How to Build a Work Wardrobe at… Talbots

how to build a work wardrobe at TalbotsWelcome to our latest installment in our series, How to Build a Work Wardrobe at ___, where we round up a single store’s best-selling, classic items that are loved by Corporette readers for all sorts of office wardrobes.  (You can also check out earlier installments with How to Build a Work Wardrobe at Boden and others!). Today, we’re looking at Talbots, which has really elevated a lot of its workwear of late, including tons of fun colors, styles and cuts at a nice mix of affordable prices and good quality. Note also that for a limited time (through 11:59 p.m. your time on 9/26), you can get free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Some of our favorite pieces for building a work wardrobe at Talbots include:

Everyone seems to love the Audrey cashmere sweater, and readers have been singing its praises for about 1,000 years — so we just had to include it! It currently comes in 10 colors in regular sizes and petites (although it’s a slightly different selection of 10) as well as a lot of colors in woman and woman petites. It’s a basic jewel-neck sweater with a feminine fit and flattering cut, and it’s hand wash or dry clean. So if you’re looking for a good cashmere basic (or affordable cashmere for work in general), do check out the Audrey. Note that the Audrey comes in a bunch of fun patterns as well as some newer iterations (for example, with ribbed sleeves), but the original is definitely worth checking out. It’s $149–$169, depending on size. Cashmere Audrey Sweater
No one’s going to tell you to go to Talbots for the sexiest cuts or figure-skimming styles (that would probably be Express) — but if you’re looking for an affordable suit that will fit well and last, don’t bypass Talbots, because they’ve got great seasonless wool suiting in a huge range of sizes. (Note that tailoring is a great option if you do prefer a more figure-skimming style — here’s a great roundup Jean from ExtraPetite did a few years ago for us on suiting alterations.) The seasonless wool suiting includes pants (slim-leg, straight-leg, and bootcut), a pencil skirt, a sheath dress, one- and two-button blazers, and more. Outside of the collection, Talbots has a lot of other good suits in general, so if you’re shopping for a new one, do give them a try. The individual pieces range from $109–$239. Seasonless Wool Suiting
For a long time, Talbots’ Charming Cardigan has been vying for the title of “the cardigan that everyone seems to have in their closets,” alongside Halogen’s three-quarter-sleeved cardigan at Nordstrom. It’s very popular — including among Corporette readers — and it’s a good bet if you want a twinset look with a matching cardigan and shell. Talbots has a lot of different versions of this right now (elbow-sleeve, long-sleeve, solids, prints, etc.), with some as low as $49. The pictured style has an impressive selection of 13–14 colors, depending on the size range. It’s made from a blend of cotton, rayon, nylon, and cashmere and is hand washable. This cardigan is a really good basic, and I would definitely recommend it. Charming Cardigan and Shell
These 2″ kitten heels come in a lot of colors and prints (spotted haircalf, tortoiseshell patent, etc.) and are very highly rated. They’ve got flexible nonskid outsoles and an antibacterial lining, and they have a good selection of widths and sizes: narrow, medium, and wide, and 5–11. (They also sell a crisscross-strap D’Orsay pump under the Erica name that’s very cute, although the heel is 3″ rather than 2″.) So if you need a low heel, definitely check these out. Erica Kitten-Heel Pump
We’re picturing the Perfect Shirt (mentioned in our post on the best women’s dress shirts) in a very traditional blue, but note that it comes in a ton of prints right now (stripes, gingham, geometric, polka dot, etc.) as well as a basic white. (Besides this long-sleeved style, there’s also a version with elbow-length sleeves, and a long-sleeved popover.) It’s just a very easy basic to wear, and I like that the buttons are pretty close together — that will help to reduce gaping between them. The shirt is made from easy-care, wrinkle-resistant fabric (100% cotton) and is machine wash, tumble dry. It’s available in regular sizes (2–20), petites (0P–16P), woman (12W–26W), and woman petites (12WP–22WP), and the price range is $32–$99. The Perfect Shirt
These waterweave cashmere wraps have been a huge favorite of readers for a long time. Right now they’re available in three colors: the hot pink pictured, as well as black and paisley, but a lot of different prints will come and go. A cashmere wrap is a great basic if you’re the kind of person who can wear a cashmere sweater and blazer at the office and still be freezing — you can layer the wrap on top of your blazer without looking like you’re huddled under a blanket. With one of these, you’ll still look vaguely stylish. It’s also great as an office pashmina, as we’ve noted before. These wraps are $159 full price, but Talbots sometimes has them on sale; I think I got one last year for around $60. Waterweave Wrap

These are the classics I’d recommend buying to build a work wardrobe at Talbots, but let’s hear it from you, ladies: What do you like to buy at Talbots? What general categories do you tend to look at? (For example, their winter blazers are always amazing — right now they have velveteen, corduroy, and flannel.) What have you gotten at Talbots that you’ve absolutely loved? What would you go back and buy again today if you could? Do you have anything from years ago that’s still going strong? If you were starting a new job or doing a serious refresh in your closet, what would your tips be for how to build a work wardrobe at Talbots?

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Need to build a work wardrobe and not sure what to get? In our latest installment of our "How to Build a Work Wardrobe At..." we look at the best stuff to buy at Talbots for work! From affordable cashmere to quality suiting (in a huge range of sizes, including petite suiting and plus sized suits), there's a lot to love.


  1. I wish I could interject a clapping hands emoji. Their classics are classic, and their stuff usually holds up. Can you buy an entire wardrobe of appliqued pineapple themed items there for your boxy grandma? Yes. But you can also outfit your professional wardrobe!

    • +1000 Where else can you find lined dresses and suits for that price? Patterns that actually match at the seams? Talbots isn’t trendy and it doesn’t try to be, but for quality classics, it’s fantastic.

    • Anonymous :

      +1 I had to get over thinking of Talbots as a grandma store. They actually have some really nice things.

    • Another Stitch Fix Review - AZCPA :

      The boxy grandma comment painted a mental image the laughed out loud about.

    • So true! Some of their casual-wear makes me cringe. I do not have a yacht and therefore have no need for a full wardrobe of coordinating anchor-themed items. But for a basic suit, pencil skirt, wrap dress or blouse in plus sizes without any weird added zippers or fringe or trendy cold shoulder nonsense (I’m looking at you Lane Bryant) Talbots is wonderful!

  2. Check out their blazers – be prepared to try several sizes up or down from your regular size as the fit seems all over the place, but lots of classic one and two button looks. And wait until they are at least 40% off – usually still good color selection, and then you can grab a few more for rock bottom at the end of the season. They also are one of the few “work” items that shows up in the outlet stores in my experience.

    Also work slacks – for me at least these run huge (ie, I’m usually an 8-10 and took a 4 last time) but wool, lined trousers with pockets for $30 on sale. And they come in petite, regular, and tall!

    They’re also good for “wedding guest” summer dresses – a little casual/loud for a conservative office, but great for social gatherings where you want more of a classic or vintage vibe that’s more fun. And you can often pair with their cardigans or shrugs.

  3. Help Me Shop! :

    Not work wardrobe, but could be similar… family photo shoot in 3 weeks – outdoor Fall setting. Color family is dark denim, deep pink, and grey. I have dark-rinse jeans and am looking for the perfect top or shirt/sweater combo. I’m 55 pounds into major weight loss and am currently an 18/20 (1X or 2X depending on close fit). My ideal is:

    – Somewhat structured (no floaty peasant tops)
    – Subtle or no print
    – No sparkles for photo’s sake
    – Interesting neckline (wrap, ruffle-edged cardigan, v-neck, layered, etc) or pretty scarf to coordinate
    – Not too tight on upper arms and nothing to tuck in.
    – Not. Sheer.
    – Something I can buy online.

    I’ve ordered a very plain berry collared button-up shirt and an equally plain charcoal classic button-up cardigan, but fear this is too boring. I could leave the cardigan open and maybe belt it (don’t have belt)? Statement necklace? Pin a big flower on? I do have two beautiful black pearl necklaces, one multi-strand mixed sizes and one with silver links. Would rather not spend $$$ since I won’t be this size for much longer.

    • Sometimes boring looks photograph really well. I’ve been told that solids are best for photos. Your impulse to add accessories might be absolutely right in person but wrong for a photo.

      • Help Me Shop! :

        Good point, thank you! I have not been this size for several years, so I feel like I’m learning to style myself all over again.

    • Anonymous :

      I’d focus on a color that looks great on you, good makeup, and good hair.

      Hold a child for a can’t-miss accessory. : )

      • +1 on good makeup. I was the only one wearing lipstick in our last team photo but in the photo I look the most natural. Photography is the new alchemy, as far as I’m concerned.

      • Help Me Shop! :

        True to both, I do have a ridiculously cute preschooler handy. And these are definitely my happy colors – I have a pale complexion and dark hair. I’ve been upping my makeup and skincare game (hello middle age!) lately and I think I’ve found a good polished look without going full-on beauty blogger.

    • I would go simple, rather than trendy. I would actually avoid an “interesting neckline” unless you mean V-neck/ scoop neck. I think that can read wrong in pictures depending on where everyone is placed. Anything you will have to “fix” to make flat/ lay right should be out. Also, generally for expensive professional photos I think I’d aim for “timeless” looks. I think some necklines and sleeve details that are cool now will be looking just as weird as the 80s puffed sleeve tops in 5-10 years. Button ups seem risky as I always have to go “too big” to keep the buttons right or risk a malfunction there. Also, if all the men are wearing button ups it can be a nice mix to wear something not. As a similar size, I always feel like I photograph better with more skin in the neck/chest area visible. It makes the neck look longer/ face look less “round.”

      Speaking of Talbots, I like this:

    • Take a look at a lot of fall family pictures on the Interwebs. Most of the women are wearing dark wash jeans, a cute but not flashy top, and maybe a scarf or statement necklace. And they look phenomenal. I would say go with the shirt and sweater you’ve got and then add either the dark pearls or a different statement-y necklace. No belt on the sweater and definitely no big flower pin. Keep in mind that unless you are the only subject in the picture, the other people are also going to add visual interest to the picture. So while you can get away with more accessories if it’s just you dressing up for an event, in a picture everyone’s accessories add up and can quickly overwhelm the picture.

  4. Any tall ladies actually have success at Talbots? My petite friends swear by it but nothing looks right on me there.

    • My sister who is tall raves about their slacks and blazers that are actually long enough in both the torso and sleeves.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m 5′ 10″ and finally had to acknowledge that everything there feels like it was cut for someone about 2 – 3 inches shorter than me. Which, I’m guessing, it was.

    • Anonymous :

      Six feet tall here, and their suiting skirts are sometimes long enough but for the most part I tend to strike out. I hate that almost none of their suiting pants ever come in tall lengths.

    • I’ve always wish Talbot’s had more tall options. It’s great quality but I always seem to decide that a short or sweater is actually too short.

  5. This timing is perfect, I just ordered a seasonless wool suit (the one with the pleated edge pencil skirt) earlier this afternoon. We’ll see if I like it. The green crepe suit did not work for me.

  6. Size 4 petite, I’ve been wearing Talbot’s since law school (close to 30 years). I have a tweed blazer and a pink rose printed cardigan that I will wear until they fall apart. Get on their mailing list and watch for mid season sales, but really watch for end of season sales when things can be 70% off.

  7. Long time reader and I just bought the seasonless wool suit with the pants and skirt after needing another suit and reviewing the suits guide on here. I am very pleased. This is my first Talbots purchase. The drape is nice, classic and timeless style. I sized down one size from Banana. Will be going back to Talbots. I am 36.

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