Full disclosure: Everlane kindly offered to send me some pieces from their August release. I immediately thought about pieces in my work wardrobe that I’ve been meaning to buy. I chose three classic items that I know will be worn over and over, regardless of season. I am not paid to write this post. I will receive a small commission from ShopStyle if you purchase through an affiliate link below. All opinions are my own.
Dressing for work has always been somewhat of a drag.
For reference, I work in a business casual environment where jeans are only to be worn on Fridays. Some days, I’ll break the rule here and there but I always feel less confident and honestly, a little guilty.
I used to think that dressing for work was anti-me. I remember buying my very first work outfit at Zara about fours years ago. It was a black blazer, blush colored blouse, and a pair of black pants with a skinny brown belt attachment. I felt totally uncomfortable and thought, welp this is life now. This is how dressing for work on a tight budget feels like. But to be honest, even if I did have more money at the time I’m not quite sure I would have known what to buy. I mean, I make more money now than I did then and I still struggle with dressing for work.
It has definitely been a process of trial and error for me.
I remember seeing Alexa Chung dressed in a relaxed white button down tucked into a midi skirt after her Spring/Summer 2019 fashion show, and thinking YES. And ever since then I’ve thought about how I can apply that same stylistic point of view and make it work for me.
Photo: REX via Harper’s Bazaar
Then last week, I landed on an outfit combo for work that made me realize the answer was in my closet all along. I just didn’t see it.
Coincidentally, that was the day that I announced that I would be repeating outfits and be more strategic about what I buy, so I can pay my loans back more aggressively.
I decided on a uniform of a relaxed button down tucked into a pair of pants and finished off with a pair of loafers. Since making this decision, I’ve realized I have 5 essential pieces that when worn together can serve as a finished look, no matter what season it is outside. Warning: These might all be obvious. Let’s get into it.
1. A Cardigan
I have a cardigan draped over my chair at work at all times. It is the one thing that keeps my veins from freezing over in the summer when the AC is blasting. It’s either that or do as my coworkers do and wear a puffer jacket. I think a cardigan is just a little more polished, especially since I meet with clients. I’ve been wearing this Everlane cardigan (size xs; gifted) nonstop. I love the bigger buttons, the coziness of the thicker rib knit, and the perfect cropped length to make it look just as good with pants as it does over a dress.
2. A Button down shirt
I’ve fought the button down shirt for so long. After much avoidance, I realized that it all comes down to fabric and fit. This Everlane shirt (size 0) completely converted me. Now I know I like the fabric to be lightweight and the fit to be a bit oversized. I’ve been wearing this shirt nonstop. I like that I can tuck this shirt into pants for work or wear over a dress for a weekend away.
I even wore this with black ribbed pants and didn’t mind the relaxed look. It actually reminded me of something Mary Kate or Ashley would wear. Now I want it in white but it’s backordered till October 30th. I guess other people are loving this shirt too.
3. “Work Pants”
I still wish I could wear jeans all week long. But I have to admit there’s something about putting on a dressier pair of pants. All of a sudden, I’m a professional and less likely to be mistaken for a high school student. Come to think of it, most of my work pants are from Everlane. Last summer, I got two pairs of their straight leg crop pants last year (review here) and still wear them nonstop. I saw that they released a “work pant” a while back and was curious about it. Everlane kindly sent this kick crop (size 0) version and I’m really liking the subtle checked print. It’s a cross between a blue and a gray which I think makes it perfect for work or a dressier weekend look.
Normally, I’m not a fan of a side zip pant because it can dig into skin but Everlane got the details right. They added an extra layer of fabric that has a button attachment and serves as a barrier between the zipper and skin. It also helps that these have a stretchy waistband that’s hidden, making them just as comfortable to wear at the beginning of the day as it is after lunch.
4. A Pair of loafers
I’ve been going off about these Rothy’s loafers (pictured above) for ages but they have seriously been my most worn work shoe. They look just as good with jeans on the weekend as they do with dresses and pants throughout the work week. They’re machine washable and has just the perfect amount of stretch to make them comfy for all day wear and tons of walking. Feel free to check out my review for more details.
5. A Pair of hoop earrings
I got these Sophie Buhai hoops (Jewel is offering 9% cash back on SSENSE) last winter and have worn them practically every day. I don’t wear much jewelry so this is a pretty big deal for me. I love that they work all year round and can dress up something as simple as a white tee and black pants. And despite the thicker hoop, it’s super lightweight. On the days that I forget to put them on for work, I definitely feel like something’s missing. I don’t see myself retiring these anytime soon or ever, really.
Now that I’ve narrowed down these 5 pieces, I feel like I have a solid foundation to work with. I like knowing that I can swap out different shoes and earrings and still have a solid work-appropriate outfit. Or, choose different fabrics for shirts and pants to match the season.
This has truly been a process of trial and error. Part of what took me so long was because I had this singular view of dressing for work that I never tried to customize for myself. Now that I’m here, shopping and dressing for work is no longer a boring mystery.
What are your work wardrobe essentials?
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See you in my next post!