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.
We’re talking about what to wear when you start a new job, particularly one where the office dress code is casual but professional. Whether you are moving from a corporate environment or from your kitchen table, you will most likely need a few new things to wear to work.
But BEFORE you run to the mall and start buying things willy nilly, let’s talk about how you can make your existing wardrobe work for this new job.
I’m a big fan of shopping your closet first; it’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it’s environmentally friendly. Pull out every piece of clothing that is even remotely office-appropriate and try it all on. Check first of all for wear and tear, and get rid of anything that has outlived its usefulness (pieces that are faded or worn or pilled or stained). Next check the fit; again, get rid of everything that isn’t perfect. Don’t keep things that are too small on the off chance that you might lose five or ten or fifty pounds (if you lose fifty pounds, my friend, we are going SHOPPING). Look carefully at pieces that are too big and determine if they can be altered; THEN decided if you will REALLY take them for alterations. If the answer to both is no, give those away, too, otherwise give yourself a deadline to get things to the tailor. If the deadline passes and the too-big pieces are still just hanging in your closet, they need to go.
Finally, get rid of everything that is dated. A suit from the late 80s, even if it is in PERFECT condition and fits you like a glove, will scream I HAVEN’T SHOPPED FOR CLOTHES IN DECADES! Pieces with classic lines are fine, but anything that is clearly a relic of a specific era needs to go.
What you should be left with now are classic, tailored pieces that fit well and are in great condition. That is your basic work wardrobe. Take those pieces and try them on with other things — don’t be afraid to mix and match. Break up suits; try the jackets with your jeans or with a pair of wool trousers, and pair the skirts with twin sets or turtlenecks or really nice fitted t-shirts. Try EVERYTHING on with your jeans — silk blouses, graphic tees, all your sweaters and jackets. Create outfits that are professional but casual — not a suit, but not yoga pants and a hoodie.
Everything should be comfortable and should not require any fussing or fixing. Make sure your hemlines are the right length, both on the bottom half and the top half (no one wants to see your stomach, please). Again, take things that need tailoring to a tailor. If you always wore your sheath dress with heels, you may want to have it shortened an inch or two before you wear it with flats (either way, keep the hem right at the knee, either slightly below with heels or slightly above with flats).
As you pull together your outfits, think about two things: what will you need to get dressed for, and what are you missing? If you will be in the office making calls and filing paperwork a couple of days a week but out meeting with clients on other days, you will need pieces that work for both of those situations. If you will be traveling you need clothes that travel well. If you will be attending functions — luncheons, receptions, events — you need things to wear there as well. Can you get dressed for all those things with what you have in the closet? If not, what are you missing?
Make a list — yes, an ACTUAL list. These are the things you need to buy. Don’t have a great black (or gray or navy or brown) dress? You probably should. Only own one pair of mid-rise dark-wash jeans? You might need another pair if you will be wearing them every day.
I am willing to bet that you will be surprised at how many options you already have in your closet, and at how few things you really need. Next week we will talk about what every working woman, regardless of her job, needs in her closet, and then we will start to talk about how to fine tune your wardrobe without getting a second job to pay for it.
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