Work wear is something that is can be challenging and somewhat dull, as unless your very lucky and have a job in marketing or something creative they are generally more subdued that what ideally you would like to wear. it’s especially difficult when you’ve just finished University and have finallly landed your first job, or going back to work after taking a break.
What I always find as well is that I will be lots of 1 item, like cardigans, just because they’re easy but only one pair of trousers because they are much harder to buy, anyway I’ve done my best to compile a list of all the items you might need in your work life which I hope is useful. It wasn’t until I actually sat down and thought about it (and really who wants to think about work more than you have to) that I really got to grips with what I used the most and what was really needed. Also a list is always invaluable and goes without saying it enables you to look at your budget and what you would be spending on each item
Suits x 2 -one incredibly formal that you would wear to an interview or other formal occasions, unfortunately perhaps a funeral, in my line of work, it would be plain black but you can give it more personality with the cut and silhouette. The second would be for more formal things like meetings or events. Really the look of these can be changed so much with both hair/makeup/scarf/broach etc. Of course meaty part of your budget should be spent here, if you can afford a lovely designer suit then go for it, or more humbly you can never really go too far wrong with M&S but Dorothy Perkins and New Look have some nice options too.
Jacket x 1– if you don’t have a very formal office you probably wont need this but it immediately smartens up any dress or top/skirt combo. It doesn’t have to matching and can be a fun style or colour as long as it doesn’t clash. One of the benefits of choosing a style and silhouette for you clothes as it means you don’t need a different jacket for each outfit.
Dresses x 3 -now because we have the suits these are far less formal and you can have the most fun with colours and styles. The best I’ve found are light jersey, which hangs nicely, don’t crease easily and are easily layered over tights/petticoat in winter but substantial to wear on their own in summer. Price-wise I normally think between £20-£45. This means that you can change them more often and they can be a bit more fashionable than your suits that should last you at least a couple of years. Just think about how they will sit under a jacket/ cardigan.
Skirts x 2 or Trousers x 2– it’s always good to pick one style and stick with it, that way you don’t need too many styles of shoe, pencil skirts of course are always smart but I personally love trousers, I much prefer feeling that I can move. This is where if you have a very formal job you might want to buy buy a suit jacket with a matching skirt and trousers so you have the versatility.
Tops x 3– these are a great way to add colour and pattern, blouses and shirts are smart but you do have to worry about buttons and ironing and if you have a fuller figure it might be best to go with a light knitted t-shirt style which is comfortable as it moves with you and you can play with necklines.
Cardigans/ Jumper x 3– in England you need all the layering pieces you can, just bare in mind that a cardigan you buy from Sainsburies is not the same as a cashmere one from John Lewis and will need to be replaced more often (which is sometimes quite fun)
Heels/formal shoes x 1– now these are for the interview/even situation, they don’t need to be designer just smart and in good repair. Of course again if your job is very formal you may need a couple more.
Flat x 2– for getting your 10k steps in a day, I wouldn’t advise flat ballet shoes with no cushioning (although they have thier uses in a pinch) but think more support, comfort and a bit of bounce. These are most difficult to find but worth every penny. you might want 1 to be a pair of trainers that you wear to work, and one a smart pair of flats.
Handbag x 2 – one to wear with the suits and in formal situations and one to carry your books/lunch/change of shoes/newspaper/I pad. Generally I would recommend a rucksack, luckily they are coming into fashion and you can find some really pretty ones. The smart handbag is the most difficult to find on a budget as it generally needs to be of good quality so this might be where you want to spend a bit more of your budget.
Lastly you might want to work with a particular colour pallet so you don’t have to think too hard in the morning, although your place of work might give you no choice, I’ve worked for company’s where it’s any colour as long as it’s black. Personally I find having a base colour of either black, navy or grey is very useful for your skirts, trousers and jackets, brown is a bit out of fashion at the moment.
Of course this will vary depending on what time of industry you’re in but I hope it gives you an outline.
As I am British and our climate has got a lot to answer for, Coats and Jackets will need a separate post of their very own.