10 Clothing Staples to Have in Your Professional Wardrobe

Image: sharpshutter; BigStock

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Image: sharpshutter; BigStock

Image: sharpshutter; BigStock

Dressing professionally can be a challenge, especially for individuals who are just starting out. (Have the clothes but need a job? Check out our job search checklist.) And with changing standards for what professional dress means, it’s becoming even more difficult to know what works and what doesn’t.

However, with these 10 staples in your closet, you can be confident your professional dress hits the mark for any occasion:1. A well-fitting suit in a dark color like blue or black
This is a classic staple that works for nearly any professional event, be it a job interview, business meeting, or networking event. Invest in one that fits and will last.

2. Dress shoes
For women, professional dress shoes mean closed toe, low heel shoes in a dark color. For men, this means leather shoes in a dark color. Save the sneakers for the gym.

3. Solid colors
There’s nothing wrong with using colors and patterns to showcase your personality, but keep a few solid pieces in your wardrobe for job interviews and professional events.

4. Dress pants
Own these in a variety of colors, such as black, gray, white, tan/khaki, etc. If you opt for pinstripes, keep them small and subtle. Remember, your pants are there to accentuate your top and should serve as a neutral base. Fit is important as well — make sure your pants aren’t too long, too short, or too tight.

5. Nice button down shirts
On mornings where you don’t know what to wear, throw on a nice button down shirt and a pair of dress pants…and voila! A professional dress outfit in less than five minutes.

6. A blazer
Blazers are another good staple to have. They’re classic and versatile. Look for blazers in colors like black, white, or tan that will accentuate any piece.

7. A leather belt
Although you might not wear this every day, it’s good to have on hand. A big component of professional dress is looking put together, and a nice belt completes any outfit well.

8. Dress socks
Socks are an often overlooked accessory, but they’re key to finishing off any outfit. Although you have more freedom with patterns here, make sure to own pairs in dark, neutral colors as well.

9. A nice briefcase or bag
Invest in a good leather briefcase or bag for meetings or interviews. This will keep your professional dress standard from head to toe.

10. The number of a good tailor and dry cleaner
Not only are the clothes themselves important, but also how they fit. Have the number of a good tailor and dry cleaner on hand and make sure your clothing fits properly and stays clean.

Bonus: Buy an iron and know how to use it. Even the best suit loses points for wrinkles!

Whether you’re entering the business world, looking for a new job, or just need to refresh your professional dress wardrobe, these staples are always good to have on hand. Because they generally last at least a few years, they’re good pieces to invest in. Keep them handy in your closet and you’ll look good no matter what the professional occasion.

Dressed and ready to go? Check out these five other tools you need for your job search.

What other professional dress staples are good to have on hand?

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.