2019 Update: We still think this is a great list of office staples (clothing edition), but you may want to check out our more recent discussion of what clothes to keep at your office.
Last week we covered what toiletry supplies you may want to keep in your office — this week, we thought we’d give our recommendations on clothing to keep in your office. (In the coming weeks we’ll also tackle foodstuffs and gadgetry.)
1. A suit. The goal of the suit is to be able to look proper if you have to run to court at the last minute, or if you have an impromptu call to meet with the CEO.
Note that if you’re going to keep a skirt suit, you might want to make sure you’ve got pantyhose and possibly a razor blade, as well. Make sure that you’ve got an appropriate top to wear under the suit, as well as appropriate undergarments (i.e., don’t wear a sheer white blouse with a black polka dot bra). It’s also handy to have another outfit on hand in the event of a severe food mishap such as a yogurt spill.
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2. Extra panties (preferably ones that don’t show any visible pantylines). Yes, it’s kind of gross to say, but… if you have to pull an all-nighter… if you need to change into a skirt suit with pantyhose and had been wearing boyshorts… if you actually make it to the gym and need to change into a fresh pair… there are lots of different reasons to keep an extra thong or seamless pair tucked discreetly into a gym bag or in a ziplock baggy in your desk drawer.
(Why a ziplock baggy? After a while your desk drawers will get gross. We don’t know what happens in there — it isn’t as if ketchup packets implode — but they just get a bit gross. Take our advice and protect your drawers from your drawers.)
3. A wrap. Some days the A/C is going full blast and there is nothing you can do but wrap yourself up in a shawl.
Unlike a sweater, it’s generally something you can add to any kind of outfit — a suit looks good with a wrap thrown over it, as does a dress, or even a casual sweater and pants outfit. We like the ones from Love Quotes, available at places like ShopBop in a huge array of colors for $75.
4. Gym clothes. Dare to dream! There might be some down time and you can actually make it to the gym. (Try to include a lock for the locker room, as well as any shower supplies your gym doesn’t carry, such as facial moisturizer or a gentle face wash.) Also consider keeping a pair of flip-flops for showering.
5. Sneakers. These will come in handy if you make it to the gym… but they’ll also come in handy on the off chance you need to leave the office on foot. (God forbid another 9/11 should happen… but it’s best to be prepared.) Don’t forget white socks.
6. An extra pair of pumps. We’ll be honest here — we have more shoes in our office than some shoe stores do. But: if it needs to be said, bring in an extra pair of pumps that matches your spare suit. Check out our recent article on basic black pumps here.
These are some of our favorites, but check out our entire Guide to Comfortable Heels!
7. Comfortable pants. For some reason, that last minute call to pull an all-nighter always seems to come on the days that we’re wearing a skirt and pantyhose… not the most comfortable garb to hang out in for the hours to come.
(Also, the work involved in an all-nighter may involve going through dusty file rooms, or require you to sit on the ground to review the paperwork.)
Have some comfy pants on hand to change into — make them a classic black pant, such as these simple drawstring pants from Gap, above ($24.50), and you’ll always be fit to be seen in them. (Your gym clothes might fit the bill here.) Women: Simple drawstring pants – black
8. Extra nude pantyhose. If you don’t already keep a pair at the office for your suit, you may want to keep a pair for general usage. Buy it at the drugstore and shove it in the back of your drawer — at worst it’s $3 you’ve spent for no reason — but it can be a lifesaver in a pinch.
Our commenters had a ton of suggestions for favorite pantyhose (both drugstore and high end) when we ran a poll on whether nude or black pantyhose was appropriate; check those out here.
9. A black blazer. This is a great item to throw over any item — from a jersey dress to a casual sweater — if you need to look more professional in a hurry.
We recently hunted down some suggestions for great basic black blazers — check them out in The Hunt: The Perfect Black Blazer.
10. A hat. This is admittedly an extreme suggestion, but we’ve been thankful to have a hat in our desk drawer many times.
There are two situations where this can be helpful: 1) (Primarily in New York): You thought you’d have to work until late in the evening, and dressed for the day prepared to be driven home. But work lightens up and suddenly you can go out with friends, or subway it home — but it’s absolutely freezing outside. Add a hat to your outfit and you’ll be surprised how warm you are — after all, 80 percent of your heat escapes through your head.
2) The A/C is unbelievably freezing and you’re sitting in your office all day shivering. Add a hat — yes, you look silly, but as long as your door is shut, who’s the wiser? Again, it’ll warm you up considerably, but is easy enough to take off if you need to run to the bathroom or to a meeting.