There are tons of factors that go into catapulting your career forward — work experience, connections, and professionalism, above all — but it doesn’t hurt to look the part, either. In this day and age, different career paths call for different work attire. Some people are constricted to a blazer and slacks while others can get away with wearing jeans and sneakers. But there are several pieces every career woman should have in her closet, regardless of her job. Whether you’re a newly minted college graduate or gunning for that senior vice president position, you need these five pieces, stat.
A blazer is one of those pieces that has the power to make any outfit look more polished — even if that outfit is a T-shirt and ripped jeans. Plus, you’ll be a shoo-in for best dressed employee when you pair it with playful shoes and jewelry. We’re not opposed to having multiple blazers in your closet, but make sure you have a crisp, neutral option before you experiment with colors and textiles. A navy or dark gray blazer, for example, will look nice with just about everything. Keep yours close by at all times by draping it over your desk chair; it’ll be especially useful when your office is particularly chilly.
2. Sheath dress
If your office has a strict dress code, or you want to channel your feminine roots during your 9-to-5 grind, try a sheath dress on for size. They’ve been worn by everyone from Jackie O., to Michelle Obama, to Kate Middleton, so you’ll be in good company. The best part about a sheath dress is the silhouette: It’s fitted so you can flaunt your natural curves, but loose enough to still look and feel office-appropriate. Whether you pair it with a tough leather jacket or your favorite shoes, this look has “girl boss” written all over it. Since a sheath dress is simple, go ahead and experiment with colors and textiles. Oh, and don’t forget to accessorize.
3. Sensible heels
You don’t need to wear heels to the office every day, but having a sensible pair on hand for big meetings and special events is a must. While you can rock a pair of five-inch heels to grab drinks with your friends, they’re not appropriate for the office. Instead, you should invest in a modest three-inch pair of closed-toe pumps — ideally in a neutral suede or leather. If you have a hard time walking in heels, try a block heel. They’re easy to walk in and won’t go out of style.
4. Cropped trousers
At some companies, wearing jeans to work is against your office’s dress code. Even if it’s not, ditching the denim is a great way to stand out amongst your colleagues. A pair of regular trousers can look masculine and a little stodgy, so think of cropped pants as a great alternative. They skew more feminine, plus you’ll be able to show off a great pair of shoes. Ideally, they should hit right around your ankles or mid-calf so you can wear them with heels, flats, or ankle boots. Different pairs are best for certain seasons — twill for warmer seasons and wool for winter and fall — and you won’t regret buying a couple neutral and printed pairs in each textile.
5. Structured tote
That cute clutch bag you love to wear on date night isn’t what we’d call work-ready. Whether you’re carting your laptop to and from the office or keep your portfolio on you at all times, you need something bigger. A plain structured bag in either black or brown will look nice with any outfit, plus it’s large enough to store all your essentials. Hardware, shape, and pockets can be your call, but just make sure it feels comfortable and lightweight. You’ll be carrying so much already, it’s important to make sure the bag itself won’t weigh you down.