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The Fundamentals of a (Fabulous) Professional Wardrobe

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Building a great professional wardrobe is a labor of love, particularly if you’re new to an office or other professional setting and starting from scratch. Above all, it takes a bit of time to get comfortable in our professional skin, so to speak, and to transition from a predominantly casual wardrobe to a closet full of office-worthy items.

[Related: 5 Pieces for a Grown-Up Wardrobe]

Luckily, the ladies of House of Marbury have got this down to a science, and we’re so excited to be sharing our secrets with you here at Levo! Whether you’re just starting out in a professional setting or are looking to revamp an existing professional wardrobe, here are some must-know tips for building an enviable professional wardrobe.

1. Get your power suit on.

Every professional woman must have a power suit. Now, there is no particular uniform here, and what a “power suit” actually means will vary from profession to profession, office to office, and woman to woman. No matter who you are or where you work, though, we are firm believers in the confidence, strength, and, well, power (!), that come with wearing a bold power suit to the office.

At House of Marbury, we love Hugo Boss for great fitting, no frills power suits. Theory is also at the top of our list for stylized, thoughtful, and highly professional suits. Finally, we love the suiting options at H&M (though we’ve found that the on-line collection is not as extensive as what they typically carry in stores).

2. Show some blazer love.

Much like a power suit, no professional wardrobe is complete without one or two reliable blazers that you can pair with everything from cropped straight-leg pants to your favorite pencil skirt to a no-fuss sheath dress. We have so much room—and love—for great blazers in our closets because of how nicely they complete an outfit and pull any professional look together. Go for a blazer that can double as a suit jacket (that is, that will compliment at least one of your suit pants and one of your skirts) so you’re getting double—and maybe even triple—duty out of it.

For blazers, we love Ralph Lauren, Elizabeth & James, and Club Monaco. We also love the blazer selection in the juniors’ department at Nordstrom—chic, on-trend, and very affordable.

[Related: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own]

3. Find your dream sheath dress.

The more we put our time in at the office, the more we have come to realize how invaluable the perfect sheath dress is. There’s nothing better than waking up, engaging in your morning hair and make up routine, throwing on one item of clothing, and walking out the door just like that.

At the moment, we love the flattering and exciting designs of Cynthia Steffe and Trina Turk, as well as Narciso Rodriguez for comfort and a great silhouette. Forever 21 is also a treasure trove for lovely, comfortable sheath dresses at uber-affordable prices.

[Related: How to Work Vintage Pieces into Your Wardrobe]

4. Land the perfect button-up.

The perfect button-up is a professional staple. We’re always on the lookout for a great button up that is the right length, fits nicely in the shoulders, and buttons without too much pull or slack in the chest. For button-ups, we tend to favor white as it will go with everything in your closet and makes a professional statement in its own right.

Our favorite picks for button-ups are silk button up blouses from J.Crew and the gorgeous, light blouses from Equipment in virtually any style, color, and pattern. Also, check out Target for structured and soft button-ups at half (or a quarter of) the price!

5. Stick with the skirt that works for you.

We used to advocate the pencil skirt as our staple professional skirt choice. But, thanks to our beloved House of Marbury readers, many of whom expressed that the pencil skirt shape is not right for them, we’ve shifted our view a bit. When it comes to wearing skirts in an office setting, the most important thing is that you go with a skirt that works for your body type.

We love Ann Taylor for a reliable, grab-and-go pencil skirt. The A-line skirts available on Piperlime are also fabulous, and give a unique look and shape when paired with a blazer or suit jacket. We also love midi skirts from the high-street—stores like ASOS, Zara, and H&M are sporting gorgeous midis at great prices right now.

6. Buy a few great blouses.

Our professional wardrobes would not be complete without a few great blouses to compliment everything else we’re building. Professional blouses include anything from beautiful silk shells to cap-sleeved patterned tops to conservative lace overlays. Our favorite professional blouses include the wide selection from Oasis. There’s something for everyone here. Target is also one of our go-tos for beautiful work blouses that can accommodate a new-professional budget.

[Related: Postpartum Clothes for Professionals Coming Off of Maternity Leave]

7. Stock up on trousers.

We are big fans of stocking up on a variety of trousers in different shapes, styles, and colors. Everything from a subtle flare leg to a cropped skinny leg can work in an office setting, and gives you a lot of room to play and expand your wardrobe. Opt for staple colors like black, navy, and khaki that will pair well with all your blouses, blazers, cardigans, and shoes.

For great work pant options, we love Alice and Olivia and Vince. The Limited also carries trousers in all styles, lengths, and colors at excellent prices.

8. Get shoe comfy.

There is no doubt that heels play a major role in professional attire, but we’re also all about being comfortable. While we highly recommend a dynamic black pump and a neutral wedge or kitten heel as essential wardrobe items, a sophisticated flat will do wonders for your wardrobe, too.

No matter the style, we’re huge fans of Cole Haan for Nike Air since you get all of the perks of a professional shoe, but a lot more comfort. L.K. Bennett also makes some gorgeous statement shoes, many of which are office ready. And every season we load up on flats that are both chic and comfortable (and, because they’re flat, you can be a bit more adventurous and go for a print or metallic look). When it comes to shoes, we’re always scoping out the options at DSW for our favorite looks at seriously marked-down prices.

[Related: Colorful Statement Shoes Under $100]

9. Play with accessories.

As a new professional, it’s always a good idea to keep your attire on the conservative-side, particularly until you know your office setting dynamics. Still, this does not preclude fun accessories to add interest and excitement to your wardrobe. At House of Marbury, we adore colorful silk scarves, a bold statement necklace or ring, a timeless watch, and some delicate stud earrings to complete any outfit. Choose one nice piece for each of these items and mix and match for an instant wardrobe upgrade. Or, go for upscale looking costume jewelry that works for every budget.

[Related: How to Get a Perfectly Edited Wardrobe]

10. Wear a statement handbag.

Finally, to round out your professional wardrobe, a statement handbag is a must. Think gorgeous on the outside, practical on the inside. Consider your job requirements and what you will realistically be expected to carry around every day, and purchase a bag that will accommodate this. Some of our favorites include the Lo & Sons O.G. bag and any Tory Burch tote bag. Aldo also carries similar tote styles that are hip and on-trend, and great for work and play.

While building a professional wardrobe may feel a bit overwhelming at first, keep this checklist on hand and you will be well on your way to an enviable professional closet in no time!

[Related: How Your Wardrobe Can Affect Your Career]

Desiree and Kate are practicing lawyers, fashion lovers, and the co-founders of House of Marbury, a popular fashion and style blog for professional women. For daily fashion inspiration, please join our community over at houseofmarbury.com!

Photo: Daniel Bendjy / E+ / Getty Images

Topics:

Fashion #Professional Style #Power Suit #Office Fashion #Fashion Tips
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Great tips! These are essentials for any professional woman. Thanks for sharing!

This is all very well and good for women who work in traditional office environments but what about those who work in a less corporate environment? Being overdressed can be just as detrimental to your work persona, so I'd love to see a bit more diversity in the kind of professional woman you cater to. The structural engineer, the catering entrepreneur, the art director? This is not inspiring for anyone who works in a practical or creative industry.

Hi Annie,

I completely agree! There are professions where it's still very smart to wear a suit, but most of the world is becoming a lot more casual and individualistic.

Every situation is different, but I would recommend focusing on building that "business casual" wardrobe that integrates well with your off-time wardrobe. And, of course, taking style cues from leaders in your specific industry.

Thankfully, this really is a time where we have the liberty of being fully expressed with fashion!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Thank you! This article was wonderful, so I went to your website and you answered questions that I had not even thought to ask. This article gave me alot to think about.


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