Step-by-step guide to preparing your wardrobe for career success.

So you’ve landed a new job? Congratulations!

As you get ready to step into this next chapter, it’s time to think about your work wardrobe. You don’t need to overhaul everything or spend a ton of money to get your wardrobe in tip-top shape for your first day. By taking a few thoughtful steps, you can create a wardrobe that’s both practical and stylish. Whether you’re starting from scratch or just need a few key pieces, this blog’s got you covered with tips that will make getting dressed for work a breeze.

1. Evaluate Your Needs

Starting a new job is an exciting time filled with opportunities and new experiences. While it may be tempting to overhaul your wardrobe, take a step back and evaluate your needs first. 

Different companies have different expectations when it comes to attire, so you need to understand what your new company considers appropriate. Dress codes can range from business professional to business casual and beyond. If the dress code isn’t explicitly stated during the hiring process, don’t hesitate to ask your HR representative or future colleagues for guidance. This will help you avoid any fashion faux pas and ensure you feel confident and comfortable from day one. 

Before buying new clothes, take inventory of your current wardrobe. You might be surprised by how many appropriate pieces you already own. Pull items that fit with the dress code of your new company.

When adding new items to your wardrobe, prioritize pieces that you can easily mix and match to maximize your outfit options and give yourself a bit more flexibility.

2. Build Your Basics

A balanced wardrobe should consist of about 70% basics and 30% fun or trendy pieces. Wardrobe basics are timeless, versatile items that form the foundation of your closet. Think white shirts, black trousers, and neutral-colored blazers. The remaining 30% can be a bit more playful and trendy, allowing you to express your personality and stay current with fashion trends. This balance will keep your wardrobe practical and stylish. Here’s how to effectively build your basics, tailored to different workplace dress codes.

Business Professional

For working environments with a business professional dress code, your wardrobe should include classic, polished pieces that exude professionalism. Here are some key items to consider:

  • Suits – You should have at least two well-fitted suits in neutral colors like black, navy, or gray. Get your suits tailored to fit you perfectly—an ill-fitting suit can completely undermine your professional appearance.
  • Dress shirts – Invest in a collection of high-quality dress shirts, both in solid colors and with subtle patterns. Look for shirts made with breathable fabrics like cotton to keep you comfortable throughout the day.
  • Ties – A selection of ties in various colors and patterns can add personality to your professional attire. Start with classic silk ties in solid colors and simple patterns like stripes or dots. These can easily be paired with different shirts and suits. As you build your collection, you can add more unique designs to express your personal style.

Business Casual

If your workplace follows a business casual dress code, you’ll have a bit more flexibility. But, you’ll still want to maintain a polished look. Here are some basics to include in your business casual wardrobe:

  • Blazers – Blazers are a versatile piece that can instantly elevate your outfit. Start with a classic navy or black blazer, and then add other colors like gray or beige as your budget allows. Blazers can be worn over blouses, polos, or even dresses, making them a valuable addition to your wardrobe.
  • Blouses and polos – For women, build a selection of blouses in various colors and patterns. Look for styles that can be dressed up with a blazer or worn alone for a more casual look. For men, polos are a great alternative to dress shirts for a business casual environment. Choose polos in neutral colors and simple patterns that can be easily paired with different pants.
  • Sweaters – Sweaters are perfect for layering and adding warmth without sacrificing style. Opt for classic styles like V-necks, crewnecks, and cardigans in neutral colors. These can be worn over dress shirts or blouses for a polished yet comfortable look.

Regardless of your office dress code, focusing on versatility and quality will help you get the most out of your wardrobe. Stick to neutral colors like black, white, navy, gray, and beige. These colors are easy to mix and match, allowing you to create numerous outfits from a limited number of pieces. Invest in pieces made from high-quality fabrics that will stand the test of time. Natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk are not only durable but also comfortable and breathable. 

3. Choose Your Footwear

The right shoes can enhance your outfit, boost your confidence, and keep you comfortable throughout your workday.

In a business professional environment, your footwear should be polished and formal. A few options you may consider include:

  • Leather shoesOxfords are the epitome of formal business shoes. With their closed lacing system, they offer a sleek and polished look. Slightly less formal than Oxfords, Derbies have an open lacing system and provide a bit more comfort and flexibility.
  • Pumps – Opt for closed-toe pumps in black or nude for maximum versatility. Kitten heels are a great alternative if you prefer lower heels.
  • Brogues – Brogues add a touch of style to traditional business attire. They are versatile enough to be worn with both suits and business casual outfits.

In a business casual setting, you have more flexibility with your footwear choices. Here are some options that strike the perfect balance between comfort and professionalism:

  • Loafers – Penny loafers offer a classic look and are comfortable for all-day wear.
  • Ballet flats – Choose a pair of simple flats in a neutral color for maximum versatility.
  • Dressy boots – Pick a sleek, heeled pair of ankle boots that can be worn with both dresses and pants.
  • Stylish sneakersLeather sneakers are a bit more polished than traditional athletic sneakers. Opt for minimalistic designs that complement your outfits without looking too casual.

No matter the style, comfort is key when it comes to work footwear. New shoes can be stiff and uncomfortable at first. Break them in by wearing them for short periods before your first day at work. This will help soften the material and mold them to your feet. Consider using insoles or gel cushions to add extra comfort, especially if you’ll be on your feet a lot. 

4. Find the Perfect Work Bag

As you commute to and from work, you’ll need a professional work bag to safely transport your gadgets and pack all of your essentials for the day. Before choosing a work bag, think about what you may need to carry on a daily basis. This might include:

  • Laptop,
  • Phone and laptop chargers,
  • Documents and folders,
  • Stationery,
  • And personal items such as toiletries and snacks.

There are several different types of work bags to consider. Here are a few popular options:

  • Briefcase – A classic choice for a professional look, a briefcase normally includes multiple compartments to hold documents, electronics, and other essentials. Choose a leather briefcase in a neutral color like black, brown, or navy to more easily match your outfits.
  • Backpack – A backpack is a practical and comfortable option, especially if you have a longer commute. Look for a backpack with a laptop compartment to keep your devices safe and plenty of pockets for organization. Opt for a sleek, professional design, avoiding overly casual or sporty styles.
  • Messenger bag – Balancing between style and practicality, messenger bags are a great option that allows you to access your items quickly and easily. Choose a messenger bag made with durable material materials that can withstand the rigors of a daily commute.
  • Tote bag – A tote with a structured shape and sturdy handles is a stylish and versatile option for a work bag. Choose one with internal pockets to better organize your work bag essentials.

5. Grab Some Accessories

Accessories are the finishing touches that can really pull an outfit together. The right professional jewelry or belt can enhance your overall look, making you appear more put-together and confident. Here are some accessories to consider for your new job:

  • Belts – Invest in at least one black and one brown leather belt to match your shoes. High-quality leather belts are durable and add a touch of sophistication to any outfit.
  • Watches – Opt for a classic, understated watch that can be worn with a variety of outfits.
  • Necklaces – A delicate pendant necklace in gold or silver can add a touch of sophistication. For a bolder look, a statement necklace can be worn with simple blouses or dresses.
  • Earrings – Small, classic studs in gold, silver, or pearl are versatile and suitable for any professional setting. 
  • Bracelets – Thin bangles in gold or silver are elegant and can be worn alone or stacked.

6. Add Variety

Once you have a solid foundation, it’s time to add variety so you have options suitable for different occasions, seasons, and moods. 

Over time, add more suits in different colors or patterns to add depth and interest to your outfit without being too flashy. Mix materials and textures, like pairing a wool blazer with cotton pants, to add dimension to your outfits. Beyond black and navy, consider adding pants in gray, tan, and even subtle plaids.