When it comes to building a functional and fashionable work wardrobe, there are certain pieces that never go out of style.
These essentials create the foundation of classic workwear, anchoring any bold, trendy garments that come and go over the years.
Three Australian fashion stylists share the fashion staples every working woman should own, and explain why they will stand the test of time.
“Every woman should own a classic blazer regardless of their occupation or lifestyle, and it doesn’t need to be black,” said stylist Sally Mackinnon, of Styled by Sally.
For career-minded women wanting their work style to reflect their professional attitude, the blazer should be contemporary in cut and sharp in shape, she advised.
“Choose a colour you love that will work with other pieces in your wardrobe. Or choose a colour that you really feel reflects your personality – my favourite is pink,” she said.
If you’re not into black, opt for softer colours like navy or charcoal – both are neutral colours that can easily mix and match.
Little black dress (LBD)
The little black dress (LBD) is a great staple garment, and every woman needs at least one versatile, go-to black dress in their wardrobe, said personal stylist Josephine Eve.
“It’s been that one item that every woman has looked for and when she finds it, she uses it in so many ways because it can be styled up or down so easily. It’s like a canvas, and you can do anything with it,” she said.
Add a belt or a neck scarf to create a point of interest, or pop on a bold jacket or statement heels to elevate the dress. For less corporate working environments, the LBD can be dressed down with sneakers or sandals.
The LBD is especially practical for working women who want to get dressed quickly in the morning, and don’t want the hassle of deciding on mixing separates.
“The LBD would be considered an investment piece and could last a long time if you get the right style,” Josephine said.
For a style staple that will transition from season to season, year after year, taking you from boardroom meetings to Friday night drinks, opt for a trans-seasonal, lightweight coat, suggests stylist Kerry Athanassiou, of Style Culture Styling.
The trans-seasonal coat is ideal for those in-between seasons, when the mornings and evenings are slightly chilly but it’s not cold enough for a jumper or wool coat.
“A trans-seasonal coat looks smart, it’s lightweight, it’s workplace appropriate, and it can fold away because it is not a heavy or bulky item,” Kerry said.
To find the perfect trans-seasonal coat, look for a classic trench coat or a soft duster coat in a lightweight fabric.
Black cigarette pants
A slim black pant that sits just under or on the ankle bone is a workplace favourite for Sally.
“It’s sleek line creates length and when worn with a pointed pump, looks sharp and elegant,” she said.
“Look for a style with a mid-high rise, team with a narrow belt and tuck in your blouse or shirt for a modern corporate look.”
Black pants are versatile too – they can also be worn on the weekend with sneakers and a striped tee.
While not everyone is going to love the pencil skirt, it is a classic piece for the work wardrobe.
With the right material and shape, a pencil skirt can be very slimming on the figure. For those worried about lumps and bumps, opt for a more structured fabric or wear shapewear, like Spanx, underneath.
Look out for pencil skirts with more of an A-line cut, which is not as figure hugging but still gives a similar silhouette.
“The pencil skirt is neat and tidy, and looks professional, especially in a corporate workplace or if you’re heading to a meeting and want to look the part,” Josephine said.
For a less formal approach, try a pencil skirt in a different textured fabric, such as tweed, or one with a pattern. Alternatively, dress up a neutral pencil skirt with a funky or brightly-coloured top.
White cotton shirt (or cream silk shirt)
A crisp, white, button-down shirt or a cream silk shirt is a key item for a work wardrobe, and most women will find they suit one or the other, Sally said.
“Some women are better suited to silk shirts because they drape the upper body and are less stiff, while others prefer the sharpness of a cotton shirt,” she said.
Both styles look effortless with jeans (for a casual Friday) under a classic blazer, or paired with a pair of slim black pants for a more formal look.
Nude shoes are a “workhorse” staple that will never let you down because they will pair with everything in your wardrobe, said Kerry.
“Nude shoes are a must, across the board, not just in heels. They elongate the leg and can make an outfit feel quite different. A nude shoe needs to be in your wardrobe, whether it is a pump, wedge, platform or ballet flat,” she said.
“I am yet to see one outfit where a nude shoe doesn’t work. Versatility is the key with the nude shoe.”
New to nude? Next time you’re in a shoe shop, try a nude sandal with a fine strap or a nude pump and notice how different your legs and outfit look. Wearing a nude pump with a little black dress, for example, can look and feel quite different to wearing the same dress with black shoes.
Black pointed pump
A classic shoe for the office that will never go out of style is the black pointed pump.
“I always suggest a pointed toe to clients for a few reasons: It’s dressier than a round toe, will help elongate your legs and can be styled with jeans on the weekend or with a dress for a cocktail party,” Sally said.
Choose a heel height you feel comfortable in, and can walk in. Even if it’s a small kitten heel, the pointed toe will give you a feminine look.
“My tip is to also choose regular leather over patent leather for more versatility,” Sally said.
Are there any other workwear items that you swear by? Share your tips on timeless pieces in the comments section below.