August 3rd, 2011
Celebrity Style, Fashion Bomb 101, Style Inspiration, What to Wear, Work Wardrobe
Fashion Bomb 101: 10 Classic Wardrobe Basics for Work and for Play
By The Fashion Bomb Staff

When building a wardrobe you want to last from season to season, year after year, you’ll need to start out with basics. While trends are fun, having a closet filled with them does not make a wardrobe. Plus buying mostly trendy items—even if you get them from fast fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M–can get expensive since you’ll likely only wear the garments a few times. It’s all about the cost per wear—the more wear you can get from an item, the less it costs each time you wear it. For example, a well-tailored $500 Vivienne Westwood blazer that you can wear from now until the cows come home is better than that $70 strong shouldered body-con dress you bought 2 years ago and wore once.

Hopefully you have some of these basics in your closet, but if you don’t it’ll be fun shopping for them.

1. Dark denim boot-cut jeans.

Whether you’re a size 2 or 22, dark denim boot-cut jeans will suit your frame. Darker rinses are more flattering since darker colors tend to recede and make things look smaller and the wider leg opening helps to balance out hips and thighs. You can dress them up or dress them down making them the perfect wardrobe basic.

2. A well-tailored blazer.

Blazers add structure to your frame not to mention they instantly update almost any outfit. Invest in black or charcoal, then throw in a few funky colors just for fun.

3. A little black dress.

Let your LBD be your go-to for meetings at work, worship, and special events. You can rework it for just about any occasion with a blazer, sweater, shoes, and accessories. Your LBD need not be super simple–you can find some with interesting detailing from brands like Black Halo and Roland Mouret.

4. A statement coat.

In the spring and fall, a trench adds chic elements to your wardrobe. In the winter try a bright colored wool coat, fur (faux or real–your choice), or warm leather.

5. Black dress pants.

Even if you’re more of the creative type, a pair of black pants will take you through unexpected business casual moments. They can also be dressed up with heels or dressed down with laced oxfords or ballet flats.

6. A white button down blouse.

You can wear one with cutoffs, with the great fitting black dress pants we mentioned above, with a suit—I mean the possibilities are limitless. Have a little fun with your button down by choosing one with standout details like an asymmetrical neckline or cool buttons.

7. A plain cotton tee or tank.

V and U-necks are universally flattering, especially for those with larger busts. Cotton tees are perfect for summer and are great as a layering base in cooler temps.

8. A cardigan sweater.

Great for layering or worn on its own. Wear it time and time again with jeans, dress pants, over dresses, and to keep warm when it gets a little chilly.

9. Basic black or brown pumps.

These will go with just about any outfit. Get a classic pair, then throw in a few with platforms for extra flair.

10. A pair of flats in either a print or accent color.

Again, these will go with just about any outfit, and offer your feet much needed comfort on down days.

Once you’ve got your basics down, use your personality, lifestyle, and personal style to continue building your wardrobe with tons of accessories and stand-out pieces.

If you’re like Fashion Bomb reader Lindsey who wrote in asking… “Hi I’m a recent grad who has landed a great oppurtunity in finance with a well known company. I recently turned 29 and I need to deseperately revamp my closet. I want staple pieces that are classic yet fun. Please give me ideas that are chic, grown, sexy, and fun as well as transitional. Thanks” …and need to create a conservative work wardrobe capsule, you’ll also need the following:

* 5 suit jackets. Avoid buying suit jackets and pants together unless they can be interchanged with other work separates.

* 3 pairs of dress pants. Choose mostly solid colors and a few prints that can be mixed and matched with your suit jackets, pants, skirts, and dresses.

* 2 dress skirts. Below the knees for conservative work environments. Pencil skirts are universally flattering particularly on curvier frames. A-line skirts work best on boyish frames. For a more fashionable choice, look for peplum skirts.

* 2-3 sheath dresses. The dress shape Victoria Beckham made famous is a fun and chic way to be fashionable in the office. It’s also a way to show off your shape yet still be conservative. Channel your inner “Joan Clayton” and pair your sheath with a fitted blazer.

* Blouses and shells. Add some button down blouses and blousy tops my mom would call “shells”…lol. Here is where you can get a little creative with your work wardrobe. You can add a pop of color and even play around with different necklines. You can even sneak in a one-shoulder blouse as long as you wear a jacket.

Having these basics allows you to have an endless amount of outfit options as you’ll be able to mix and match to create a number of combinations (like the one above). Your suit jackets, dresses, skirts, and pants should be made in a seasonless fabric, typically synthetic materials like gabardine, twill, and polyester blends. Add in statement accessories like wood bangles, dangle earrings, pumps, comfy printed flats, and an oversized bag.

Check out more style ideas below:

Do you guys have anything to add?

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44 Responses to “Fashion Bomb 101: 10 Classic Wardrobe Basics for Work and for Play”

  1. Martinique_Fr says:

    Great advice on the “chic, grown, sexy, and fun as well as transitional” pieces.

  2. YoursTruly says:

    Love this!! Super helpful! Especially for college grads interviewing or starting a new job!

  3. Mariana says:

    Thank you for this.

  4. Loni says:

    Great article

  5. Waliyyah S. says:

    Very nice post. I think statement necklaces or statement jewelry should be added because it can really make an outfit go from blah to bomb! Oh & sunnies. The right pair will give you & your outfit a nice attitude. I think aviators are very classic & can be paired with anything.

  6. Saneliso says:

    Thanks for the post!

  7. Miss Smith says:

    Awesome awesome post!

  8. Taj_mahal says:

    awesome post!!

  9. Cam says:

    This was on point Danielle! Love it… When I was in college I was guilty of buying only trendy pieces, then stuck with clothes that I didn’t even like the following school year. Now my style works because I can throw a classic button down with a bandage skirt and it’s hot! People even ask if it is new… Question though, I struggle with finding flats that look work appropriate, what do you suggest. I feel like they can an outfit look more dumpy than professional.

  10. Empress says:

    I LOVE THIS POST!..While reading I was going through my closet to see if I had everything…Yipppee

  11. Stacey says:

    Thanks for the article! It is exactly what I need to make my wardrobe work.

  12. heavenlygurl says:

    Thanks for this post…there are so many wonderful choices in all price ranges… thrilled to see the adorable sheath dresses…

  13. Jo says:

    I love how you incorporated classiy pieces AND interesting, quirky pieces….

    LOVE this post and I couldn’t agree more about the tailored blazor. They are a staple item in my closet :)

    It doesn’t take much to be stylish and chic.

  14. brightstar says:

    Loved this post! Oh and I still call it a “shell”! haha=)

  15. Danielle says:

    @ Waliyyah S. Hey! Statement accessories were mentioned in the “Once you’ve got your basics down, use your personality, lifestyle, and personal style to continue building your wardrobe with tons of accessories and stand-out pieces.” part of the post. I wouldn’t consider them as part of the basics list as they’re what gives the wardrobe more personality :)

  16. kel says:

    awesome post. maybe u could do a similar one for those of us in college who want to look chic but casual? need to start buying for fall soon.

  17. Waliyyah S. says:

    @Danielle that is true

  18. missb says:

    Love this post!

    @ Danielle I don’t wear jewelry so I always feel like I’m lost when it comes to accessorizing. I am a sucker for a great broach and nice scarves. What are “must have accessories” that are not jewelry?

  19. Danielle says:

    @brightstar haha! Glad I’m not the only one still calling it a shell :)

    @kel Wardrobe basics cover all walks of life/lifestyles—you just switch the style of your basics to accommodate your casual lifestyle. You’ll still look good with a blazer, the jeans, the v-neck tee, etc. then add in your accessories. There’s some college fashion posts on this site (like this one: where you can also draw some inspiration :)

    @missb Broaches and scarves are great jewelry alternatives. I love a nice printed scarf (especially in leopard print but that’s just me…lol) because you can use them as a head tie or there’s a gazillion ways to tie them on. A good vintage broach really adds character to an outfit. I know you don’t wear jewelry, but maybe add some vintage button earrings and stacks of bangles? But the broaches and scarves can be your signature. You can also look at envelope clutches and hats. Hope this helps :)

  20. linda says:

    Love this. All 10 pieces are must haves and the additional is like topping on my dessert.

  21. Dobe says:

    Great post, Danielle! :)

  22. Danielle! You went IN on this post! Great job! *favoriting* ;)

  23. missb says:

    Thanks Danielle :)

  24. EssDot323 says:

    Wait a minute. Beyonce’s rocking flats?!

  25. Bkbombshell131 says:

    I never really been a simple girl.i understand the lbd,the pumps,jeans,white blouse,and button up.but sweaters remind me of a grand mama.ill pass unless an interview is coming up..nothing personal.

  26. Mona L says:

    Good Job!

  27. LaToya says:

    Good article. Will refer to this often.

  28. [...] Haute Daily News by Hautewife on Aug 3, 2011 • 3:37 pm No Comments 10 CLASSIC WARDROBE BASICS FOR WORK AND PLAY [...]

  29. binks says:

    Awesome post Danielle love the breakdown

  30. bb says:

    Okay, so based on this list alone I need to invest in a blazer, flats, and black pants. I would like another cardigan in a different color (as I have only have black). In regards to heels I have both black and brown so I’m really happy :-)

  31. Miss Rina says:

    So very helpful I will be adding these staples to my closet.

  32. I’m missing a colorful blazer!

    Good Post.

  33. Kahalia says:

    Gotta say this has been my favorite piece on your site as far as advice thus far! I love that you’re tackling basics. I think we can get too caught up in the leopard print lipstick and forget how you can be a bomb everyday in simple classic and chic clothes. Thanks!

  34. Ally says:

    Once again, adding another fab post to my favorites #loveit

  35. Lindsey says:

    Thanks this DEF helped me out, i’ll be def shopping this weekend :)

  36. yusufswifee says:

    Danielle, this is so awesome…I’m a new mom and getting ready to move…I badly need a new wadrobe and I’ll be giving away anything that doesn’t fit or I haven’t worn in a while…with a 21 month old boy and a husband I have to be organized and get dressed quick. I’ll be printing this entry out and keeping it in my purse until I’ve purchased all these items…I have a hard time focusing when shopping or discovering “sales”. Thanks again. Bestpostever!

  37. Danielle says:

    Thanks, everyone!

    @Cam if you feel a little dumpy in flats, try a slight wedge. You’ll get the leg lengthening attributes of a heel but the comfort of a flat :)

  38. [...] working on building a fun, but appropriate wardrobe for my new corporate job.  The second half of this post does a great job covering the basic items to put a work wardrobe [...]

  39. Excellent pieces to build a foundation for work and play!

  40. [...] more workwear tips, check out our post, 10 Classic Wardrobe Basics for Work and Play. Be further inspired by these fly celebs and public [...]

  41. [...] more workwear tips, check out our post, 10 Classic Wardrobe Basics for Work and Play. Be further inspired by these fly celebs and public [...]

  42. [...] of internships, please hit up our Work Wardrobe category, which includes oldies but goodies like Fashion Bomb 101: 10 Classic Wardrobe Basics for Work and Play, our Summer Work Wardrobe Guide, and Building a Fashionable Work Wardrobe. *For my PR girls, get [...]

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