Wardrobe Essentials for Work

wardrobe essentials for work What are the best wardrobe essentials for work? What are the building blocks of a great working wardrobe? We’ve long noticed, in the course of our regular recommendations for pieces for your working wardrobe, that there are “greatest hits” — dresses and skirts and other basics that are highly rated, reappear year after year, and seem to work for a ton of different sizes and shapes.  We’ve collected some in our Workwear Hall of Fame — but a lot of them appear in our regular Hunt roundups, where we’re hunting for a workwear basic in a range of prices. But if you happen to be building a work wardrobe for a new job (or a change of job), these “greatest hits” would be a great place to start building your working wardrobe — because they’re wardrobe essentials for work.  (Psst: we’ve also started a series for people who prefer to make many purchases at one store, such as how to build a work wardrobe at Nordstrom, or how to build a work wardrobe at Boden.) Stay tuned for our guide to affordable work wardrobe essentials on a budget!

This page was last updated Dec. 2017. 

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Workwear Essentials for a Conservative Office

You can wear almost everything on this list to every kind of office — but our specialty here at Corporette has always been in what to wear to conservative, corporate offices like those at law firms, banks, and consulting agencies. If you’re moving to a more business casual office, check out our advice on how to adapt a conservative style for a business casual office — and please stay tuned for our guide to business casual.


Wardrobe Essentials for Work: Classic Pumps

A classic pump is a great way to get a sleek, professional look with a lot of different outfits. Colorwise, you can do a lot with black and gray — but I’ve always loved a purple pump for versatility, or a nude-for-you heel to make it look like your legs go for miles (with or without pantyhose or tights). Some of the best-selling pumps that are great first bets if you’re on the hunt include these classics:


classic comfortable black pumps

Pictured, row 1 (all under $100): one / two / three /

Pictured, row 2 ($99-$600): four / five / six

Stylish Comfort Heels

One of our most popular pages has long been our Guide to Comfortable Heels — and while we often round up popular, highly-rated heels, we thought we’d feature some of the popular heels that are especially known for comfort. These can be great if you’re just getting used to heels, you need to be on your feet for a networking event or presentation, or you’ve just got fussy feet.


Pictured, top row ($99-$550): one / two / three

Pictured, bottom row ($35-$99): four / five / six

Stylish Sheath Dresses for Work

A sheath dress is a must for the conservative office — it’s a great structured, tailored piece that you can dress up or down with a blazer. (We haven’t done a roundup of fit & flare dresses for a while, but when we do we’ll update this page.)

sheath dresses for work


Pictured above, ranging from $25-$295 (not in order): one / two / three / four / five

Easy Washable Pants for Work

There are always going to be great dry clean only pants that you can find, whether as part of a suiting set or by themselves. But I’ve always thought one of the great workhorses for a busy woman is a pair (or several pairs) of machine washable pants for work.  These are some of our favorites, below — we’ve also offered tips on HOW to wash your washable pants before.  If you really like washable clothes, check our roundup of the best brands for washable workwear over at CorporetteMoms.

Pictured above (all under $100): one / two / three / four / five

The Best Wrap Dresses for the Office

Wrap dresses are a great option to wear to work while losing weight, because they always fit — some new moms also think wrap dresses make the best clothes for pumping (although opinions vary widely on that). If you’re not pumping and wondering what to wear beneath a wrap dress, check out this post. Some classic options for wrap dresses, below:

Wardrobe Essentials: Wrap Dresses for the Office

Pictured above: one / two / three / four

Crisp Button-Front Blouses for Work

A crisp women’s dress shirt is a great layering piece for beneath a blazer, a sweater, or more. If you find that button downs don’t work with your bust, but still want to wear them, do check out our roundup of boutique shops specializing in busty blouses — you can also check out our advice on how to wear a button-front to work. If you prefer a silk button-front, scroll down…

Pictured above: pink / stripey / blue / white / blush

Silk Button-Front Blouses

Another stylish option: the silk button-front. These can be easier for layering beneath a suit, cardigan, or more — but be warned they can be higher maintenance. 

Pictured below, some of our favorite silk button-front blouses, $88-$214:  one / two / three / four.

Camisoles for Work

Of course, if you’re wearing button-front shirts, you may want to look into camisoles for work — they can be great for raising the neckline, making sure no skin is showing through gaps in buttons, and can be a generally great layering piece. (Also check out our roundup of the best demi-camisoles for work — great if you don’t like a ton of unnecessary fabric around your midsection.) Remember: if you’re hoping it will raise the neckline of what you’re wearing, you’re looking for something that doesn’t look like lingerie — the less lace, mesh, and other details, the better.

Pictured above: one / two / three / four

T-Shirts for Work

T-shirts are great in summer, of course, but they’re also great for layering under cardigans and blazers as seasons change. Some of our favorite tees for layering include:

Above: black / pink / blue / red.

Professional Tote Bags

A work tote is a MUST if you’re interviewing — you need something big enough to hold a folder with your resume, light enough that you don’t mind lugging it around, and durable enough that you won’t cry if it gets rained on.  (Note that we’ve also talked about the best backpacks for your commute, as well as the most stylish laptop totes and sleeves.) Some of the best tote bags for work of all time are pictured below, ranging from $168-$298:

Wardrobe Essentials for Work: the Best Tote Bags for Work


Pictured above, Row 1: one / two / three  // Row 2:  four / five / six

Looking for the best laptop bags for work? These are some of our Hall of Famer styles:

Pictured above, Row A: one / two / three; Row B: one / two / three

Comfortable Ballet Flats

Comfortable ballet flats are a must if you’re on your feet a lot — these are some of our favorites, from $50-$550. (Not pictured, but also a favorite: this brand’s flats, from $172-$340.) These pictures are from our roundup of nude flats for work, but they all come in black as well.

nude flats - classic styles

Pictured: one / twothree / four / five 


Seasonal Wardrobe Essentials For Work: Summer Work Clothes

Lightweight Summer Blazers

If summer recruiting is in your life at all (whether as a summer associate, an intern, or as an interviewer!), the summer blazer can be an easy way to look pulled together, FAST. (We’ve also rounded up our favorite stylish summer dress pants for women!) Some of our favorite lightweight blazers for summer include these best-sellers…

summer blazers

Pictured: Navy blazer / white blazer / pink blazer / black blazer / navy blazer


 Cold Weather Basics for Work

Cold weather is another beast — we’ve also discussed how to buy a great winter coat, as well as how to be graceful in a New York winter. Stay tuned for updates to our hunt for flannel pants, also!

Cardigans Every Woman Needs for Work

So many women love cardigans for work — they’re more comfortable and warmer than a blazer, and can be a much more laid back, casual look. We’ve broken down the different styles of cardigans and how we wear them to work — these are some of our favorites through the years.  You may also want to check out our roundup of affordable blazers under $50 as many are knit and comfy. (Not pictured: this reader favorite cardigan for $27-$46.) Whether you need a red cardigan or not, many of the styles featured in our roundup of red cardigan sweaters are classic styles.

Pictured: twinset / sweater blazer / boyfriend cardigan / long cardigan / fitted cardigan

Affordable Cashmere for Work

Cashmere runs the gamut from affordable to expensive — and we’ve talked about the best cashmere a ton over the years. Below are some of the best-selling, affordable cashmere sweaters for work that we’ve seen for years:

Pictured: boatneck / crewneck / turtleneck / faux wrap / turtleneck

Tights for Work

Tights for work are a must — and whether you want opacity, warmth, durabilty, or more, we did a major roundup. Below are some of the best-selling reader favorites. Note that we’ve also talked about what color tights to wear with a navy suit, as well as when it’s time to stop wearing tights (seasonally). You can also check out the Corporette Guide to Pantyhose or our 2017 discussion on the best lingerie for office looks.


Pictured: one / two / three / four

Strappy Pumps

I’m always a fan of strappy pumps, but I especially think they’re the best work shoe to wear with tights — these are some of the best-selling, classic versions of strappy pumps:


Row 1: one / two / three / four
Row 2: fivesix / seven / eight

Best Knee-High Boots for Commuting

the best knee high boots for commuting!

Pictured above: one / two / three


Winter Coats To Wear to Work

Winter coats are a must if you live in a cold climate — the right topper will not only keep you warm but also stylish. Some reader favorites are pictured below, but note that we’ve also discussed in general how to buy a great winter coat.

Pictured below: the Hall of Famers readers swear by: one / two / three / four

Waterproof, Weatherproof Shoes for Work

If your commute involves puddles, slush, dirt, or more, a great waterproof, weatherproof shoe is essential! Some favorite options over the years include:


Best-sellers, above: one / two / three / four / five

Long Underwear For the Win

As we noted in our last post on warm women’s dress pants for the office, silk long johns (aka long underwear, aka silk leggings) can be lifesavers under pants in most blustry days of winter. The best ones block the wind, keeping you nice and toasty — but don’t add a ton of heat once you get inside. They’re also great if you’re wondering what to wear beneath unlined suit pants…

silk long underwear for professional women

one / two / three / four

The Corporette Guide to Suits

Whether you need a suit for an interview, for courtroom attire, or you just wear suits often for work, we’ve covered them all. Do check out our Guide to Interview Suits for a lot of basic guidelines on suits; we’ve also recently done a big overview on brands of suits for women (for regular sizes, plus sizes, tall sizes, petite sizes, and more), as well as discussed the best business suits to wear while you’re expecting over at CorporetteMoms.

Budget Suits

Whether you’re just starting out, you’ve recently lost (or gained) some weight, or you’re on a really tight budget, we all need a budget suit every now and again. Our 2017 roundup of the best budget-friendly interview suits is here.

Pictured: one / two / three / four

Mid-Range Suits

These mid-range suits can be great if you know you need a suit for an interview, but don’t expect to wear one often very often in your daily life — they can also be great starter suits while you figure out all those suiting details that matter, such as button stance, lapel type, vent type, etc.


Pictured:  one / two three / four / five

Interview Suits for Lawyers

classy suiting for women


Pictured: Theory / Boss / Reiss / Elie TahariLafayette 148 New York 

 Weekend Wear (or for your Casual Office)

Best-Selling Denim

Every woman needs a good pair of jeans — even if you only get to wear them on the weekends. In our last round-up of the most-loved denim of 2017, these were the favorites, ranging from $59-$235:

the most-loved denim at Nordstrom

Pictured above: one / two / three / four / five

Pictured illustration: Deposit Photos / © urfinguswardrobe essentials for work

Shopping for a new job? We've rounded up our favorite wardrobe essentials for work -- the best-selling, classic styles for conservative offices and beyond.


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