For those of you not signed up for my newsletter, you may not know I started a new newsletter-exclusive series about a month ago entitled Beck and Call! It’s basically an ongoing Q&A, where I answer any and all of your questions about fashion, beauty, travel, fitness, work, blogging, etc. I answer 3-5 questions every Sunday morning and have answered questions ranging from what’s my favorite sturdy sports bra, to what to wear for senior pictures, to what my favorite sheet masks are! It really is a free for all – if you have questions about anything, email or send me a message on SnapChat (username: merrittbeck) and then sign up for my newsletter to get the answers.
One common theme I’m hearing from you is that you are interested in learning how to build a wardrobe, and more frequently, on a budget. Several of the questions have pertained to work or school, so I thought I would approach that one head on! If you saw yesterday’s post, I talked about some transitional items that are great for the office – be sure to check that out for additional inspiration!
When it comes to building a work wardrobe, there are a few key pieces (in solid, neutral colors – like black) you need to have that you’ll be able to easily rotate in and out with different pieces each week. My suggestion is to start with the basics, or building blocks, before you buy lots of prints, color or anything that will stand out. Here’s a rundown of some items I would recommend buying:
- Tops: when I was working full time at a very corporate office, I relied heavily on simple button-down shirts from Theory, Equipment or J.Crew. When it got cold out, I would layer them under sweaters, dresses and blazers. I tried to avoid prints so that I could wear them weekly without anyone noticing! In addition to the collection of button-downs I acquired, I also added a few blouses with a bit of extra flair, like ones featuring a bow at the neck, a blouse with some lace accents or ruffles. I’d pull these out for big meetings, work events, etc.
- Bottoms: I generally opted for skirts over pants, mostly because I find them more flattering on me. With that said, I had a good half-and-half mix of pants and skirts in my closet in a variety of different styles. It’s hard to get excited about your work wardrobe when you’re wearing the same thing every day! I found a lot of my skirts at LOFT and the pants I almost always found at J.Crew or Banana Republic (aside from the couple I splurged on at Theory).
- Dresses – on days where I wanted to look particularly professional (or I just didn’t want to come up with an outfit), I’d opt for a tailored dress like this. Add a stylish touch by layering a white shirt underneath and letting the collar peek out at the neckline. Also loving this Loft number with a subtle bell sleeve for everyday work wear. For extra special events, it might be worth investing in a LBD with a fun detail like this Theory flounce-hem dress. Still work appropriate, but a little more feminine.
- Outerwear/Layers: I’m a big fan of blazers and leather jackets, so I’ve always had a pretty good collection of those to reach for. A structured blazer is something every girl should have – they are polished, versatile and can dress up any pair of jeans in your closet. I also highly recommend adding a light trench to your wardrobe. It’s a great way to protect your clothes on your commute to work, if it’s raining or you take the subway, and it’s a sleek staple that works year round. I take mine with me whenever I travel! For the really cold months of the year, try to find a simple black or camel coat that you can wear over and over again with everything in your closet.
- Casual Shoes – if you’re on your feet all day, it’s imperative you have comfortable flats available to you. I used to always keep a pair in my desk just in case! Just because flats are more casual does not mean they have to be any less cute – a few pairs I’m loving right now include these oxfords, these slingbacks, and this d’Orsay style. I would recommend getting a couple of classic pairs, and then adding a trendier style in there every once in a while.
- Dress Shoes – every girl needs a pair of pretty pumps in her wardrobe, whether she works in an office or not. This classic style can be worn to meetings, cocktail parties and even dressed down with jeans for happy hour with your besties. My recommendation would be to stick with black patent or nude patent pumps – they’ll be the most useful and wearable all year! This pair by Kate Spade New York is comfortable and is a much better price point than you’ll get from designer labels. For the colder months, try a heeled bootie like this Coach pair. Try to choose one with a thicker heel – they’ll be more sturdy and more comfortable than a stiletto. Both of the styles here would not be considered budget friendly, but I find investing in quality staples (like shoes) is better than buying a cheap pair that’ll only last you one season.
- Work bags – I almost always wore big totes when working in an office, so I could fit my laptop and any paperwork if I wanted to take it home with me. I’d also sometimes bring workout clothes with me so I could go straight to the gym. This tote is big enough for both and under $100! For work events, opt for something smaller and a little more structured like this Kate Spade satchel.
- Accessories – if you work in a more business casual office, this is where you can really get creative and make your outfits look different (even if you’re just rotating the same staples each week)! Add a little bit of color to your outfit with a cozy scarf, a cute pair of earrings or a fun lip color. If you need inspiration on how to accessorize with everyday work outfits, take a cue from Jenna Lyons! Layer, layer, layer. Layer blouses under sweaters or dresses, layer a necklace under a shirt collar, layer bracelets. There are so many different options!