Working in an office, I own my fair share of business casual clothing. And, recently, I started looking through my wardrobe to see just what pieces I wear the most often. That’s when this idea sparked. I asked myself, “If I had to start over from the very beginning, which pieces would I buy first?”
There’s value in owning a capsule wardrobe. That means, owning a few select pieces you can use to create dozens of outfits. Not only do you have something to wear to the office, but even if you aren’t in the corporate world, you have pieces you can mix and match for when you need them. Think, job interviews, nights out with the girls, special events, etc. Or, just elevating your everyday wear.
So, if you’re ready to get down to basics, here are essential pieces you should have in your wardrobe, and a few places you can buy them:
A blazer is a great way to dress up any outfit. Whether you’re wearing it with matching dress pants and a blouse or throwing it on over a t-shirt and jeans, it instantly makes any outfit look more put together. I love playing around with patterns and textures. I love herringbone for a more masculine look or a fitted black blazer to make my outfit a little smarter. Boyfriend blazers are huge right now, but be wary that you don’t get one that makes you lose your shape completely.
- Affordable: Career Suit Jacket, Walmart $17
- Mid-Range: Gibson Tie Sleeve Knit Blazer, Nordstrom $79
- High-End: Parke Blazer, J-Crew $178
There’s something crisp and sophisticated about a white blouse. And, forget that rule that you can’t wear white after labor day, that doesn’t exist in the modern world. Pairing a white top with dark wash jeans or a blazer can be an outfit that takes you from casual day to evening out. If white isn’t your color, opt for a solid black in the same style. Look for shirts that have subtle yet intriguing details, like a pussy bow neckline or bell sleeves.
- Affordable: Button Sleeve Blouse, Target $29.99
- Mid-Range: Tie-Waist Kimono Sleeve Blouse, Express $49.99
- High-End: Tie-Front Silk Shirt, Banana Republic $148
Cigarette Trousers or Pencil Pants
Dress or work pants aren’t just for the office. They can be worn for any special occasion. With a sleek blouse and a blazer, they are perfect for a party, interview, or just a night out. Cigarette trousers or pencil pants are thinner and more streamlined. They have the same illusion as your favorite skinny jeans, but are a step up. It’s important to invest in a pair that fits well. Avoid pants that are too long that you have to cuff or roll. Otherwise, you’ll look sloppy. Rule of thumb, dress pants should sit right at or above your ankle. Basic black is the best to invest in, but once you find a style that works, branch out into new patterns and colors.
- Affordable: Bi-Stretch Twill Pants, Target $24.99
- Mid-Range: Sash Waist Ankle Pant, Express $69.99
- High-End: Kelsey Knit Trousers, Nordstrom $89.00
Basic V-Neck Tees
Yep, you read that right. One of the best business casual wardrobe pieces you can own is a basic v-neck t-shirt. Black, white, blush pink, gray, whatever color you want. These are great with jeans and a blazer, dress pants and a cardigan, or tucked into a skirt. They don’t have to be fancy either, but I do recommend making sure they aren’t too tight. You want to avoid tight clothing when trying to look professional. I recommend going up a size from normal if it’s fitted or looking for a looser style.
- Affordable: Hane’s Women’s Lightweight T-Shirt, Walmart $5
- Mid-Range: One Eleven V-Neck Slim Tee, Express $19
- High-End: Gibson Felicity V-Neck Tee, Nordstrom $32
Dark Wash, High-Waisted Jeans
Whether for casual Friday or just to wear on a girl’s night out, dark wash, high-waisted jeans are not only figure flattering, but they can be dressed up or dressed down. When choosing dress jeans, avoid rips or tears. Also, look for material that has a little less give. Jeggings can often be too informal and not be as figure flattering. Pair your jeans with your white or black blouse and heels for a date night, or a tee and a blazer for the office. Again, look for jeans that are skinny or tapered at the bottom and are the right length. Don’t buy jeans that are too long.
- Affordable: High Rise Super Skinny Ankle Jean, Walmart $16
- Mid-Range: High Rise Rockstar Skinny Jean, Old Navy $40
- High-End: High Rise Toothpick Jean, J-Crew $110
Pointed Toe Flats or Heels
Wearing heels is often optional in most modern offices, but that doesn’t mean your flats have to be boring. And, that doesn’t mean you have to forego heels all together. Pointed toe shoes are the perfect way to make yourself look more dressed up while still having something versatile you can wear with jeans, dresses, or skirts. Pointed toes are a more classic style than rounded (which come in and out of fashion), and they can make you look taller. Opt for basic black if you don’t dress up often, or fun patterns like cheetah print or with bows for mixing up your wardrobe.
- Affordable: Point Ballet Flat, Walmart $9
- Affordable: Point Toe Heel, Walmart $14.82
- Mid-Range: Textured Pointed Toe Flats, Express $34.90
- Mid-Range: Sueded D’Orsay Pumps, Old Navy $39.99
- High-End: Two-Toned Pointed Toe Loafers, J-Crew $148 (These are 40% off right now!)
- High-End: Madison 12-hour Pump, Banana Republic $118
Finally, add a dress to this list. Wrap dresses are classic. They’ve been in style for decades and are flattering on almost every figure. Plus, they are easy to throw on and you’re out the door. Add heels or flats and a blazer and you’re work ready. Or, add a cardigan and vans for a casual look. They can easily take you from day to night. Office to ballpark. You can get more creative and add patterns or colors with these dresses as well.