with Susan Wagner
The Working Closet is your source for the best of what's hip and fresh in fashion and beauty. Susan Wagner keeps you up-to-date on trends and offers tips and tricks for making everything in your closet truly work for you.
You can also catch Susan over at Working Closet.
Can you recommend 10 “must have” wardrobe items for a 38-year old professional woman who works in an office with no dress code? We can wear anything from jeans to suits, but I would like to look a bit more polished and put together. My style tends to be on the tailored side and I gravitate toward basics like dark jeans, wool pants, and turtleneck sweaters. I’m feeling uninspired by my wardrobe and am looking for some ideas for upgrading it to project more of a polished and creative look.
1. Dark wash jeans in a mid-rise. These should be a classic trouser shape or boot-cut, not something trendy; they should be hemmed for whatever shoes Amy wears most often. If she alternates between heels and flats, she needs one pair for heels and one for flats. To preserve the color, she should wash them inside out in COLD water and hang to dry.
2. Wool trousers. Again, Amy wants something in a classic shape — flat front, mid-rise, wider leg, either with or without a cuff (no cuff if she’s going to wear them with heels). Stick with neutral colors, but remember that “neutral” doesn’t necessarily mean “black.” I like brown or navy trousers for a more casual professional look; tweed is also a good basic.
3. Tailored skirt. Amy can opt for denim or light-weight wool; if she goes with a denim skirt, though, it needs to be in a DARK wash, while the wool skirt should be in a neutral color. She should look for something that hits at the knee, either just below, if she is tall or has long legs, or just above, if she is petite or has shorter legs. She can choose either an A-line or a pencil skirt.
4. Slim sweaters. Amy said that she’s a turtleneck kind of girl, and I can relate to that; in the winter, especially, wool trousers and a soft turtleneck are so simple and cozy. Amy wants to stick with sweaters in light weight yarns, like merino wool or cashmere, and slim cuts, that fit rather than bag or hang. Save the bulky wool fisherman sweaters for the weekend; for the office, choose a sleek merino wool turtleneck in a bright, cheerful color.
5. White shirt. The classic white shirt is always professional, no matter what you wear it with. Amy can choose a shape that works for her, either a traditional menswear shirt or a wrap or a tuxedo front; she can pair it with her jeans or her wool trousers or her skirt. Layer it under a sweater or dress for winter wear; push the sleeves up above the elbows for summer. You can’t go wrong with a white shirt, trust me.
Palm Desert suede jacket, Chico’s, currently on sale for $89.60
6. Tailored jacket. Since Amy’s office is very casual, a suit is not a necessity for her, but a great jacket — one that she can dress up or dress down — absolutely is. She wants to look for something in a tailored cut, that she can wear with her wool trousers and her dressy skirt, but in a more casual fabric, like corduroy or suede. She can dress it up with a fancy blouse or dress it down with a simple white tee.
7. Trench coat. A classic trench coat in a neutral color is a simple way to make even the most casual outfit look more professional. Do NOT layer the trench over another jacket, though — this is the coat for days when you ONLY need it outdoors.
8. Day dress. Dresses are simple and comfortable and reliable. Amy can look for a classic cut — a shirt dress or wrap dress, for example — in a neutral color or understated pattern. She can wear it on its own, or under the jacket, or layered over a tank or tee. She can also wear a sweater over the dress, for a skirt-and-blouse kind of look.
9. Boots. The right pair of shoes can change any outfit from boring to brilliant; this season, boots are hot (thank goodness since the weather is so bad most places). Boots and wool tights are perfect with a dress or skirt for colder days, and wide-leg pants look fantastic over pointy-toed boots. If Amy is not a boots girl, she can opt for some cute flats, either a ballet flat or something with a pointy toe, or a driving moc; she can look for bright colors and interesting embellishments. Anything but basic brown loafers, please.
10. Standout handbag or tote. Instead of just tossing her laptop in that utilitarian black bag with the nylon sides and the reinforced straps, Amy should look for a bag with character. There are some GREAT laptop bags out there; Mango Tango makes bags in beautiful Chinese silks, for example. It doesn’t matter what is in the bag, though, it should still be an integral part of any outfit. Go for a punch of color or some cool hardware or an array of outside pockets. Like a great pair of shoes, a really terrific bag can tie basic separates together into a polished, professional look.
That’s my Top Ten Basics list for Amy — what would YOU add?
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