Fashion Work Wear

How to Create the Perfect Workwear Wardrobe

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Nothing to wear to work? Never again. To create the perfect 9-to-5 wardrobe, we assumed the role of sartorial scientists and grouped all workwear essentials by category before setting out to figure out exactly how much real estate they should take up in your closet. Behold, a percent-by-percent breakdown of everything you need. We suggest investing in a healthy balance of office-friendly staples and building that up with layering pieces and style statements, so that you’ll get out the door in minimal time with maximum polish. Study up on each category and scroll through to shop out your dream work wardrobe.

20% of Your Work Wardrobe: Style Statements

Dressing for a job doesn’t mean you have to leave your fashion savvy at home. Your outfit is an integral part of your professional brand, and mixing in a few personality-packed pieces not only will make you feel more like yourself but also can make a distinct impression. The trick is to strike a balance that says you’re uniquely chic but doesn’t provoke side-eye from your boss. Classics with a twist never fail—think a new silhouette in the form of an asymmetric skirt, or a classic blazer made a bit less conservative with an updated floral print. 

40% of Your Work Wardrobe: Business Basics

There’s truth to the saying, “Dress for the job you want,” and nothing looks more put-together than smart pieces that fit you like a glove. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either—just seek out solid dark-hued items in breathable fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily (test them out by sitting down in the dressing room for a few minutes, then stand up to check for any crazy creasing). The most important thing is that you take pretty much all of your off-the-rack finds to a good tailor who can transform them into custom-crafted treasures. 

25% of Your Work Wardrobe: Layering Pieces

These are the building blocks of your wardrobe—the background players that work overtime so you can mix and match separates with ease on hectic mornings. The goal is versatility: Shopping for them shouldn’t feel exciting but more like the retail equivalent of opting for a salad instead of fries. Stick to simple shapes and colors with very little print, and buy across all seasons. That means stocking up on everything from cozy sweaters to lightweight tees. And if you find a piece that fits you perfectly, don’t hesitate to snap up three. 

10% of Your Work Wardrobe: Cocktail Attire

Sometimes your 9-to-5 wear just won’t cut it for client dinners or office parties. Pick up a few items that put an elegant twist on your everyday uniform, such as satiny, pajama-y black pants or a silk top to wear under a blazer. Statement heels also pack a punch, along with delicate (yet impactful) sculptural earrings. When you really need to go for it, bring a knock-’em- dead dress and change in the bathroom. 

5% of Your Work Wardrobe: Outerwear

Common pitfall: You put together a bulletproof ensemble only to ruin it by layering a puffer jacket or schlumpy coat on top. Save yourself from this fate by investing in a long number to wear with suits and a sophisticated camel wrap style to cinch over skirts. And if you don’t own a trench already, get on it. It does wonders to compensate for frizzy hair and a grumpy attitude during a downpour. 

— Market by Ann Jacoby