Before I worked at home, I was a corporate accountant. There’s a lot about the job I don’t regret leaving, but I do miss how I was treated when I was all suited up. Even the errands on the way to or from work felt different. Your mileage may vary, but I really did notice a difference between how I was treated when I wore a professional outfit and when I rolled out in casual clothes.
While better treatment in the grocery store isn’t bad, the main reason to create a high-quality work wardrobe is to feel confident when you perform your job, and to communicate your professionalism through your appearance.
Though I work from home now, I still need a professional wardrobe for conferences, speaking engagements, and some client visits. I may not go full accountant, but I incorporate nicer pieces for a professional and polished look. If you are middle aged and plus sized like me, I think it’s particularly important, since I occasionally also overcoming misconceptions about a woman like me.
Here are my top tips for building your professional wardrobe.
Keep It Travel Friendly
Even if you don’t travel routinely for work, you probably still travel. Your clothes should be versatile, easy to care for, and easy to pack. Think knits, a blend of fibers, or natural fibers that don’t need a lot of pressing to look professional. In the very least, pick items that can be steamed in a hotel bathroom while you shower. You don’t want to have to iron frequently at home or on the road.
Knits travel well, even when tightly rolled up when packed. If in doubt, gently crumple an unobtrusive piece of fabric before purchasing.
I always regret clothes I buy that are too far away from what I already have in my wardrobe. Unless a prospective purchase blends in with at least two other things I already own, am I really going to wear it enough to justify the expense?
Get that great jacket if it will look good with your jeans, that pencil skirt that shows off your curves, and at least a couple of your work dresses.
Getting more use out of something expensive reduces its cost per wear, the real cost of an item.
Mix your expensive pieces in with your casual clothes to bring a touch of luxe to your off-work look. Those expensive boots and blazer look great with your statement tee and jeans.
Have a Color Palate
Over time I see I have two color palates for my work wardrobe: basic black skirts, pants, and dresses that I pair with colorful scarves or light outer layers like long cardigans, and navy blue–usually with stripes–that I mix with white for warm weather or gray and burgundy for cool weather.
When I travel professionally I’ll pack one color palate or the other so I can easily mix and match. This way I can still travel light and maximize my outfit choices.
You probably already are buying from a specific color family. Go in your closet and separate your clothes this way so you can quickly make a outfit in the morning, and so you can see what to buy more of.
Balance Style and Fashion
Think of it this way: fashion changes every season, but style remains year after year.
Shop for your style foundation pieces at better department stores and with high-quality brands that make shoes, pants, jackets, and handbags that last.
Buy most of your foundational dresses, pants, skirts, and jackets in neutral colors like grey, black, navy, or camel. Mix in jewel tones or golden shades or pastels for accent pieces, as suits your coloring.
For the color of the year, or that hot-right-now top or accessory, feel free to spend less money. I’d feel really bad right now if I’d spent a lot of money on a cold-shoulder blouse last year.
Quality usually costs money, but you can also make great finds for less. Here in Richmond the Junior League consignment store and the crown jewel Goodwill shop that pulls from all the other Goodwills are the place to go for something fabulous and only slightly used. My friend found an exquisite beaded cocktail dress in perfect shape that she wore to the Emmys.
Also, know when your favorite brand has its seasonal sales. It’s safer to shop on line during these special events because you’re probably already familiar with the brand quality and sizing. Otherwise, don’t risk a purchase you can’t exchange or return, no matter how much the discount is.
Again, consider the cost per wear. A $30 blouse you wear twice ultimately cost more than a $200 pair of shoes you wear once a week for a year.
Check Out Misook
Thanks to Misook for sending me clothes for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Misook is a brand that has high-quality professional clothes (and more) for women from petites to plus sized. It’s nice to find a brand that makes excellent clothes that accommodates a greater spectrum of women’s bodies. My number one problem with shopping while plus sized is finding clothes that are well made, flattering, and appropriate for a professional environment. So glad for another place to shop!
See what Misook has to offer you with their effortless, versatile, flattering clothes.
The Cubicle Chick
Tuesday 23rd of January 2018
Looking rather spiffy my friend These are great tips. :-)
Sunday 7th of January 2018
As MLB's travel editor, I heartily agree with your advice to have one or two color palates and then accessorize from there, especially when planning a travel wardrobe. I find that black works well for me for slacks and a cardigan. I rarely wear skirts or dresses when traveling since that usually requires another pair of shoes. I add color with a blouse or shirt. Black is also practical because it hides a multitude of accidents---like spilling beverages on oneself during a flight. Note to self: open bottles of carbonated beverages very carefully when in a pressurized cabin.