As a new graduate, funds will be limited but you should try your best to buy the best quality you can within your budget so that you won’t waste money and have to re-purchase an entire wardrobe as things wear out.
The higher quality you buy and the better you take care of your items, the longer they will last, the better they will look and you will save money in the long-run.
(Don’t worry ‘gents! There’s a whole post of new graduate office wardrobe staples for men, too.)
A 3-piece Skirt and Pant Suit
For women, we’re pretty lucky to be able to buy a suit that also comes with a skirt option; even if you don’t plan on wearing a skirt suit as much as the pant suit, it is always a good idea to buy it anyway so that you have it just in case. Choose either dark grey or navy as your first suit and if you wear suits to work on a regular basis, add other colours or subtle patterns (pinstripes!) as you grow your work wardrobe. If you don’t have a lot of cash, this is the place to spend a little extra so you won’t have to re-purchase this item again.
2 pairs of neutral leather heels
Mid-height, closed-toe, leather heels in neutral colours like nude, dark grey, black, navy or dark brown, and steer clear of any finishes like patent leather, stick with matte leather for your first few pairs. Mid-height heels means buying them around 2” – 3” in a rounded, almond or pointed toe are the best ones to buy because they’re classic and will never look dated.
Heels that are higher than 3” start to look a bit too high for a professional setting, not to mention being uncomfortable to stand on and walk around in for the 8 hours of work a day. Alternatively, you could always buy kitten heels which are infinitely more comfortable to walk in, but not as nice looking as the higher heels.
Whatever heel height you decide on, make sure both heels are of the same height so that all of your trousers can be tailored to the same hemline (1” above the ground) and you won’t need to keep two sets of trousers in varying hemlines to match with your heels.
Aside from the suit, 2 good pairs of comfortable heels are the best place you can put your money. Happy feet make for a happy worker.
1 pair of Dressy Flats
A pair of dressy flats that you can wear in a pinch just in case your heels break, or you need a break from them is always a good staple to have. You could wear these while taking the subway and then switch into heels at work.
3 Pairs of Trousers
The best kinds of pants to buy as a new graduate are trousers because they appropriate for business casual settings and don’t look too casual (khakis) or too formal (pants that match a blazer to make a suit). A couple of pairs of mid-rise, jersey trousers would be enough for a workweek in black, grey, or navy.
If you like wearing skirts you could swap out one pair of the trousers for a skirt instead.
A single dress is all you need for those occasions where a skirt suit is too formal but a blouse and trousers are too casual. You never know when you might need to attend a work event and you don’t want to be stuck without something appropriate to wear. Choose a colour like black, navy or grey. There are plenty of cheap options for dresses that look good without breaking the bank, and styles like the wrap or sheath are classics and your best bets.
By toppers I mean things you can throw on over your blouse to ward off the inevitable chill in the office, or to wear in lieu of a jacket in spring or autumn. Toppers include jackets like blazers, pullover or button up sweaters. Choose lightweight but comfortable fabrics like knit jersey, cashmere or wool and with toppers you don’t need to stick to a strictly neutral palette as the rest of your wardrobe (your bottoms and shoes) are already neutral as is. Just be sure to choose colours in the right shades and tones that match the rest of your wardrobe and don’t be scared to buy white which can look very refreshing on an otherwise dour outfit.
A few blouses should be enough for the workweek, you can re-wear the blouses from the start of the week with another bottom to create another outfit. Choose blouses that are at the very minimum sleeveless and covered but not any kind of blouse that has visibly thin or revealing straps because you want to be able to wear those blouses on their own during the summer without requiring a sweater. Blouses for work can also be a little more colourful than a boring white, black, grey, navy or brown. As always, choose the right colours in the shades and tones to match your toppers and bottoms.
1 button up shirt
A single button-up shirt in white is always good to have in your work wear arsenal for those days when you need to look just a little more tailored and professional.
With any luck you won’t need to replace your work wardrobe after you’ve purchased it for at least 3-5 years depending on how hard you are on your clothes and what quality you purchase (e.g. polyester versus more natural fabrics like cotton).
You can also put some time into finding good deals on these staple items, by using things like Groupon Coupons. They are a great new way to shop at Groupon. No need to spend anything upfront- choose from over 55,000 totally free coupons from more than 8,600 of your favorite stores, like Target, Starbucks, American Eagle and more!
What do you consider to be new graduate office wardrobe staples for women?
Curious about what guys should pick up? Take a look at the new graduate office wardrobe staples for men.