New Corporette Resource: Wardrobe Essentials for Work!

work wardrobe essentialsWhat do you consider to be work wardrobe essentials? I just created a new resource that I hope will be helpful for you, whether you’re just starting out in a conservative office, doing a wardrobe revamp, creating a capsule wardrobe for work, or otherwise — introducing the Corporette Guide to Wardrobe Essentials for Work! I intend this to be a “living” page — one that’s updated often, much like our Guide to Comfortable Heels and our Guide to Interview Suits.

As you guys know, we go on “hunts” for great basics for work all the time — and I’ve noticed over the years that there are some best-selling pieces that really stand the test of time.  As far as our daily workwear recommendations go this makes for pretty boring blog fodder — I can only recommend the X sheath dress so many times before people get tired of it! — but I’ve started collecting these pieces into our “Workwear Hall of Fame,” as well as in a special section of each Hunt.  I finally decided it would be a great idea to collect these work wardrobe essentials in one page — so if you’re looking for a basic black pump, a suit, or more, you can find the best-sellers, reader favorites, and more, all in one place (as well as links to all of our recent Hunts on point). Please check the new resource out here: Wardrobe Essentials for Work.

In other news, what other Hunts would you guys like to see? I don’t think we’ve done cardigans in a while, and I don’t think we’ve done popover blouses ever. Pencil skirts? Shift dresses, or fit & flare dresses? What do YOU consider to be the work wardrobe essentials in your closet — if a recent graduate came to you for advice, what would you immediately advise her to go and try on to fill her work wardrobe with?

Picture via wardrobe essentials

Staring at an empty closet and wondering what to wear to work? We've rounded up the best advice on work wardrobe essentials -- everything you need to build a KILLER wardrobe for work.


  1. Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

    Court-appropriate suits for conservative courts. Plain and simple black, navy, and charcoal suits. Skirt suits in particular since this seems harder to find.

    • Two Cents :

      + 1 court appropriate suits that are also stylish and have some feminine details.

    • +1
      I agree. The manageing partner picks out all of my suits for court, as well as the blouses I buy. I have a seperate closet at work with 6 suits that I keep here, along with about 12 pair of pumps that match, so I am NEVER w/o appropriate clotheing for court. When I am just working here, the manageing partner still wants me well dressed, as cleints DO come in, and we have depos here. ONLY on Friday am I allowed to dress down, but I still am VERY presentable by any legal standards. Thanks for asking Kat! YAY!!!!

      • Ellen, Don’t you have anything better to do than post sarcastic comments here? If you want to become a woman, get on with it. Otherwise, you really should find a better way to spend your time.

  2. This is particular to me, but:
    – short-sleeved dresses in neutral colors. This is my base, I have some non-neutral colors but they don’t get as much play because they are more memorable.
    – black flats (AGLs for me) and neutral pumps (black, gray, or nude)
    – a shoulder bag for days I need to look nice and a backpack for everyday/gym days
    – a few necklaces: pearls, a long gold chain one, a couple of neutral metal statement ones
    – I also wear stud earrings almost everyday and a watch
    – Reading glasses that save my eyes and look nice on me
    – lots of silk scarves for changing up my dresses
    – neutral colored pencil skirts and some blouses
    – a skirt suit in a neutral color for the ~ 1 time a year I need it (no longer in court but wore it about once a week)

  3. Shopaholic :

    Definitely dresses that are not sheath dresses (fit and flare, A-line, shift) that are still professional looking.

  4. Leslie Knope :

    These are some of the basics that I wear all the time:
    – pearl earrings
    – various stud earrings (the Nordstrom cubic Zirconia studs in particular)
    – a few pairs of flats (at least one formal)
    – black heel, nude heel
    – basic black pencil skirt
    – suit
    – at least one dress
    – a trench coat or nice longer coat
    – a professional neutral sturdy bag
    – I also love having a nice pair of sunglasses and feel that really polishes up my look

    • Leslie Knope :

      I forgot to add:
      – A nice watch. My first watch I bought was a Michael Kora simple gold watch which I got a few weeks into my internship. I wore it almost daily for the first few years.
      – Another essential is finding a good tailor, dry cleaner and cobbler.

  5. Would love to see a Hunt for cardigans based on how well they hold up! I have $10 cardigans that have lasted me for years and $60 cardigans that have fallen apart after a month.

    • +1 on this, especially because my formerly beloved Talbots Charming Cardis appear to have gone way downhill in quality and color choice. Cardigans in silk/cotton and silk/cashmere combos would be particularly welcome (especially in petite sizes).

    • Yes please and thank you.

      My Ann Taylor cardigans don’t seem to last more than a year. I recently bought some from Target (Merona) that I’ve been pleased with but durability hasn’t been tested because I haven’t owned them for long enough.

      Cardigans are an absolute staple for me. My office is business casual, emphasis on the casual, and I don’t find blazers comfortable. But I need something because offices are cold.

  6. GirlFriday :

    I love the “Wardrobe Essentials for Work”, but why are there no pants? Should I be shopping the suting section?

    • I forgot to add in our roundup of lightweight pants. I don’t think we’ve done a pants roundup in years other than that; definitely will add it to the list.

  7. Wardrobe essentials IMO :

    Jewelry: nice watch, gold necklace, interesting gold-accented stud earrings
    Shoes: Anne Klein black wedges, black AGL flats
    Dresses: sleeved sheath dresses in dark colors (Boss, Elie Tahari, Lafayette 148, MM LaFleur, Theory, Classiques Entier)
    Blazers: black open front blazers (MM LaFleur long jardigan, Boss, Halogen)
    Bags: Cuyana bags are amazing (the work satchel in particular)
    Luggage: Travelpro, Lo & Sons OG

  8. bellatrix :

    Short-sleeved tops that aren’t dowdy. My arms aren’t my best feature, so I rarely go sleeveless — if I do, I have a cardigan on top for most of the day. But I’m hot-natured so I roast in summer with a top layer. I’m even warm in AC sometimes. So short-sleeved tops are ideal, but so many of them look like something my mother (God bless her) would wear.

    Maybe it’s not a Hunt per se, but something to help identify the features in a garment that will make it look chic vs. dowdy.

    (I know most readers have to wear blazers on top, so sleeve issues aren’t very relevant — but I can’t be the only one in a more casual office, can I?)

    • I agree on shirts – the button-down shirt is a disaster on me, but that seems to be the go-to work shirt. I need options that can go under a jacket or cardigan that are neither frumpy nor girly.

    • I agree on short sleeve tops, especially.

    • Wearing a blazer makes sleeves even more imperative, for me. Maybe other people sail through the day fresh as a daisy, but I usually sweat at some point. Sleeves help protect my blazers from being wrecked by pit sweat.

    • Anonymous :

      Yes, I agree with the short short sleeve shirts too! I have been on the hunt for ones to wear under blazers that aren’t cotton t-shirts.

      Also, dresses with sleeves please! They are like unicorns. I wish designers would realize that adding a cardigan or blazer over a sleeveless dress often ruins the look. Plus its annoying to have to find a coordinating topper every time you buy a sleeveless work dress.

    • Anonymous :

      Also, I recently found in Kmart (believe or not) these short sleeve shirts to wear under blazers. They are better than a cotton dress shirt, look nice, don’t wrinkle, and are fast drying. They also are only $9.98.|Women%27s^Sleeve%20Length|Short%20sleeve&plpSellerId=Kmart&prdNo=3&blockNo=3&blockType=G3|Women%27s^Sleeve%20Length|Short%20sleeve&plpSellerId=Kmart&prdNo=4&blockNo=4&blockType=G4|Women%27s^Sleeve%20Length|Short%20sleeve&plpSellerId=Kmart&prdNo=41&blockNo=41&blockType=G41#

  9. I would love to see a Hunt on popover blouses! Especially with sleeves. It seems that I can only find t shirts or shells. Where are all the nice looking blouses that I can wear without a jacket?

  10. Anonymous :

    Would love to see:

    1) A “Maternity Workwear Hall of Fame” over on CorporetteMoms!
    2) Hunts for:
    – Everyday makeup (eyeshadow, lipstick, concealer)
    – Pantyhose
    – Flats and/or Low Heels (again)
    – Statement Necklaces that match everything (I find that mine only fit a couple of outfits, not universal by any means)
    – Classic Jewelry that matches with everything
    – Nude pumps
    – Non-button-down workhorse tops
    – Pants for flats (this is very difficult for me to find for some reason)

  11. In addition to what has already been mentioned:

    A variety of sleeveless shells to wear under suits. Button downs look frumpy on me and also make my arms feel constricted in a jacket. I have found several relatively inexpensive shells. Rotating them with the same suit or two (suits are expensive!) makes it less obvious if you’re re-wearing the same suits over and over.

    Decorative (silk or silk-appearing is ideal) scarves. They can add style to an otherwise all-black, boring outfit, and have the benefit of providing warmth in a cold office/courtroom. They add versatility if you have a capsule wardrobe, either by design or because this is your first job and you haven’t built up your wardrobe yet–black sheath with a scarf will look different than the same black sheath with a blazer and statement necklace.

    • Old Lawyer :

      +1 for silk shells. It can be really hard to find shells that aren’t too sheer, dip too low, etc. And I’m not at all on board with the advice here to wear sleeves under a suit jacket, or to wear polyester, probably due to my climate.

  12. Everyday pendant. Nice watch. I’ve reached the point in my career where I’d like to build a capsule fine jewelry wardrobe of sorts, but I’m having the hardest time finding anything online to help me!

  13. Anonymous :

    Blazers that can be worn with navy dresses – what is appropriate by season, i.e., color, fabric, etc.

  14. Plus Please :

    You need to do this wardrobe essentials page with categories and options for plus size please.

  15. Advice: Do not go out and buy a wardrobe before you have worked in your company long enough to see what the office culture is, what others are wearing and what is appropriate for each office.

  16. I could never find a sweater that was warm enough (office AC!) and flattering, and that could be worn with just about everything in my wardrobe. And bags big enough to fit all your stuff without being overwhelming! I always had to carry three bags – my lunch bag, my purse, and my computer bag!

  17. I’d love to see a hunt specifically for:
    -pointy flats
    -short sleeve shells and silk tshirts
    -slim crop pants

  18. Golf shirts are make wonderful corporate wear uniforms

  19. Formal work wear can really put you in the mood to get stuff done. When it comes to dressing for success a corporate golf shirt is a winner!

    • Skeptical Sara :

      To clarify for future readers: golf shirts are not formal work wear. They’re business casual. Thispost seems like an ad, maybe?

  20. EmIpsaLoquitur :

    This is a weird one, maybe, but I’d love to see a Hunt for the perfect “keep it in the office” blazer. I know a lot of smaller law firms and government offices like mine sort of play by the rule that you don’t have to wear a jacket every day, but you do need to keep one on hand. I have a hard time finding ones that have a classic shape that work with a good number of my work dresses/pants. Obviously you’re always going to have one-off outfits that your in-office blazer won’t work for, but something that’s going to hold its shape well on a hanger on the back of a door and work okay with lots of colors/fabrics seems like a unicorn. Some suggestions in different colors would be great.

  21. Stephanie Clawson :

    Cardigans, definitely cardigans!

  22. This may seem weird but I really need an underwear overhaul! Going back and forth between maternity and post maternity and post-post maternity, I don’t think I’ve bought a new pair of decent (nonmaternity) underwear since beginning work at a professional office. I can seem to find anything that’s comfortable for all day and doesn’t show under my pants.

    I’ve got a similar problem with bras. Right I’m hesitant to buy new ones, because my toddler is still nursing and wants to nurse AS SOON AS I get home from work so even though I’m out of nursing bras (because there weren’t any I could wear with most of my wardrobe that covered right) I’m still destroying my non-nursing bras because I’m nursing in them.. But I need to buy new ones eventually.

    Any tips, tricks or suggestions for undergarments?!?!

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