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The Working Wardrobe

With everyone back at school and the vacation season at an end, it’s time to get back to the daily grind, which includes figuring out what to wear for work. As anyone who has ever worked in an office knows, figuring out a different outfit for each weekday is quite the challenge. And what working woman has time to rifle through her entire wardrobe every morning, searching for an appropriate outfit that’s both stylish and comfortable? That’s exactly why it’s vital to build up a working wardrobe with a mix of basics and statement pieces that are polished, interchangeable, and classic, yet fresh. Here’s a list of the essential elements of a stylish work wardrobe.

First up, the blazer. Whether in standard black, traditional navy, or a neutral camel, the right blazer can be mixed and matched with abandon to complete any office ensemble. A well-tailored blazer can create a very flattering silhouette, while a knit version can be just as comfy as a cardigan and still look professional. For classic suiting pieces, check out J.Crew, which has a range of colors and fabrics for investment level options. Target is rife with trendy robe coats and kimono styles, for a creative take on work wear. The Gap is a great source for standard black blazers that will get the job done.

Next up, tops. A clean white shirt is the most classic item in a working woman’s wardrobe since it will always be in style, while also being appropriate for the workplace. Striped button-downs are also no-fail tops for office attire. This fall, consider a deeply-hued turtleneck to pair with your go-to blazer. Short-sleeved sweaters will round out your options and can be layered with your button-up shirts as fall turns to winter. Department stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s will have a variety of each top style to meet your needs.

From tops to bottoms — midi pencil skirts. A longer length is more seasonally appropriate than knee-length this fall and pairs perfectly with every top and jacket in your closet. Be sure to tuck in those button-down shirts for a polished looked, but feel free to keep your sweaters loose. I recommend having one skirt in a neutral color, like black or grey, and a patterned and/or colorful version on hand to shake up your office apparel. If you invest in a blazer from J.Crew above, then consider buying the matching skirt in the suiting options. However, don’t feel that you need to have a skirt “suit.” Most neutrals pair well together, whether black with grey, camel and navy, or black and camel. I’d avoid black and navy pairings as they can appear muddy.

Of course, not every lady likes to wear skirts every day. If pants are better suited to your work style, then dark-wash skinny jeans (for casual Fridays and the like) and slim black pants will see you through the week. I’m a big proponent of the ankle-length trousers from Uniqlo, that come in black, as well as plaids, navys, and grays. Old Navy’s skinny jeans come in original and curvy cuts, and with their mid-rise provide the right amount of coverage for the workplace.

For shoes this fall, stick to the classics—pumps, loafers, and boots. I’d recommend flat knee-high boots with skirts, and loafers with trousers. Pumps can work with just about everything, but consider heel height and how comfortable you’ll be after an 8-hour day. Dr. Scholls Shoes has some surprisingly stylish options for flats and boots. For heels, search for “block pumps” on sites like DSW for moderately-priced, work appropriate heels.

Lastly, a throw-on-and-go dress. Having one piece that takes zero effort is a woman’s secret weapon when it comes to getting dressed for work every day. In years past, I’d recommend a little black dress that can transition from office to out-on-the-town. But, here recently, I’ve taken to shirtdresses that can be worn all on their own, or mixed and matched (buttoned or unbuttoned) with blazers, sweaters, jeans, and pants. Lands’ End has plaids, denim, and solid shirtdresses on sale in regular and plus sizes that are worth looking at for your fall work wardrobe. Again, depending on the silhouette and fabric, you can wear these like a dress, a shirt, or even as a long jacket.

Once you have your basic pieces, you can start mixing and matching to create everyday looks that are stylish without a lot of fuss. Consider these standard “formulas” to get started:

• striped button down + black trousers + loafers
• white shirt + jeans + pumps + blazer
• shirtdress + turtleneck + boots
• short-sleeved sweater + pencil skirt + loafers
Assign an outfit combination to each day for the work week and, voila! You’ll be dressed for success!

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