Transitioning from a college to professional wardrobe can be a bit overwhelming and very expensive. I put together a list of the five things I thought were my best investments during my first year of working. You’ll notice that this list does not include a nice blazer, because while a blazer is great for interviews, it is not something you wear to work every day. So, if I had to chose, I would have spent more on good quality versions of the items below rather than an expensive blazer.
Without further ado (drumroll, please), my staples to my young professional wardrobe are:
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Professional Wardrobe Staple 1- A Wool Coat
Moving to New York from Colorado, I was well stocked with down coats. Yet not so much with more formal coats. When I began working and building my professional wardrobe, I shopped for a while for the perfect coat. They are so important on the East Coast and can make an entire outfit. For several months of the year, coats are all people see you in while out and about. You also will extend the wear of fall and spring pieces to winter if you have a warm enough coat to wear over them.
Professional Wardrobe Staple 2- Black Heeled Booties
Ankle booties are great because they work for a solid three seasons, and can even be worn in summer as well if done correctly, stretching them into an all year shoe. The bootie in comparison to a classic pump for work is a bit warmer and more comfortable. They are more versatile and can give a bit of a younger look (either good or bad) than a classic pump. The bootie, in comparison to a knee high heeled boot, is more office appropriate. It also helps petite girls that have a tough time finding tall heeled boots that look conservative enough. They look equally great with black tights and a pencil skirt as they do with jeans and tank for a more relaxed look or a night out.
These shoes above are extremely comfortable; my feet feel like they’re in a glove with them on. Because they’re leather, they do stretch, so I recommend going a half size down, as I did, and even then they’ve stretched out to be a bit big on my feet.
Professional Wardrobe Staple 3- A Leather Tote
I came out of college with nothing in terms of “professional wardrobe bags” but a North Face backpack and three colors of Longchamp’s Le Pilage bags. I try to add diversity to my bag collection because I feel Longchamps are overused in New York. While I am utterly guilty of wearing them to work, I love the look of a defined shape tote (partly because it resembles a briefcase). I prefer the camel color to black for a classic tote. I think it pops against dark colors nicely and still looks great with nude, light or white.
Professional Wardrobe Staple 4- A Watch
Watches are a fun accessory to a professional wardrobe because not only can they polish a look, they are useful! A nice watch adds a professional touch to an office look. More importantly, it makes a difference to use your watch to tell the time, not constantly look at your phone in front of your co-workers and supervisors. Watches also come in so many different styles, it’s a chance to express your personal style in a classic way.
Professional Wardrobe Staple 5- A Pencil Skirt
This was the hardest item for me to find in the early stages of my professional wardrobe, even though one would think so common. Because I’m petite, pencil skirts aren’t the most flattering and are hard to find. I tried everywhere: Express, Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, none of them cut it. Finally, I found the perfect wool skirt at J. Crew (though still had to get it tailored). A nice black skirt really widens your professional wardrobe, because they can be year round and open up the possibilities for many seemingly casual shirts to be dressed up with a cardigan or blazer.