My 30 closet essentials for being a grown up
Happy Sunday! The first eight weeks of this semester is over, and the second eight weeks is starting on Tuesday. Homecoming weekend and an exciting day at the cider mill is over and now I finally have a little free time to do this post at the request of a few of my friends.
I was probably the worst young professional ever when I started my first big girl job. Standard girl problem: I had nothing to wear. My college wardrobe was comprised of college t-shirts, yoga pants, club dresses and Vans. Not an easy transition to the office.
During my undergrad career, I was lucky enough to score two internships, so I was able to build a base of clothing to wear starting out at my office job. The problem? I had also focused more on trendy clothes, and not enough on well-constructed garments that would last me year-to-year, which left me hating half of my closet at the end of every season. Now, a year and a half into my job, I’m a little more conscious of what I wear every single day. I’ve looked back on a year’s worth of outfits, both good and bad, and put together a cohesive list of the 30 basics I wish I’d had when I graduated college. A lot of the pieces I wear are transition pieces that can work in the office, in class and out at the bar with my co-workers for evening drinks with little to no changing in between. I’m pretty lucky that my office is fairly casual, with a lot of my coworkers wearing jeans from day to day.
1. Black dress pants. These are your go-to on “I don’t know what to wear” days. Pair them with a blouse and some flats and you solved your “I’m already running 10 minutes late” wardrobe crisis. I’m a fan of the Drew fit from The Limited for when I really need to dress up, and the AE Skinny Trouser for a more casual day at work.
2. White and black t-shirts. These are essential and create canvasses for entire outfits. I’m a fan of the Basics line from H&M. It’s always a good idea to have as many neutral basics as possible on hand- a navy and white-striped long sleeve t-shirt, gray tank tops, etc. Neutral bases are easy building blocks for outfits.
3. Black heels. I personally don’t think anything over three inches is acceptable for work, so I settled on this very inexpensive pair from H&M. After I painfully broke them in at the Amsterdam airport quite some time ago, they’ve proven to be so comfortable I can wear them all day everywhere.
4. Black pencil skirt. I’m more of a skirt person than a pants person, so I’m apt to substitute my black work slacks for a pencil skirt and a pair of black tights. My favorite is from New York & Company (similar) and I love these tights from H&M because they’re fleece lined (I live in Michigan) and they don’t snag. I’ve had them well over a year and they still look great.
5. A white dress shirt. Much like the t-shirt, it creates a canvas for any outfit, but in a dressier way. I have two that I’m a fan of. This shirt from H&M has figure-flattering darts, and this relaxed fit from Gap is better for wearing with leggings or skinny jeans to make a more casual look.
6. Nude bras, panties and cami tops. Often overlooked, but absolutely necessary for creating a smooth, streamlined and opaque silhouette. I love the fit and comfort level of my Freya Deco, these panties from Victoria’s Secret and these tank-tops from Old Navy.
7. A neutral cardigan. Cardigans are the adult versions of hoodies- carry them around and throw them over your outfit when you get cold. Mine is from Nordstrom Rack (similar here) in “oatmeal.”
8. Tan trench coat. This epitome of timeless pieces, this transitions over and over from season to season. Mine is MICHAEL by Michael Kors, also from Nordstrom Rack (similar here). If you’re daring, go for red or black.
9. Black work boots. I can’t live without these after a snowstorm. Mine are suede, heeled, slip-resistant, lined in microbacterial material (or something) from La Canadienne. I tried pair after pair of black boots and booties only to end up with cold feet and wet socks. These boots are well worth the splurge. I bought mine at 60 percent off retail from 6pm- so shop around!
10. Dark wash skinny jeans. Mine are stretch from American Eagle. The dark wash is instantly slimming, and these can be work in the office on casual Friday, to class and to the bar. They pair well with flats and can be tucked into boots. Dirty little secret: my pair fits so well that I’ve only washed them once within the past year so they don’t fade, and they haven’t stretched out a smidge.
11. A peacoat. Mine is a Calvin Klein piece (similar) I bought with Christmas money very late in the season for a very good discount, but you can get coats that look just as nice from Old Navy or New York and Company for a good price.
12. A chambray top. Mine is from Nordstrom Rack (similar). It’s a lighter wash that has pocket details on the front so it’s not too boring. I can wear it tucked into a pencil skirt for work, but it’s also long enough that it covers my tush so I can wear it casually with leggings and riding boots.
13. Black dress No. 1: Made for work. Mine is an A-line from Loft (similar). This dress is long and stiff and perfect for wearing to meetings and networking events.
14. Black dress No. 2: A less formal version for dates and dressier affairs. Mine has straps and a bow in back, but pick one with details that you love. I like this one from Forever 21, but pick one you like and make it your own.
15. A simple, yet conservative, sundress. Mine is a navy and white polka-dot frock from Forever 21 (similar). It’s neutral, so it’s a canvas for fun accessories, shoes and cardigans, and formal enough to wear to work, yet innocent enough to pair with pearls and wear to meet your boyfriend’s family for wine tasting.
16. Your statement necklace. This is one of those accessories that can easily spice up your conservative dress. I’m a fan of this necklace from New York & Company.
17. Your work purse. Ideally, this should be a timeless piece that can carry over season to season. Look for something not too out there, but still interesting enough that it draws attention. I passed on studs, fringe and tassels and went for a Dagne Dover in cobalt blue because I’m a fun person. It has pockets for everything and I am obsessed.
18. A smaller crossbody. When you go out to the bar with friends, or spend a few hours at a concert, the last thing you want to do is haul around the aforementioned tote. Get a small crossbody- large enough to hold your iPhone, lipgloss, keys and ID, but small enough that it doesn’t get in the way of all your friends in that small bar booth. I have this bag from Jenna Kator in off-white, if you couldn’t tell I’m a Jenna Kator fan.
19. Neutral flats. Yes, more H&M. I really do love their basics. I have these in black, navy, red and camel.
20. Stud earrings. Fake or real, doesn’t matter. Just some bling to add to your everyday outfits.
21. A string of pearls. Much like the stud earrings, I have a fake pair from the Icing as well, but real pearls are very much affordable and add that extra oomf to a formal business outfit.
22. A neutral scarf. Mine is a light leopard-print. (similar). Wears with almost anything, perfect for fall weather and gives an added pick-me-up to any outfit.
23. Waist-cinching belt. I have two: a larger one from Express (similar) and a smaller one from J. Crew (similar). This will pull in a baggy sweater or a shirt dress, and adds a pop of color to an outfit. Get one you can use both around your waist and around your hips.
24. Your go-to comfy sweater. I have about a million of these, but I recently grabbed this one from H&M. This is my all-time favorite one from Express. Professional or casual, sweaters are a staple in every Midwestern girl’s wardrobe.
25. A watch. Get a big statement piece if you can pull it off, or a small, sleek one if you’re like me with small wrists. Mine is Kate Spade (similar). Both functional and stylish, watches are an easy way to showcase your personality.
26. A basic blouse. Not a white button up, but something with a little more detail. Pick one in a neutral color so you can pair it better. I have a navy polka dot one with a pussy bow from Loft. (similar) I wear it with jeans, skirts, dress pants, under sweaters, etc.
27. Your go-to blazer. There are so many styles- cropped, boyfriend, tuxedo, open, etc. I have a relaxed black blazer from H&M (similar) that I wear over dresses to the office or with jeans and flats casually. If you want, you can buy a suit and wear the blazer and skirt (aforementioned) as separates to save money.
28. Rain boots. I know a lot of people swear by their Hunters, but I love my black Kamiks. I have small calves and these fit a lot slimmer.
29. A leather jacket. Sassy, chic, versatile and timeless.I love my minus the leather jacket from Express in black. This plus skinny jeans, basic pumps and a black v-neck is my go-to night-out apparel.
30. Riding boots. I live in these for work and errands every fall and winter. I have these Cole Haans.
I wear these pieces over and over and over again. Most of them are neutrals and easy to mix and match, and so easy to transition! Keep in mind that my essentials are different from your essentials. My waterproof suede boots are of absolutely no use to my Texan counterpart. For me, this was a good place to start. If I could go back to college again, I would definitely start building a professional wardrobe earlier, and turning down trendy clothes in favor of well-constructed basics. I’m still working on the well-constructed part, but I’m doing eons better now than I was when I first started my big girl job.
What are your 30 closet essentials?
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