Congratulations—you have finished college and are about to become a member of the professional world. Soon, you’ll be able to apply all the knowledge you obtained in school in a tangible (and paying) way. This is also when clothes shopping shifts from looking for outfits that are great for campus life to professional and office-worthy attire. While your closet might be full of cute tanks and yoga pants, chances are good your boss wants you to show up for work in something a smidge more professional. Make sure you have the following classics in your office-wear wardrobe:
The Essential: A White Blouse
When it comes to looking professional, nothing is better than a crisp white blouse. Carissa Rose sells a Quintana tuxedo shirt that is ideal for the office. Check with the big-name department stores, too. Hit them when they have sales, and over time you can stock up on varying styles and sleeve lengths. White blouses not only look great on everybody, they also go with just about everything. Try pairing them with a pencil skirt, tailored pants or (if permissible on casual Fridays) dark-wash denim jeans.
A Classic Skirt (or Two)
Skirts don’t have to be boring to be classic. Depending on the dress code of your office, you can either choose from a skirt that rests right above your knees to one that falls mid-calf. The gray lightweight wool pencil skirt from Banana Republic is a great choice—it’s stylish, professional and comfortable to wear all day. This popular brand also sells several other styles of skirts, many of which are affordable and would be a great addition to a professional wardrobe. Pair your skirt with a pair of leather pumps in black or nude.
Nonnegotiable: A Designer Handbag
While you might have lugged your stuff around in a backpack for the past four years, now is the time to upgrade to a grown-up, classic designer handbag. Coach carries a variety of purses that are stylish and appropriate for home and office, day and evening. These handbags are durable, too. Made from high-quality materials, Coach purses will wear like iron, making them a worth-it investment. Just make sure to choose one with enough room for your tablet and/or smartphone, water bottle, wallet, keys and lip gloss—because seriously, you can’t go back to that backpack.
Tailored yet Comfortable Pants
To make it through those long days at the office, shop for professional clothing that is not only attractive but comfortable. A pair of tailored pants or slacks fits the bill and can be paired with the aforementioned white blouse and many other kinds of tops (another casual Friday tip: a cotton T under a blazer). While capris are popular, for the office you might want to stick with something that covers the ankles. And please, if it doesn’t fit perfectly, don’t get it—or take it to a tailor who can change that. This Wall Street Journal article has more on the importance of a good tailor.