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Building a Work Wardrobe – Fit, Form, Function

August 8, 2019

Finding work clothes is one of the things that I was most excited/nervous about when I started working. Excited, because I love getting dressed up all professional-like. Nervous, because I knew that I had a (very) limited number of outfits under my belt. My hunch was right – after the first week I was already outfit repeating (sorry, Kate from Lizzie McGuire)! I just didn’t own enough clothing to consider it a “work wardrobe”.

However, now that I’m a month into work, things are looking differently. Lots of turmoil (and money!) later, I finally feel like I have clothes I’m happy with. Of course, it’s always evolving, but setting some rules for myself really helped throughout this initial process. I know that building a work wardrobe is definitely overwhelming, so I hope this can serve as a guide for you too! I try to make sure every piece of clothing I buy follows three basic principles: fit, form, and function. These three F’s dictate product design (the engineer in me, oops!), but they can also be really helpful in buying clothes!

Fit

1. Invest in your basics

I cannot stress enough the importance of buying timeless pieces that fit you. Even if it means saving & splurging a little more, it’s so worth it. It amazed me how much wearing something that simply fits affected my confidence at work. It makes you walk a little taller, and be a little more proud of who you are. Honestly it sounds kind of crazy typing it out, but believe me, it’s a thing!

For example, I’ve gone through my fair share of fast fashion blazers – Forever 21, Primark – you name it, I’ve tried it. These blazers were always a little too long in the arms, or a little too tight around the shoulders. Sure, they were cute, but not comfortable. I hated wearing blazers and thought they weren’t for me. However, once I bought a Banana Republic blazer, the game was changed forever. I love wearing blazers to work, and you can catch me in one probably once a week!

2. Find brands you love and stick to them

Speaking of Banana Republic, I buy almost all of my work clothes from them! Again, it might sound crazy, but shopping from a brand that you’re comfortable with makes the whole experience a million times easier. We all know that women’s clothing sizes are…ahem…varied at best, and obviously as a working gal you don’t have time to try on everything in the store!

Now, I’m not saying to shop exclusively from one store (how boring!), but know who to go to for what. Like you have one best friend you’ll go to for rants and another you’ll go to if you want to go out, build those relationships with work clothing brands. This way, you get the option to branch out, but you’ll always have your right hand/go-to. Cue the Drake song.

Form

1. Build work wardrobe inspiration

Okay, so the form section is all about how things look, which means finding clothes that don’t just fit you, but are super cute too! I definitely struggled finding work wardrobe inspiration at first (hardly anyone on Instagram is posting about their basic 9-to-5 outfits). Of course, Pinterest always works, but if you’re looking for something a little more…

I realized that the office is teeming with inspiration. There are some bad-A** women that work in my office with amazing style, and I definitely took a page from their book whenever I saw something I loved. A lot of the women at my workplace like to wear basics with a statement shoe, so I started incorporating that into my outfits and I’m obsessed!

2. Operate in the same color family/palette

This tip is my favorite! It’s similar to the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but a little less restricting. (Let’s be honest – would I really be able to survive on just 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants? No.) BUT, buying clothes that are within the same color family makes it so much easier to put together outfits! Personally, I go with basic black/white/gray, with pops of blue and pink, but you do you. I love that I don’t have to try too hard when matching clothes in the morning, and I can walk out the door confident that I look presentable. Of course, I love a statement piece too, but that makes your statement even more of a statement!

Function

1. Prioritize buying versatile pieces

Speaking of statement pieces vs. versatile pieces, when you’re looking at your new “Big Girl Budget” for clothing, try to prioritize buying clothes that work for multiple occasions. We all know that you can’t wear a crop top to the office (unless you work in a creative space), but maybe a sophisticated silk top can take you both out on the town and into the workplace!

I’m all about versatility. This is one of my biggest priorities when shopping, because girl, I do NOT have the money to spend on multiple wardrobes! I love wearing my current collection of tops to work, and it makes it twice as good when I can wear them out for drinks & still feel cute.

2. Prepare for a variety of dress codes

As the workplace becomes more modern, so do the clothes that employees wear. Depending on the industry you go into, one person could be wearing a full on suit, and the person next to them could be wearing jeans and a t-shirt! Due to this crazy variability, incorporate clothes that can be worn to work a variety of ways.

This doesn’t mean sticking to just tops and pants though! You can definitely dress certain work staples up and down. Like, you can totally rock a blazer #PantsuitNation style, OR pair it with a t-shirt and jeans to elevate your casual Friday look. I personally love my pair of leopard print flats because I can wear them both with professional dresses and a pair of jeans. Buying pieces like this makes it easy to adapt both as you move through your day-to-day life and your career as a whole!

Final Thoughts

I spent a lot of time on my work wardrobe in the past year, and I’m so happy to be in the place I’m in. I truly can’t describe how good it feels to be confident in your outfit on a day to day basis – it really changes my demeanor at work! My friend Jen calls it “wear-apy”, and I hope that this post helps you get a little closer to your own wear-apy.

What are your tips for building a work wardrobe?

yours truly katrina, college, job

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