My friend Suze raised a very good topic recently. She’s got a new job and unlike her old job, which allowed her to work at home – and thusly in her favorite pj’s, she now has to actually get dressed to go into an office every day. She’s asked for guidance in building a basic, stylish work wardrobe. The key word here is “capsule”. Build a collection of a few essential items.
First off, and certainly nothing groundbreaking here, get yourself two great pairs of trousers, one black and one grey. I don’t mean just any trouser either. I’m talking investment trousers. My personal favorite is Theory ($235 – $295 depending on the style). I find that the cut is always flattering and they transition well from work to evening, depending on what you wear with them. For an office environment, I would go for a more classic silhouette – basic bootcut or straight leg. Save the skinny for evening, unless you happen to work in a more fashion-forward industry. Check out Saks and Bergdorf Goodman online to view cuts and styles but don’t buy. Go to your local store. Try on 25 different styles if you need to. See which ones work for your body type. More importantly, see which ones don’t. Then buy as much of what works as you can afford. This is a purchase you will not regret. Ever.
Next, build a wardrobe of tops that you can layer and wear in different ways. My philosophy is that you must must must spend a lot on your trousers and jeans but you can skimp in the tops department if you need to. (Though I don’t necessarily recommend going cheap when it comes to structured button-ups. They’ll pull in all the wrong places and won’t wear well at all.) Here’s a great example from Banana Republic:
This silk top ($69) adds a nice punch of color. You can wear it alone, with a statement necklace, with a cardigan, with a jacket, or with a scarf or wrap. And speaking of Banana Republic, during my research for this article I found out that they have a great tool that makes shopping for office wear simple. It’s called their Stylish Work collection and it contains a range of key coordinating pieces that can be worn different ways. Well worth a look, even to just get ideas and inspiration.
While trawling Banana Republic, I also found a perfect example of a great everyday work shoe. This black leather platform pump ($140) hits all the right marks.
It has a 4-inch stacked heel, which gives nice height but is much more stable and offers more support than a stiletto. The rounded point toe will stand the test of time and changing trends because it’s neither overly round or pointy to the extreme. It also comes in a “nude” (light tan) leather upper and a “dust” (brown with a hint of grey tone) suede upper.
The bottom line here is to spend as much as you can on your basics (trousers, jackets, cardigans, shoes) and add less expensive pieces (tops, jewelry, belts, scarves) to mix it all up. It’s as simple as that. So if you’re one of the poor working slags who has to get up and go into an office every day, count your blessings. At least it’s an excuse to shop!