When thinking about clothes for women at the office, sensible and power suit are two of the first things that come to mind. Even in today’s more enlightened times women are still only paid, on average, 78₵ for every dollar her male counterpart earns. And we still walk a work wear tightrope between ladylike and frilly, feminine and tarty, sensible and frumpy or powerful and genderless. It almost makes us wish for a uniform to make getting dressed in the morning less of a brain teaser.
Looking polished, professional and comfortable in your skin (and attire) go a long way in corporate America. And it’s entirely possible to project power while still embracing your femininity. Fashionista and business executive Christine Barberich, Editor-in-Chief of Refinery 29 sums it up beautifully: “When something really suits you—whether it’s a beautifully tailored blazer, high-waisted trousers, or a flattering midi dress—it shows that you know who you are, and that confidence permeates how you conduct yourself in so many capacities.” We’ve rounded up 15 easy wardrobe essentials that serve as foundation pieces to keep clothes for women at the office chic and pulled together.
1.A Great Bag Nothing makes you seem more disheveled than pulling out a worn out purse overflowing with papers and sundries. A sleek carryall that easily fits everything you need, and a little extra, is well worth the investment. You’ll always look efficient and super organized. Coach has beautiful, sturdy satchels or splurge on a Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote.
2.Day to Night There’s nothing like the holiday season with its endless cocktail, office Christmas and after work Christmas parties to remind us how important it is to master the day to night ensemble. Think layers and accessories. And a quick change of shoes. Throw a cardigan or blazer over an LBD that shows a little more skin than is office appropriate. Swap your brogues for sexy heels, amp up your makeup, add a few glitzy accessories and you’re ready for a night on the town.
3.Pinstripes Pinstripes or chalk stripes are a sophisticated twist on menswear that also happen to elongate your frame making you appear taller and slimmer. What could be better?
4.Culottes Culottes are back and better than ever. This trend is absolutely made for the office. You get the feminine look of a skirt with the utilitarian comfort of wide-legged trousers. Make a silky, lightweight patterned version and a more structured wool version your wardrobe staples this season.
5.Elegant Flats. The flat shoe has been reinvented for 2014 and these styles go way beyond ballerina flats and brogues. The pointy loafer looks sharp with skirts or trousers and there are tons of other gorgeous options from ankle-straps to embellishments to funky prints.
6.Blazer A great, structured blazer will always top the list of clothes for women at the office. You should have a few go-tos for spring/summer and fall/winter. J. Crew has a nice selection of reasonably priced styles.
7.Booties Booties are an excellent day to night shoe—they’re so easy to dress up or down and they look great with skirts and pants and culottes. High, low or mid-heel—booties are a wardrobe essential.
8.Wide-Legged Trousers Wide-Legged trousers are chic and easy to wear no matter what your figure. Even better, they’re a great way to elongate your silhouette by hemming them to skim the floor with platforms on—your legs are instantly three inches longer!
9.Pencil Skirt. A perfectly fitted pencil skirt that hits just below the knee is a powerful weapon. It’s the perfect blend of sexy and librarian. Pair it with a demure Peter Pan collared blouse or make it fierce with an exquisitely tailored jacket.
10.Power Suit Every working woman needs at least one power suit in her arsenal. And we’re not talking about the oversize shoulder pads and knee-length skirt of Working Girl. A power suit is whatever makes you feel powerful—it could be a smart blazer and sophisticated flares or a double breasted checked jacket with capris. It just needs to be perfectly tailored and make you feel like Olivia Pope.
11.Button-Down Shirt A button-down shirt is a work wear staple. You can never go wrong with a crisp, white collared shirt or a silky patterned blouse with a bow at the neck.
12.Menswear-Inspired Watch An elegant timepiece is a built-in accessory and it almost makes you seem punctual just by virtue of wearing it.
13.Pumps Even if flats are your daily footwear, certain occasions call for a slightly higher heel. Keep a pair of office appropriate pumps on hand for big meetings and lunch with the boss.
14.Shift Dress A simple, easy shift dress works on its own and under a blazer or sweater. This is another super versatile style that can go formal with heels and an undo or casual with flats and a cardigan.
15.Manicure The devil is in the details. Beyond clothes for women at work, keeping your cuticles groomed and nails in tip-top shape speaks volumes. Your boss may never mention your lovely manicure but he or she will definitely notice when you don’t have one.16.A Talented Tailor In keeping with focusing on the details, a good tailor is vital. Fit is everything—it can take an outfit from dowdy to dapper with just a few tweaks.