Although my office is as casual as they come (Converse + dog sleeping under my desk today), I haven't forgotten how hard it was to buy a work wardrobe on a limited budget. I have done several posts on this topic, and as I prepare to facilitate a style workshop later this week, I wanted to share this year's version of the capsule wardrobe:
Avant garde, it is not. However, if you need to make two weeks worth of outfits (or more) you only need a handful of pieces that fit well and can multi-task:
Pants that Fit: I think you need both a black and gray pair, but you can get buy with just one at first if you're willing to wash them often. A slim, straight leg hemmed to where it doesn't drag the floor will work with most shoes and is universally flattering - much more so than flared cuts!
A Black Sheath Dress: Look for a close-fitting cut that can be layered under blazers and cardigans - bonus points if it has sleeves and can be worn alone in an office setting. This can double as your funeral dress and a blank canvas for festive accessories, so go ahead and get the best version you can afford.
Two Skirts: At least one of these should be a fun, but not too seasonal color (I vote for a saturated blue or burgundy). Pick the cut that makes you feel prettiest, and keep the length somewhere from 2 inches above to an inch below your kneecap.
Two Button-down Shirts: At least one should be white, and fit you perfectly with a proper bra. No gaping buttons! The other can be colored or black - whichever you're more likely to wear as a base layer.
A Blazer (Optional): Depending on your needs, a well cut black or gray blazer could get loads of wear both in and out of the office. I prefer closely fitted, semi cropped cuts as opposed to longer hip length versions, but try on several styles and see what flatters your shape. It will be obvious! However, you can skip this if you don't think it is needed.
At Least Three Completer Pieces: These are cardigans or more casual blazers that you'll pair with your base pieces to add color to your outfits. I highly recommend a few jewel tone cardigans, plus a more structured piece like a sweater blazer that is a little dressier.
One Pair of Friday Jeans: These should be a dark wash in either a trouser or slim straight cut. This is not the time for jeggings, or anything too distressed.
Quality Accessories: I recommend a skinny black belt, and preferably a leopard print one as well. These will add interest to your cardigan combinations, and define your waist. You'll also need a well-made pair of black pumps that aren't going to kill your feet - I highly recommend the Cole Haan/Nike collaboration. Finally, invest in a purse that isn't coming unstitched and doesn't look cheap. I'm not saying you need a designer bag by any means, but a well made thrift store purse is a better choice than most $14 versions that start to reek of vinyl after a few weeks.
Wow, that's a lot of information! What do you think are the most important starter pieces for a business wardrobe?