arm movement. If you find one you love you’ll likely have it for years, and it’ll more than pay for itself over that time.
Heels are always stylish and your workplace might be very formal, so they could seem to be the obvious choice. But if you’ve ever spent hours on your feet in heels, you know the pain that comes after taking them off. If you’re tired of torturing your toes in the name of fashion, flats are a godsend. And that’s not to say that flats aren’t fashionable, because they absolutely are! Work flats come in all styles, patterns, and materials, and look great paired with both casual and work attire. Pointed flats are a great alternative to heels when you want an extra touch of formality without sacrificing comfort. Other flat shoe options include loafers, boots, mules, and sandals—there are tons of style-pleasing choices that your feet will thank you for. If you prefer heels for important meetings or presentations, go for it! Just do yourself a favor and keep a pair of “desk shoes” (aka flats) handy for when your meeting is over.
Business Casual Pants
Dresses are great, but depending on your job, you’ll probably wear business casual pants to work most often. Buy a few pairs in neutral colors so you can change them up with different blouses. Classic styles always work best— stick with pairs that aren’t too tight or low-waisted to look the most professional.
A Work Bag
Whether a large tote bag or a big purse, you’ll need something to carry all of your office essentials: keys, lunch, wallet, water bottle, and possibly a laptop. The vacation tote you love to take to the beach obviously won’t work in a professional setting. You’ll need something more work-appropriate and neutral to pair well with your outfits. But that doesn’t mean it has to be bland! There are a lot of sophisticated bag options that are anything but boring, and will complete your business casual look. They make great accessories in addition to holding all of your important stuff.
To get the perfect office wardrobe, start with a few key pieces that you can mix-and-match and gradually build it over time. Now that the “what to wear” anxiety is alleviated, you can focus on the important stuff, like just how awesome you’re going to be at your job!