The Young and Professional Series, Volume 1: Building a Business Wardrobe

shopping_bags2Someone recently told me, once you hit the summer after your Junior year of college the real world begins to creep up on you. I couldn’t agree more. What I learned through simply interning is the harsh reality that the real world doesn’t wait for you to be prepared. In fact, it will smack sense into you and force you to be prepared. Someone sent me a question that I thought would be great to do a complete post on. “Hey, what should I have in my closet work wise? I just graduated college and got my first real job. It’s as an assistant in a legal office, just in case you’re wondering.” As a child my grandmother groomed me to look and behave professionally when need be. What to say and what not to say, what to wear and what not to wear, when to speak, when to ask a question, and on and on. I’ll start off by saying this. All professions are not created equal. Meaning, the same way you would dress day to day as a legal assistant is not necessarily the same way you would dress as a radio host. However, for the 20 – 30 year olds out there or women entering the workforce for the first time an impeccable business wardrobe is needed. There are initially 10 outfits listed here but they can be mixed and matched. Happy reading!


Some hard and fast rules when it comes to business wear for me:

– Flip Flops are a NO NO, even if they are allowed. (Go for a thong sandal or a ballet flat. It’s cleaner)

– Make the local cleaners your best friend. (Pricey, but worth it.)

– Start out with the basics and continue building (a lime green suit in your closet without a black suit is just crazy)

– Keep heels below 4 inches (In some instances, 4 and a half may be okay but stay safe and go with 4 inches and lower.)

– Purchase insoles for those painful heels (Sometimes the heel may be painful but look fabulous. Don’t count the shoe out. Purchase an insole and then decide)

– When it comes to skirts and dresses stand up straight with your arms down as if you’re at attention. The end of your middle finger is where the end of your skirt or dress should meet.

– Play with colors and patterns, even in your basics. (Sure, the staple color in business and work is black but who says you can’t mix it up. Although black should be in your wardrobe give some other patterns and colors a chance and show off your personality)

Now, here goes the basics:

#1 – MAKE YOUR PRIORITY A BLACK SUIT: If you don’t have a black suit, and that means a suit, not slacks and a casual blazer, then you need to get one. A black suit of great quality can run you between $100 and $300. I’ve found suits at places such as TJMAXX, Burlington Coat Factory, Loehmann’s, and other discounted name brand stores for around $80. It’s about how you shop. A black suit is the best place to start. It’s appropriate for every interview no matter the job. The great thing about a black suit is that simply switching up the blouse and/or removing the jacket can make the suit look differently. Before you pick up any other essential I suggest you start with this.

#2 – THAT 1 BEAUTIFUL BLACK DRESS: Purchase a black dress of great quality. For the days where you just want to wear a dress but look extremely professional the black dress does it all.

#3 – ANOTHER BUSINESS APPROPRIATE DRESS: Feel free to choose a spring or fall friendly color. It will help mix up your basics and give you a warm approachable look. Constant black pieces at work can give a boring, routine, and unapproachable energy off. Have fun and play with some patterns and colors. I have a lavender dress that I can’t wait to wear.

Let’s get into the tops:

#1 – 2 SLEEVELESS BLOUSES: These are perfect to place under your jackets. The only trouble with this is, if you have a job where you cannot wear sleeveless shirts you will have to keep your jacket on. For casual fridays this is perfect because a sleeveless blouse can serve as both casual and business appropriate. No need to change for happy hour. Initially they should be in solid basic colors (white, black, gray, blue, tan).

#2 – 4 BLOUSES WITH SLEEVES: I usually wear these blouses with a skirt or when I don’t feel like wearing a blazer all day and the work environment is business appropriate. A key reminder. The blouses you purchase should be of a high quality material. Such as silk, satin, etc. It gives it the most office appropriate look. Try to pick up at least two in basic solid colors (white, black, gray, blue, tan).

#3 – SOLID WHITE BUTTON UP: This should be a classic button up. No frills and ruffles. If you only have one button up in your closet make it white. For the casual fridays you can pair this up with a pair of denim trousers or slacks and give off an instantly effortless and polished look.

#4 – 2 BLAZERS: Self explanatory. Blazers can add that perfect touch. You can pair them up with just about anything. You have a black suit so you can switch up the colors here unless you’re like me and want a more casual version of a black blazer.

#5 – CARDIGANS AND/OR SHELLS: They are great cover up pieces and can sometimes be used in replace of a blazer for more casual environments

#6 – 2 PANTS/SLACKS: I have a pair of gray and navy slacks in my closet. Depending on your job/profession you can purchase a skinny trouser for a more casual look. Although they’re pricey, the columnist pants by express are my absolute favorite pair of slacks.

#7 – 2 PENCIL SKIRTS: Ah, the pencil skirt. It can give you such a pulled together and neat look. I suggest one in black and another one in a color you are drawn to.

#8 – 2 BASIC SUIT SKIRTS: Although pencil skirts are beautiful they get old after a while. You should switch it up with a simple suit skirt. A straight skirt that gives you room to breathe. Once again, choose a black one and a color you favor. Black does go with everything.

Hey now, it’s footwear time:

#1 – 2 PAIRS OF HEELS: Have at least a black pair so they match with everything and try and keep them… (I’m going to be lenient) 4 and .25 inches and lower. For more comfort go with a chunkier heel and/or more or a platform (hidden platform that is). Word to the wise, use an insole if need be (the ones specifically for heels). It helps A LOT!

#2 – 2 PAIRS OF FLATS: If you’re not ready to buy 2 flats at least have a black pair. Refrain from bringing flip flops to work unless you’re a lifeguard. A chic sandal can work beautifully sometimes. Make sure it’s closed in the back so you don’t hear the flop flop sound. That’s annoying.

Some other things to include:

#3 – 1 TRENCH COAT/JACKET: I’m not a fan of jackets. I think I’m in love with what a trench coat is. Nevertheless, this is all up to you.

#4 – A BLACK AND/OR WHITE BRA: Not often discussed. However, a black bra is a necessity when it comes to workwear. If a shirt is too sheer either black or white bras may save the day. If a strap is shown by mistake a black or white strap would be way less obvious.

#5 – NO SHOW/SEAMLESS UNDERWEAR: And to the panty lines seen underneath beautiful slacks, pencil skirts, and suit skirts I say no, no, no. These are wonderful inventions. Oh, and to the legging/white pant lovers out there, purchase a pair of no show panties the same color as the bottoms you are wearing. They work wonders.

#6 – GO TO BAG: Whether black or white or tan. One solid color bag that matches with the majority of things in your work wear wardrobe is a necessity.

#7 – NUDE STOCKINGS: Yes to the nude stockings. They will go beautifully with your skirts and dresses and stockings make heels feel less tight.

#8 – CAMISOLES: Great for under your tops and blouses.

#9 – SIMPLE JEWELRY: Depending on the job simplicity is the way to go. Silver and gold (matte silver and gold for me) can add neat, classic, and elegant touches to your outfit. A hint, spend less and purchase sterling silver and/or little trinkets from stores like Target and Forever21.

So, i’ll end this here. Happy shopping ladies!

Shaquana J. Chaneyfield (Site:

Chat with me:
Twitter: @ShaquanaJaneeC
Email: MsShaquanaJaneeC

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