Basic Wardrobe Staples for Work

When building a work wardrobe it is important to buy wardrobe basics or key pieces that can be worn with a variety of items you already own.

In order for an item to be considered a key piece, it must be classically styled, neutral in color, with little embellishment or design accents so that it can match various items you already own.

Here are four classic wardrobe essentials that we have found will work for every wardrobe (and will not go out of style):

Tailored Suit
Everyone needs at least one basic suit in their wardrobe. I recommend buying a classic black suit that has 3 pieces: blazer, trousers, and skirt (find tips for purchasing a tailored suit)

You can separate the suit and wear each item with other pieces you already have in your wardrobe or pair the blazer with either the trousers or skirt, depending on what look you are trying to achieve.

Classic Button-Down Shirt
A button-down shirt can be worn with so many different pieces you already have in your wardrobe. You can go casual by pairing it with jeans or get a professional look by wearing it with your suit

If you purchase a wrinkle-resistant shirt, you won’t have to worry about ironing it every time you want to wear it (find tips for purchasing a classic blouse).

Cardigan Sweater
The cardigan sweater is the perfect layering piece. Your cardigan will look great with a pair of jeans, pencil skirt, or dress pants. If you buy a cardigan in a neutral color, you can layer it over just about anything you own.

Boot-Cut Jeans
A pair of jeans can be dressed up or down and can be worn with so many different shirts, blouses, and sweaters that you already have in your wardrobe.

I would recommend a dark-wash jean since it is easier to dress up than a light wash or faded jean (find tips for purchasing boot-cut jeans).

How to Wear Wardrobe Basics
The basic wardrobe pieces listed above can be mixed and matched together to create a variety of different looks. Using just the key pieces listed above, we have listed 5 different outfits and options for how you can wear the pieces together.

You can also pair any of the pieces with items you already have in your wardrobe for endless possibilities and many different outfits.

Option #1: Blazer, Skirt, Classic Button-Down Shirt

  • perfect for an interview or important business meeting

Option #2: Blazer, Trousers, Classic Button-Down Shirt

  • great for an interview or business meeting or to wear to work

Option #3: Trousers and Button-Down Shirt

  • a professional look that is perfect for a day at the office
  • wear to an important business lunch or meeting
  • adding the cardigan sweater creates a different look for a day at the office

Option #4: Skirt and Button-Down Shirt

  • stylish and sophisticated, a great look for the office
  • add the cardigan for a layered look, perfect for the office

Option #5: Jeans and Button-Down Shirt

  • great for running errands or a day at the mall
  • wear your cardigan to create a casual, layered look
  • go professional and wear the blazer for a casual day at the office

How to Save Money (and Time) at the Outlet Mall

The outlet mall offers so many opportunities to save money on popular designer brands, but if you are not prepared before you go to the mall, you could miss out on some great bargains.

Everyone knows that shopping at the outlets can save you money, but I don’t know if everyone is aware that many of the outlet malls offer printable coupons on their website that can save you even more money.

Last year, they built an outlet center about 8 miles from my home, so I have been shopping there quite often and have created a guideline that I follow to help me stay organized and to save time and money when I shop:

Join the Outlet Center’s Preferred Shopper Program:
Just about all the outlet malls have some sort of preferred or VIP shopper program. It generally doesn’t cost any money to join, all you do is provide your email address, zip code, and select your preferred outlet mall. Then you can get access to exclusive coupons that you can print and take to the mall. They also may send you emails with coupons, information on sales, and special events that is only available to shopper club members.

Make a list of all the items you want to purchase:
In order to stay organized while shopping, it is best to create a list of all the items you want to purchase. When writing out your list, you should separate all your items into categories (i.e. apparel, shoes, home good, children’s clothes, etc).

Decide which stores you want to visit:
Because there are so many stores at the outlet center, it can become overwhelming. It is best to decide which stores you want to visit before you get to the mall. To save time at the mall, go through the list of items you want to purchase and make a note next to each which store(s) carry the item you want.

Determine the order of the stores you are planning to visit:
It is best to shop at stores that sell the heaviest items last. For example, if you are buying items for your home, you should stop at that store last; otherwise you will get stuck carry those items all day.

Based on personal experience, I have found that it is better to visit the most expensive store last. If you spend a lot of money on a luxury item, like that fabulous designer handbag you have always wanted, you might not have enough money to spend on the items you really need.

Print out Coupons & Special Sales Offers:
Use your list of stores you are planning to visit and print out all of the coupons and special offers. Be sure to make a note on your list that you have a coupon for that store so you don’t forget. You don’t want to buy a number of items only to get home and realize you had a coupon for that store.

Decide where to park:
Once you have decided which stores you want to visit, use the outlet center map to determine where you are going to park. I would recommend that you park near the last store you want to visit – it is much easier to walk a longer distance when you first arrive at the outlet mall, than when you are carrying all those shopping bags.

Stop at the Visitor’s Center:
When you get to the mall, you should stop at the Visitor’s Center before you do any shopping. You can get a map of the outlet center and check to see if there are any coupons or promotions that were not on their website. I have found it is helpful to talk to the customer service person at the visitor’s center to ask if there are any stores that are having a special sale. Sometimes you can get the inside scoop on a new sale or promotion. Also, if you have AAA, you should ask if the outlet center offers a special discount or free coupon book to members.

Now that you are prepared, you can enjoy your time at the outlet mall.

One last tip I have for shopping the outlets, is to Shop the Back of the Store First
From experience, I have found that stores usually have their sales racks (and lowest prices on clothes) in the back of the store.

Find more Shopping Tips & Resources

Previously titled: “Tips for Saving Time & Money at the Outlet Mall”

How to Find the Perfect Handbag

Whether you are wearing a tailored suit or jeans and a t-shirt, a handbag can add a bit of style and sophistication to any outfit. Because a handbag is a basic wardrobe staple, you want to make sure you buy the right bag for you.

Before going out and spending a lot of money, here are a few tips to help you find a handbag that you can have in your wardrobe for years:

  • Stay with a neutral color handbag with a classic style: a neutral color bag can match just about everything in your wardrobe. If you choose vibrant colors and patterns, it will limit what you can wear while carrying your handbag.
  • Stay away from bold buckles and big rivets: although they can add a touch of style to a plain handbag, big gold or silver buckles and rivets do not stand the test of time. If you want decorative accents on your bag, make sure they are classic and understated.
  • Check for interior and exterior pockets: if you like to be organized and have different compartments for everything (i.e. cell phone, pens, keys) you will want to make sure the handbag offers a sufficient number of pockets.
  • Size Matters: when buying a bag, you want to make sure it fits your body type. Look for a bag that complements your silhouette. The perfect bag will fit comfortably next to your body. If you are petite, you may want to stay away from a very large handbag as it will only make you appear smaller than you are.

How to Find the Perfect Dress

The right dress can take you from a day at the office to a night out on the town; it is all about the style of the dress. If you buy a plain dress, one with a neutral color and little embellishment or design, you will be free to add your own accessories to dress it up or down as you choose.

Here are some tips for finding the perfect dress:

  • Style of the Dress: try to find one with a classic style. Certain styles of dresses like the wrap dress and shirt dress seem to never go out of style. You should try to avoid bold buckles and trendy designs as they tend to “date” the dress.
  • Color and/or Print: if you want to wear the dress more than one year, don’t buy a bright or trendy color. Also, try to find a dress with minimal print and pattern. A loud print can limit where you wear the dress and what you can pair with it.
  • Length: the length of the dress is all about personal preference; however, you want to try to find a dress length that will flatter your body type. A dress that hits right below the knee seems to be flattering on almost every woman.
  • Fit is Everything! You can pay a lot of money for a designer dress and still not look stylish if the dress doesn’t fit you properly. A dress that is too tight. too big, or too long/short can completely ruin the look you are trying to accomplish. It is best to try on a number of styles to find one that best complements your body shape.

How to Find the Perfect Pencil Skirt

The pencil skirt is wardrobe basic that everyone can wear. It is so versatile, that the same skirt can be worn a variety of ways –  keep it casual with a crisp button-down shirt and a pair of flats, dress it up by pairing it with a trendy blouse and jewelry for an evening out with friends, or achieve a professional look with a matching blazer.

Because you can wear it so many different ways, it is important to find a skirt that is classically styled.

Here are a few qualities to consider when buying a Pencil Skirt:

  • Skirt Length
    The best rule for the length is to try to find a skirt that hits you right at or right below your knee. You don’t want a skirt that is too long or too short. A long skirt can make you look matronly and outdated and a short skirt can be inappropriate to wear certain places (i.e. work and professional events).
  • Classic Style
    If you want a skirt that will match a number of items in your closet, you should stay with neutral colors, like black or navy. You might want to avoid bright colors and patterns. Also stay away from bold buckles, embellishments, and trendy design features as they will limit what you can wear with your skirt.
  • Lining
    I personally refuse to spend a lot of money on a skirt unless it is lined. There is nothing worse than planning to wear you skirt only to find out that you either don’t have a slip that is of the right length, or the slip you need to wear with it isn’t clean. The only issue with skirts (or pants) that have lining is that they usually require dry cleaning.
  • Fit is everything!
    It doesn’t matter how much money you spend, if you buy a skirt that is ill-fitting, you will not look good. Buy a skirt that is right for your body shape. Try on a few different sizes just to see how they fit. Even if you have to go up a size, buy a skirt that fits you (you can always cut out the size).

If you plan to wear your skirt with a blazer (to work or for an interview), you should buy the pieces at the same time – either purchase suit separates or invest in a complete suit; that way you can be sure the items are a true match. Also, you might want to wear the blouse and/or shoes you will be wearing with the skirt. This is helpful so that you can see how the skirt looks with items you already own (before you get it home).

Tips for Cleaning Out your Closet

Now is the perfect time to clean out your closet. It is a lot of work, but after you are finished, you will be more organized, and you won’t have to waste time in the morning searching for something to wear.

The process of cleaning out your closet may sound easy, but if you are like me, you may be emotionally attached to certain items you own. If you think that you might have a difficult time deciding on which items you should keep and which you should get rid of, invite a friend over to help you make the decision and support you during the process. Because your friend is not emotionally attached to your clothing, she can give you an objective opinion as to which items are no longer in style and should be removed from your wardrobe.

Cleaning out your closet can be a very easy and almost enjoyable process if you stay organized throughout. Before you start, you might want to read: Cleaning Out your Closet: How to Stay Organized

One way I have found to get everything organized is to separate everything (I mean everything: shoes, belts, scarves, etc.) into 5 main piles:

Pile #1: Items to keep
Deciding which items to keep and which to get rid of can be more difficult than it sounds. If you just aren’t sure what to do, find some tips here: How to Decide Which Items to Keep

Pile #2: Items you “might” wear again
The reason I created this pile was because it seems like every time I cleaned out my closet and threw or gave a bunch of items away that I thought I would never wear again, I ended up wanting to wear at least one of them a month or two later.

In order to keep this pile from becoming too big, it is best to limit yourself to how many pieces you are going to “tentatively” keep. If you just can’t decide on a specific number of items, limit yourself to the number of items that will fit in one box.

After you have filled the box with all the clothes you just aren’t sure about getting rid of, choose a date that is a month or two from now and write that date on the box. Store the box until that date – if during that time you haven’t wanted to wear anything in the box, it is probably safe to give the items away or donate them.

Pile #3: Items that need to be repaired
Before deciding to repair something, check how much it will cost. If the cost exceeds the value of the item, it might be best to throw it away and buy something new.

Also, you should make arrangements within the next week to have it repaired, if you don’t you are likely to forget about it again, and the item will sit until the next time you decide to clean out your closet.

Pile #4: Items to be donated or given to someone in need
If you are having a difficult time getting rid of certain items, remember that you are helping someone else by giving your clothes to a charity or someone you know who can’t afford to buy new clothing for themselves.

Pile #5: Items to throw away
Remember not everything should be donated. If the item is torn, damaged, or stained, it is probably best to throw it away.

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After you have sorted everything into piles:
The first thing to do is get rid of the items you are going to throw away. Put everything in a bag and take it and put it in your trash bin immediately (before you change your mind).

Second, you want to pack everything you are going to give away – the easiest way I have found to do this is to put all the items in trash bags and put them in your car, that way they won’t get mixed up with anything else.

Now for the items that need fixed. Place them in a box and put them in your car so that the next time you go out, you can drop them off to be repaired.

Finally, it is time to put everything back in your closet. If you have stayed organized throughout this whole process, it shouldn’t take you much time to put everything back in your closet.

That’s it!
Now that you’re done – sit back and enjoy how organized you are and think of all the time you are going to save in the morning when getting dressed.

How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget

Before going out to the mall and spending a lot of your hard-earned money on new clothes, here are some easy ways to help you build a great wardrobe on a budget:

Make a list of clothing items you need in your wardrobe
Decide what articles of clothing you want to wear on a daily basis (don’t forget shoes, handbags, and jewelry). For example, if you work in an office where you have to dress professionally, you may need to purchase a suit or at least dress pants, skirts, and blouses. Also include clothes for the weekends, evenings out, and casual events.

Buy Wardrobe Basics
Wardrobe basics will match a variety of items in your closet. Some basic staples everyone should own include: a tailored suit, pencil skirt, white blouse, boot cut jeans, trench coat, just to name a few; these items are great because they can be worn a variety of ways. We have a list of Wardrobe Essentials everyone should own.

When purchasing basic wardrobe staples, it is a good idea to spend a little more money and purchase clothing that is of good quality. Even though you will be paying more, you will be wearing it often, so you can justify the expense.

Only buy clothing that will match at least 3 items you already own
Before you buy anything new, make sure it can be worn with at least three other items you already have in your wardrobe. That way, you won’t have to buy more clothes to match what you just purchased.

Fit is Everything!
There is nothing worse than having a wardrobe of expensive clothes that do not fit you well. When buying clothing, it is very important the fit flatters your body shape. It doesn’t matter how much you paid or the designer name, when you buy something that is too big or too small, you look sloppy and unprofessional.

Take your time and buy clothing that complements your body shape. Keep in mind that sometimes you will need to have certain items tailored in order to get the perfect fit.

Don’t be in a hurry to purchase a lot of items at one time
Sometimes you will get lucky and find everything you need for a great price at one store, but you can save money by doing comparison shopping at various stores. You might even want to check online. – there are quite a few website that offer discounts on designer clothing.

Always Shop the Sale!
Eventually everything goes on sale – before you buy anything anywhere, make sure you find out if that store is going to be having a sale. Some stores have a preview day, the day before the sale, where you can shop and avoid the big crowds.

Sign up for Shopper Programs and Store Mailing Lists
Also, you can save money by joining shopper programs and signing up for the mailing list for your favorite stores. Along with notifying you of upcoming sales, some stores will email you coupons that you can print out and use to save money. If you have a store where you love to shop, go to their website and see if they have an email list you can subscribe.

Don’t forget about the Outlet Malls!!
You can find some really amazing bargains at the outlet mall. Before going to the outlets, read our article: How to Save Time & Money at the Outlet Mall.

Wardrobe Essentials

Wardrobe basics or essentials are items that everyone needs to have in their closet. Whether you have just graduated college, got a new job, lost a significant amount of weight, or just want new clothes for your wardrobe – you need to start with the basics.

When buying wardrobe essentials, it is always best to choose classically-styled pieces in neutral colors – that way you will be able to wear them with a variety of items you already own and wear them season after season, year after year. You may have to spend a little more money, but these items are investment pieces that you will be able to wear for years. Once you have the basic staples in your wardrobe, you can mix and match them with all the great trendy pieces that come out every year.

I have listed a few of the basic staples everyone needs in their wardrobe. Click on the name of the item to find out why you need it in your wardrobe, how to wear it, what you can pair it with, and purchasing tips.

  1. Black Dress Pants
  2. Black Pumps
  3. Bootcut Jeans
  4. Leather Handbag
  5. Leather Jacket
  6. Little Black Dress
  7. Pencil Skirt
  8. Strappy Sandals
  9. Tailored Suit
  10. Trench Coat
  11. White Blouse

If you are going off to college and are not sure what wardrobe basics you made need at school, be sure to read College Wardrobe Essentials.