Whether you’re a leopard print lover or a baseball cap enthusiast, you’ve still got to get yourself into a work-appropriate outfit every day. And while the web is filled with advice on how to build a capsule wardrobe featuring standbys like the crisp white shirt, the LBD and the lace-up brogue, there’s no rulebook that says you have to buy into this very prescriptive look. What if a crisp white shirt just isn’t your thing?

The good news is that a few carefully chosen pieces will go a long way towards looking professional and put together without sacrificing your personal style. Here are five essentials to get you started.

A properly fitted, really nice suit: Whether your workplace is conservative or creative, a great suit is indispensable for everything from job interviews to presentations and beyond. And whether you’re a suit type or not, a classic, properly tailored lightweight wool suit in a neutral colour will provide you with a tried and true closet staple. (Of course, you’ve got some leeway to pick a more or less traditional option, depending on the conventions of your company and field.) Even better? A suit does double duty for weddings, funerals and events with a formal-ish dress code.

A pair of casual pants: Casual Fridays are great and all, but they probably aren’t license to slope into the office in your borderline-campground cargo shorts or pilling leggings. A pair of flattering, comfortable pants is the perfect work wardrobe standby, versatile enough for an unexpected meeting with the higher-ups or a lunch date with a potential employer. At the other end of the spectrum, if everyone wears jeans in your office, you still need the casual pants for dressier days and meetings. Pick a pair that suits your body in a fabric that you actually like (i.e., if chinos aren’t for you, leave them on the rack). You’ll feel good and look professional – a winning combination.

The nicest work-appropriate shoes you can afford: While it’s OK to go cheap when it comes to certain wardrobe basics (I’m looking at you, socks), shoes are another story. As we’ve noted before, people can tell a lot about you from your footwear, so plan accordingly. Figure out your maximum budget and splurge on a pair you really love, versatile enough to wear year-round and match multiple outfits. Bonus: well-made leather footwear is usually repairable, so your up-front investment will be paying you back for years to come.

A good-looking outer layer: We Canadians have reason to layer up when the cold winds blow, but there’s no excuse to throw your Fargo-esque parka on over everything. (Unless, of course, you work outdoors. Then wear a parka.) There’s an incredible variety of outerwear options available these days, designed to keep you toasty while looking chic, not backpack-ready, so take advantage. Pick an appropriate length coat that matches the work wear underneath and look perfectly polished on your way to and from work, not just once you’re safely ensconced at your desk.

A special accessory (or five): OK, so maybe your workplace dress code won’t allow you to indulge your passion for sequined disco tops. That doesn’t mean you have to check your entire personality at the door. Make a point of incorporating accessories that you adore into your work wardrobe – maybe an interesting pendant, a flamboyant pocket square or a quirky brooch – and you’ll cultivate a unique look that reflects your creativity, imagination, and individuality without ruffling any feathers.

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