Deluxe Corporate Wardrobe Staples
Written by Stefani Janson
Edited by Liam Dogger
Have an upcoming interview, starting an internship or landed your first job? Ease the morning stress and make an impression by investing in some corporate wardrobe staples to elevate your professional fashion game. If you choose wisely, they will serve you for many years to come and will reduce decision fatigue when getting dressed in the morning.
Is dressing for success actually a thing? I think so, and so does academia: in 2014, a professor at the Yale School of Management co-wrote a study for the Journal of Experimental Psychology which showed clothes showing high social status (for example, a suit), can increase job performance and dominance, particularly in high-stakes competitive tasks.
Further, clothing helps you act the part. Professor Karen J. Pine of the University of Hertfordshire (UK) notes in her novel, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, that “when we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it”. Even if you're not influencing others with your threads, dressing well at work could be an easy hack to elevate your ability to fulfill the role subconsciously.
This guide has many items of clothing that are on the pricier side, especially for someone starting out in the workplace. Use the listed items' cuts and fabric as a guide to find comparable, more cost effective pieces to suit your budget, or buy second hand pieces online. Further, these items have been selected to elevate your corporate wardrobe - we suggest pairing them with more affordable staples such as basic black pants, skirts or dresses that you can buy from more budget-friendly stores.
Little Black Jacket.
A form-fitting black jacket instantly gives your outfit that extra polish. They are super versatile and can be worn over a dress, or a shirt and skirt/pant combo. A popular take on the black jacket is the Scanlan Theodore crepe knit waterfall jacket: this cult buy will set you back a pretty penny (RRP $500 AUD), however, this little baby will go the mileage and will be a regret-free purchase.
Check Facebook groups such as Scanlan Theodore Buy Swap Sell, High End, and the general marketplace for a second-hand designer steal. eBay is another great option: to boot you can create an alert to be notified when items matching your description are posted for sale! For a cheaper option, grab a classic cut jacket from Zara or Country Road (look for jackets with lining) that fits your shoulders, then get it tailored to your body for the ultimate corporate cool.
Not sure how to style it, or you're tired of putting together your corporate outfit day in, day out? Never fear, Instagram has a plethora of people to follow to make dressing easier. My favourite local account is Two Corporate Girls: Beckie and Sophie have serious style and often feature many affordable corporate combos.
2. Staple black shoe
Of a sensible height.
staple black shoe
Need we say more? This is an obvious purchase that will match practically any item in your corporate wardrobe. We suggest a modest sized block heel in leather - you need to save those feet, especially if you’re up and about regularly! To save those pennies, sign up to shoe stores such as Wittner, Tony Bianco, Nine West (pictured, RRP $149.95), Wanted, Styletread and The Iconic to nab yourself a bargain (at least 20 per cent off) when items routinely go on promotion. We are all about making your wardrobe work for you, so if you prefer a lower heel or a flat, there are plenty of work-appropriate options at the aforementioned stores.
Invest in some waterproofing spray (the best priced are at the supermarket for around $8) and proof these babies twice prior to wear, alongside grabbing some party feet gel cushions. Routinely clean them with leather polish (here is a guide) and resole them at a cobbler (if needed) to keep them in tip top shape. Also, save your footsies and leave these at your desk and wear flats to work!
3. structured outerwear
That actually keeps the elements out.
If you’re in the South of Australia, a coat is a MUST. My city, Melbourne, literally has four seasons in one day and being caught without proper protection almost guarantees a bad mood. Sinking your pennies into a quality coat will be worth its weight in gold - they are incredibly versatile, allowing you to transition from perfectly polished in the office to snug at after work drinks. We suggest grabbing yourself more than one coat to help transition through the seasons: a good wool (as pictured from Aris, RRP $325) or down jacket will cover you in the cold and a gabardine or structured cotton coat will be perfect for the warmer months.
Pay attention to the use of the word structured - buying a cute flowy cotton jacket is a HUGE no-no: you’ll spend most of your time ironing it only for a crushed coat mid-commute. Plus, you'll be absolutely freezing and/or soaked.
4. the white shirt
A classic, verstatile buy.
THE WHITE SHIRT
A basic white shirt will go with any outfit. Picking something light and airy will allow you to transition between seasons with ease. Go for a classic cut - regular arms, modest neckline and very minimal detail. The cult buy pictured above is from Misha Nonoo (RRP $185 USD), notoriously worn by Meghan Markle at the Invictus Cup in late 2017 with her hubby-to-be, Prince Harry. For more local grabs, you can't go wrong with pieces from Zara or Portmans. If you opt for a sheer piece, ensure you grab a white or flesh cami to wear underneath.
If you have to deal with the dreaded under-arm staining, grab yourself some Vanish spray from the laundry aisle at the supermarket and treat your garment prior to each wash. Vanish for Whites (powder) is also a great option to brighten up your shirts at home, or send your beloved threads to the dry cleaners sporadically (if the care tag permits).
5. A Black tote
To hold all your bits 'n' bobs.
A BLACK TOTE
A large, sturdy tote bag will keep the infinite number of items in your bag secure. A leather bag in a classic cut will always be in fashion and will go the mileage. For those that prefer a more ethical buy, Human Kind have a great selection of vegan bags. The bags from tde (above, RRP $299.95) can be monogrammed with your initials for that extra luxe feel and are conveniently stocked at major David Jones & Myer department stores across the country.
Grab yourself a handbag insert to store all of your essentials in. This will keep your tote nice and tidy, will limit spills and stains, and allow you to transfer all of your must-carry items easily into another handbag.
Keep it classic & minimal.
My mother always swore by the KISS principle - keep it simple, stupid. This definitely applies to jewellery at work: less is often more. We recommend simple earrings, necklaces and rings (if your workplace permits). Some brands that have lovely pieces include Sarah and Sebastian and the jewellery collection on The Undone (our favourite is the AllBlues collection). For bargain buys, Lovisa has a great sterling silver range which includes classic items such as cubic zirconia studs that are both gentle on your ears and pocket. Classic gold hoops are another fun buy, but keep them to a small size to ensure they are corporate appropriate.
Classic watches are ideal, but ain't nobody got the cash to splurge on a new Cartier when they are starting out. Go for something classic, simple and versatile. The Fifth watches fit all the specs, and the SoHo (pictured above, RRP $199) comes with two sets of straps for you to mix it up. Other great classic buys, though investments, include the collections from Skagen and Tissot.
Here is to saving time and kicking professional ass in your new threads!