Let me start by conceding that the state of the world looked nothing like it does today when I stepped out of college and into my first full-time job a mere three years ago. I know I certainly could have used a road map for navigating the major life transition at that time, so I can only imagine how game-changing a few words of advice are for those attempting to enter the "workforce" at this particular moment in time.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not qualified to dole out career advice, but I am in a position to recommend a few key staples that will lay the foundation for a chic and professional work wardrobe and will (hopefully) see you through to a fulfilling career. I landed my current job at Who What Wear fresh out of college and promptly focused on upgrading my wardrobe to align with my new role and daily life in an office. But being a recent post-grad in my early 20s, I didn't have the budget to completely overhaul my closet (nor did I want to necessarily), and so I forced myself to be selective with what I did invest in. I looked for pieces that would be versatile and timeless so they'd live in my closet for years and, above all, ones that felt polished and professional for this new working life.
Looking back, I'm happy to report that I think I did a pretty good job with building out a work wardrobe in my 20s, and I hope that many of these items will also see me through to my 30s and, hey, maybe beyond! Keep scrolling to discover the six staples I recommend investing in.
1. Tailored, Dark-Wash Jeans
Though I prefer a straight-fit for a classic work ensemble, it doesn't always matter the kind of jeans they are so much as the wash and the details. I happen to think that dark-wash and black jeans will always contribute to a polished look, and I stray away from jeans with too much distressing. Those with tailored, non-frayed hems are failsafe for work and beyond.
2. Pretty Blouses
A pretty top is a must, as it's a great way to add some personality to your work outfits, and I'm a fan of puff sleeves and square necklines. To get the most use out of your purchase, look for a style that you can easily wear with jeans, skirts, and trousers, and keep an eye out for a neckline that hits near or above the collar bone to keep things professional.
3. Slightly Oversize Blazers
The holy grail of work attire, if you ask me, is the blazer. It's timeless but on-trend, versatile but polished. I think everyone needs one in their lives, whether or not a 9-to-5 is your life. The one I'm wearing here happens to be a vintage men's blazer but there are many great affordable versions out there in case picking through a secondhand store is not your speed.
4. Midi Dresses
When I don't feel like wearing jeans or trousers, I reach for a cute midi dress and, depending on the season and my mood, pair it with flats, heeled sandals, or boots. I've linked a few of my current-favorite midi-length frocks below that all have sleeves, but as you can see here, layering a white tee underneath a strapless dress is one of my go-to styling tricks to make it office-friendly.
5. Chic Flats
I never saw the value in flat shoes until I began working in an office. Between running to and from meetings and working at my standing desk, I prefer to give my feet a break from heels a few days a week, and ballet flats and loafers are my favorite ways to do so.
6. Polished Work Tote
Ahh, the work tote—a cornerstone in any working wardrobe. I felt that investing in a sleek leather version was crucial to hold all my essentials (and laptop!) to and from the office and a much-needed update from flimsy canvas totes.
This story was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Next, we're in our 20s, and here's where we shop the most.
Anna is an editor on the fashion team at Who What Wear and has been at the company for over five years, having begun her career in the Los Angeles office before relocating to New York, where she's currently based. Having always been passionate about pursuing a career in fashion, she built up her experience interning at the likes of Michael Kors, A.L.C., and College Fashionista before joining the team as a post-graduate assistant editor. Anna has penned a number of interviews with Who What Wear's cover stars over the years, including A-listers Megan Fox, Issa Rae, and Emma Chamberlain. She's earned a reputation for scouting new and emerging brands from across the globe and championing them to our audience of millions. While fashion is her main wheelhouse, Anna led the launch of WWW Travels last year, a new lifestyle vertical that highlights all things travel through a fashion-person lens. She is passionate about shopping vintage, whether it be at a favorite local outpost or an on-the-road discovery, and has amassed a wardrobe full of unique finds. When she's not writing, you can find her shooting street imagery on her film camera, attempting to learn a fourth or fifth language, or planning her next trip across the globe.
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