We’ve all had them: days where we need to make a presentation at work, but attend a party after-hours. Or days where you’ll be swamped with meetings at the office, but are also planning on meeting friends for a drink, and then checking out a new restaurant on a dinner date with your significant other. Unless home is close enough for a wardrobe change or you feel comfortable packing an entire second outfit in your work bag, you’ll need to master the day-to-night ensemble.
That sounds tricky, but it’s actually a pretty easy concept to master. Just about every woman has timeless pieces in her wardrobe that will transition well from a day at the office to a dinner with friends. It’s just a matter of identifying those pieces and figuring out what looks will work best for you, taking into account your style, the dress code at your office, and how you usually like to dress on a date night or a night out with friends.
Figuring out how to style the clothes you already have — or determining which new pieces would be a smart investment — will help you transition your outfits from AM to PM and gracefully switch from work to party mode. Ahead, these seven pieces are the day-to-night essentials that will have you transforming your office ensemble into an evening-ready outfit in no time.
1. The perfect blazer
A blazer is the perfect jacket for chilly offices and important meetings alike. Whether you wear yours with cropped trousers or over a sheath dress, there’s a way to make the menswear-inspired staple work for you. Even if you work in a very casual office, where you’re wearing jeans instead of trousers, throwing on a blazer when you leave the office for the day will elevate your look. A basic black blazer, like Olivia Moon’s knit blazer, is an easy way to try out the look. Or, you can go for a splurge-worthy classic like Ralph Lauren’s custom-fit blazer, or opt for an edgy style like James Jeans’ faux-leather lapel blazer.
2. A versatile dress
Whether you favor a shift silhouette, a fit-and-flare cut, or a sheath silhouette, a dress in a solid color is one of the easiest pieces to transition from day to night. Chances are good that the dress you wear to the office is going to look great for dinner or drinks. But if you want to change up the look, you can switch out your cardigan or blazer for a more dramatic jacket, throw on a scarf, or swap your flats for a fun pair of heels. Banana Republic is the perfect place to shop for a work-appropriate dress that will transition easily for your evening plans, and our top picks include this silk gingham dress, this pink tie-neck style, and this cotton oxford shirt dress.
3. A great pencil skirt
A pencil skirt is another standby of the office ensemble — one that transitions easily day-to-night with the right styling. Pair yours with a draped or structured top when you get dressed in the morning. Or, if you work in a traditional office where nothing but a button-front shirt will do, opt for a silk version (we recommend anything by Equipment). Another option? Switch out the top in your daytime look for a more night-time appropriate piece, like a colorful printed top or even a drapey jersey tee at the end of the workday. If you’re looking to add a new pencil skirt to your weekly rotation, we’d recommend a solid style like Diane Von Fusternberg’s woven pencil skirt, a mid-length iteration like this style from T by Alexander Wang, or a skirt with a unique detail like the faux-wrap style of this Bailey 44 skirt.
4. The perfect pair of heels
If you’re looking for a pair of heels that you’ll want to wear all day as well as in the evening, you probably aren’t going to choose a pair of stilettos. Instead, look for a pair with a chunkier heel (or, honestly, any other style that you know you can wear all day without unreasonable discomfort). If you can stash an extra pair of shoes in your bag or your desk, change out a daytime-friendly pair of flats for a more evening-ready pair of heels. Some of our favorite styles with chunkier heels this summer include Isolá’s block-heel pump, Bella Vita’s open-toe mule, and Tory Burch’s ankle-strap pump.
5. An evening-ready clutch
This won’t work if you’re relying on the subway or an Uber to get from work to the restaurant or bar where you’re meeting your friends. But if you’re driving and will have somewhere to leave your work bag, tuck a cute clutch in beside your laptop in the morning. Then, you won’t have to carry your laptop and files in to dinner with you, and you can just transfer the essentials to a clutch that looks a lot more appropriate for a night out. We wouldn’t recommend anything excessively glittery, but a few versatile styles include Clare V.’s striped clutch, Comme des Garcons’ zip pouch, and Loeffler Randall’s tassel pouch.
6. A polished handbag
If you can’t swap out your work bag for a clutch without worrying about where you’re leaving your work bag, why not upgrade your bag to something a little more luxe? Women who don’t need to carry around a giant laptop and a stack of files will find this the easiest, and can choose a classically proportioned, structured handbag. But even if you do have a lot to carry back and forth, you can opt for a luxurious tote to carry your essentials in top day-to-night form. Some of our top picks are Coach’s grained leather satchel, Tory Burch’s Saffiano leather tote, and Loeffler Randall’s satchel.