You did it! You’ve completed your studies and now it’s time to enter the real world. But once you land that first job, there’s still one pressing question: what do you wear?

Depending on the company culture, different jobs will have different levels of formality but there are some budget-friendly wardrobe staples that all students should have when entering the workforce.

Starting with these pieces will help anchor your wardrobe, and let you build on it for the future.

1)  Classic white collared shirt

First up is the white shirt. Nothing says, “I’m focused and ready to work,” better than a crisp white button-up. The great thing about this staple piece is that it’s a great base to mix with other colourful items and prints, such as ties and skirts.

Coloured and printed shirts are great as well, but can limit your mixing and matching.

Affordable suggestions:

Women: Old Navy classic shirt for women

Men: Hudson’s room slim fit long sleeved shirt

2) Black or navy trousers

Like the white button-up shirt, a dark trouser is also perfect for mixing and matching. Also, dark colours will always have a polished and pristine aesthetic – in any season. Don’t worry, you won’t have to sacrifice your style entirely. Trousers come in many different styles, including slim fit and cropped. Khaki- or tan-coloured trousers are a great alternative in the summer months.

Black trousers


Tip: When shopping for trousers, try to find a belt that fits into the trouser belt loops and compliments your shoe options.


Affordable suggestions:

Women: H&M suit trousers

Men: ASOS two-pack pant


3) Black or navy dresses and skirts

For the ladies, this same concept of dark colours applies for skirts and dresses – just make sure they’re a modest length. The same goes for the tightness of the garments.

Black dress

These are key items to have when just starting out because they make for a polished professional look with a feminine touch. You can express your style with textured material or a scalloped hem line.


Black skirt

Affordable suggestions:

Dress: ASOS warehouse shift dress
Skirt: H&M pencil skirt


4) The blazer

A well-fitted blazer is essential in the interviewing process, and can be a valuable and versatile wardrobe staple for the workplace. \

Fitted blazer

Here are a few tips from Esquire’s How to Tell Your Suit Fits (

  • Shoulder pads should end where your shoulders end
  • For men, with your arms at your sides, your knuckles should be even with the bottom of your jacket.
  • Jacket sleeves should fall where the base of your thumb meets your wrist.

These rules can be applied for both men and women. Ladies, if you’re looking for more of a fitted style, ensure the buttons can comfortably close without gaping. If you are looking for a complete ensemble, at least one pant or skirt suit (matching blazer and pants/skirt) are great essentials to have.

Black blazer

Affordable suggestions:

Women’s blazer: Dynamite collarless cropped blazer

Women’s suit: ASOS mix & match tailored suit in black

Men’s blazer: Zara basic blazer

Men’s suit: ASOS new look slim suit


5) Accessories: ties and shoes

Here’s where you can have a bit of fun. Regarding ties, you will get more out of solid colours, as they can match well with printed shirts. However, given the muted tones of the basics listed above, there’s room for prints and bolder colours. Just make sure they’re appropriate with your company’s dress culture.

A tie for work

With shoes, it should go without saying that black and brown colours are staples that offer a lot of matching possibilities. For the men, appropriate and versatile styles include a classic brogue, a dressy laced canvas shoe/oxford, or loafers.

For the ladies, the goal should be to balance comfort with style. To start, swap the 5” heels with a thicker 3” or 4” inch heel. Thicker heels work best on those busier days when you are on your feet more.

Comfortable shoes for ladies

Ballet flats and loafers are also options for those looking for increased comfort.

Affordable suggestions:

Thicker heels: Aldo Nicholes, Nine West Scheila

Thinner heels: Zara patent finish

Ballet flats: Sam Edelman Felicia flat

Loafers: Halogen loafer, Louise et cie, Miss KG

Brogues: Aldo Bartolello

Laced canvas shoes/oxfords: Aldo Caliva lace up


Got it? Good. Now let’s get to work!