When it comes to getting dressed for work every morning, there are some styles that exude that classic, go-anywhere look. From strolling the city streets on your morning commute to leading boardroom meetings, there are several fool-proof clothing items every career woman needs in her wardrobe arsenal. But what makes a professional ensemble and what are the rules for dressing appropriately for work? The answer is simple. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and give you enough coverage to bend, sit, and move freely. There is a fine line between dressing stylishly and dressing appropriately for the workplace, so if in doubt, always err on the side that is more classic and elegant rather than trendy.
Whether you work in an office that demands a more buttoned-up look or in a more laid-back environment where business casual is welcome, these staple items will get you through any important and busy work week, from polished slacks for formal meetings to tailored denim for more casual days.
Women’s dress shirts are smart, fitted, and polished no matter what type of bottom you pair them with. In a range of different colors and cuts, you can choose from long-sleeved shirts or short-sleeved dress shirts that are equally appropriate for the office or any other professional setting. Women’s dress shirts look great and stylish when paired with everything from dress slacks and pencil skirts to dark denim. To upgrade your dress shirt, we recommend wearing them with fitted pants or skirts. Dress them up or down with high heels or ballet flats for an office-appropriate look; for a more casual style, tuck them into dark denim jeans for a polished ensemble that can go from the office to date night.
Women’s tunics are a fun take on a dress shirt. Their longer length offers appropriate coverage and their looser fit gives off a lighter, less formal look. Women’s tunics are great for the office when paired with slim-fit pants or jeans. If jeans are not welcome in your workplace, opt for light slacks or fitted pants that hug the body in contrast with the more flowy shape of the shirt. Women’s tunics look great when paired with accessories like scarves and long necklaces. They are available in almost any color or fabric, making them an extremely versatile clothing item for work and beyond.
Comfortable and professional dresses are the ultimate look for women at work. What makes these women's wear-to-work dresses so appropriate for the workplace is their conservative cut and length. These dresses make our list for the best workwear because they are not too short or showy, but still, look beautiful and are easy to pull on with very little stress or thought. Wear a wrap dress for a cinched-waist look or, for a more formal meeting, wear a fitted dress that looks more tailored. Pair your dress with high heels or ballet flats to elevate your look with minimal effort.
Women’s dress pants are sleek and can easily be dressed up or down depending on the day's agenda or work occasion. Look for a pair of women's dress pants that are fitted and hit right at the ankle for a more modern look. While black is always a great choice for work, you can also experiment with patterns and different colors for a sassier vibe to take on your day at work. Pair with a tucked-in dress shirt for a very polished look or wear with a more casual crew neck sweater for a winter look that is effortlessly stylish.
Women’s cashmere sweaters exude luxury while also keeping you warm all day long, no matter how strong your office's air conditioning may be. Wear a cashmere sweater with almost anything, from dress pants to skirts for a polished look. For the workplace, we recommend cashmere sweaters in more serious colors like black or beige, but if you are in the mood for a more vibrant office look, pair a light pink cashmere sweater with fitted pants and ballet flats for a polished and neat ensemble.
While some offices and professional settings don’t allow for leggings, some do. If allowed in your workplace, leggings can be a wonderful alternative to dress pants. Just make sure you layer a long shirt (such as a tunic top) over the top of your leggings to cover your front and back. Leggings can be worn with any kind of shoe, but to dress it up for work, pair it with flats, heels, or a dressy pair of ankle boots. While you probably won’t be able to get away with leggings that have crazy prints (unless your workplace is super casual), just stick to colors that you would normally get dress pants in. These are usually neutral colors such as black, brown, and navy blue.
Nothing says elegant and professional like a women’s turtleneck. Turtlenecks come in so many colors and materials, that you’re sure to find a few that you love. Pair your turtlenecks with dress pants, ankle boots (or flats), and a long but simple pendant necklace. You can also throw in a cute purse and a headband to put a fun twist on your ensemble.
There is nothing easier to slip on than a humble pair of women’s flats. Flats can go with almost everything and come in so many colors. In a professional setting, you’ll probably want to stick to flats in the loafer or ballet flat style. Other more sporty-looking flats can be much more comfortable, but if your workplace doesn’t allow you to dress casually, steer clear of those. Otherwise, flats will pair with everything, and they’re great to wear in all seasons, except for if you live somewhere with rainy or snowy winters. Then you might need to switch your flats for some dressy boots for the colder seasons.
Sooner or later, you’ll need a jacket that isn’t a dressy suit jacket. The falls, winters, and even early springs (in some places) can be brutally cold. So, that’s why you need to invest in a warm winter jacket. You can get a jacket in long, mid, or short lengths, in almost any color. The great thing about your jacket is since it’s mostly worn outside the office, you might be able to get away with a brighter color or pattern (if that’s your thing.)
Some offices have casual days, or they want you to look professional but casual. If this is the case in your office, consider getting a few polo shirts. Polos are comfy and they look amazing. They also come in long and short sleeves as well as many colors. They can be paired with jeans, dress pants, skirts, and even shorts. They give you a more polished look than a plain t-shirt, but they aren’t quite as formal as a blouse.