Building a work wardrobe from scratch can be an overwhelming, and costly, task. However, a varied, professional wardrobe can make a big difference, whether you’re interviewing for your first job or trying to get that promotion. Remember, perception is often half the battle.

The good news is that you can have a stylish wardrobe without having to break the bank. The key is to create a base with key pieces that you can mix and match in a variety of ways.

Putting this together will take some time, so don’t feel as if you need to get everything all at once. I always suggest starting with the basics: tops, pants, skirts, shoes, cardigans, etc.

I find that once you have a solid base to work with, you can start adding pieces like jewelry (statement necklaces, earrings), accessories (scarves and fun socks for the guys), purses, and bags to add your own personal style to your outfits.

To help you get started, I have put together a list of the top 10 pieces for women and men that you can use as a shopping guide while building a foundation for your work wardrobe.

Here are some great pieces for women:

  1. A white button down shirt
  2. Black slim ankle pants
  3. Black pumps
  4. Sheath dress (knee length)
  5. A black or grey pencil skirt
  6. A silk camisole
  7. Wide leg trousers
  8. A trenchcoat (in a neutral colour)
  9. A black turtleneck
  10. A classic structured bag

A trenchcoat for your work wardrobe

And here are some good pieces that men can look for to start building a work wardrobe:

  1. A few neutral colour dress shirts
  2. Black/brown dress shoes
  3. Charcoal slim fit pants
  4. A dressy watch
  5. Collared t-shirts or polos
  6. Khaki pants
  7. A trenchoat or peacoat
  8. A few ties in seasonal colours
  9. A crewneck sweater
  10. Dark denim (perfect for casual Fridays)

For both men and women, however, there is another absolute staple that is worth investing in: a suit.

A suit for your work wardrobe

If you choose a classic, professional style (a tailored fit always looks great), with a seasonless colour (like black, navy, or grey), you’ll have pants and a blazer that can be mixed and matched with other items to create a number of looks.

Work wardobe

Plus, you’ll also have a great suit for important meetings or events.

There are some key things to keep in mind when you are out shopping for your work wardrobe. Always look at the garment tag for wash instructions and for the fiber content; natural fibers like wool and cotton will stand the test of time better than fabrics like polyester.

You should also check out the stitching, look at inside seams and make sure all the buttons are sewed on securely. You don’t want things falling apart after a few washes, as this will end up costing you more money in the long run!

When it comes to stretching the budget, it’s a good idea to sign up for email list of stores that you love. They will send you coupons and weekly deals, which can save you a ton of dough over the long haul. It’s also a good idea to avoid spending a lot trendier add-ons like jewelry; you can find fun and inexpensive pieces at larger retailers in your local mall, like H&M or Forever 21.

The key thing to remember when building a professional wardrobe is that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Have a list of items, and start buying pieces every month until you have the wardrobe and look you want. Most of all, though, remember to have fun with it!

About Natalie Sexton

Natalie Sexton is a fashion stylist, professional makeup artist, and blogger. For more than a decade, Natalie’s passion for fashion and all things girly have been the driving force behind her Canadian-made brand of “Sexton in the City” Makeup, Clothing & Accessories. She can be seen regularly on CTV’s THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW, where she breaks down the latest fashion trends for viewers. For more information on Natalie Sexton, visit You can also follow Natalie on Twitter @SextonNTheCity.

*Images via Natalie Sexton Pinterest*