Kaitlyn Duling

We all have mornings like these. You wake up with energy (somehow), bound out of bed, feel positive about the new day, take a shower, wash your face, and then — frown into your closet because you have nothing, absolutely nothing to wear. Your heart slowlydroops into your stomach and you contemplate starting a GoFundMe for a new wardrobe. Your Facebook friends wouldn’t mind pitching in a couple bucks for some nice work clothes, right? Sure, sure.

If you dread getting dressed for work in the morning, whether your job requires business casual or actual business attire, here’s your solution: Not a fancy “capsule wardrobe,” but ten key pieces that will be your go-to’s, your “ah-HA!’s,” and your confidence-builders when you’re feeling weary about pulling on the same look you wore last Tuesday, and the Tuesday before that...

1. A pair of black pants that fit — really.

If there’s one thing my work wardrobe cannot do without, it’s a basic pant in a cut and fit that makes me feel confident and carefree. No tugging, pulling, or worrying. For me, that means a slightly skinny fit with a mid-rise, in a tall length. You might have to search far and wide for the perfect pant, or take them to a tailor, but once you have them you will never, ever regret it. Mornings are so much easier when you have that base item you can count on. Better yet? Buy them in a few colors, like navy, maroon and even a subtle print. That way, you’ll always have a place to start when you’re getting dressed.

2. A colorful, eye-catching scarf in a luxurious fabric.

So, you may have your neutral pant and a plethora of plain blouses, but if you’re still feeling “blah” about your outfit, you can always add a scarf for some interest and light. There are a zillion fun patterns out there. If you want something trendy, try a short, square scarf tied close around your neck. Longer, draped scarves never really go out of style either. I love to splurge on scarves because soft fabric just feels good on my neck, okay?

3. Neutral boots or flats.

I have a pair of boots that I love almost more than any other object. They are black leather with a stacked wooden heel. The toe is shaped perfectly between pointy and rounded (somehow), and they zip easily up the side. I wear these boots nearly every day—they are part of my “work uniform.” They make me feel confident, tall, and ready to take on anything the day might throw at me. I get endless compliments, even though they are fairly neutral. And black boots go with every outfit! If you’re more comfortable in flats or loafers, you can’t go wrong with a nice leather pair.

4. A structured-but-not-stuffy blazer or suit.

I suggest you invest in a blazer even if you don’t work in a business-dress environment. When I need to feel an extra boost of I-can-do-this attitude, I throw a blazer on, even over a plain t-shirt. You can pair it with pants, a skirt, or heck, even a jumpsuit! The blazer can elevate any look to corner-office appropriate.

5. At least one skirt that makes you feel beautiful.

It took me a very long time to find the skirt that works for me. For years, every skirt I tried on was too short, too tight, too bulky, too loose. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But when I finally found one that (magically) worked on my body, I bought three! And three coordinating pairs of tights to go with them! Now I pull on a skirt whenever the thought of wearing pants makes me salty and annoyed. Even the knowledge of the option is automatically calming to me in early-morning outfit-stress situations.

6. Office pajamas.

Okay, stay with me here. If you can, close your eyes and picture the comfiest, softest, silkiest pair of jogger-style pants, with deep side pockets that drape attractively on your legs and ankles that aren’t too tight or too loose. Now picture wearing those, in black or navy, to work on days when you feel bloated. Now picture them with a pair of statement heels and a structured, colorful top. See? It works, it’s comfortable, and it’s possible. Just visualize the pant, and they will eventually appear in your life. I (maybe) promise.

7. A statement jacket.

This will look different for every woman. For some, it means a trench in a fun color. For others, it looks like a military jacket, leather moto jacket, or even a blanket worn as outerwear. The statement is yours to make. The best part? Even if it doesn’t feel entirely business-y enough for the office, a jacket is meant for traveling, so you can soak up all of its confidence-giving abilities on your commute to and from work.

8. Emotional jewelry.

Whenever I’m sitting at my desk, bawling over a sad email from a coworker or remaining frustrated and focused on a difficult project, I find myself reaching for my jewelry. I can hold on to the pretty, delicate gold necklace my girlfriend gave me on our first Valentine’s Day together, or glance down at the ring I bought to remind myself that I am capable and strong. Whether it’s a class ring, wedding band, locket, or special pair of earrings, jewelry often has an emotional story behind it. During hard times at work, why wouldn’t you want reminders of the things that matter most? I hold on to them like life preservers.

9. A button-up (button-down? Can I get a quick vote of how we say this?) that fits well.

When I say “fits well,” I mean “fits your chest, fits your arms, fits your torso, and fits your everything.” I know this item is hard to find. But once you do, please buy it in ten different colors. And then email me the link to wherever you bought it, ‘cause I’m still on the search.

10. The comfiest sweater you can possibly imagine.

Honestly, I prefer to call this my “Work Cocoon,” but I figured I shouldn’t lead with that. You know when work is hard? Or when life is hard, and you still have to go to work? It helps to have something soft and warm to throw on while you’re at your desk. This might be a “blanket scarf,” or a duster-length sweater, or a nice cashmere wrap that you got on end-of-season sale (alert: now’s the time!). When the AC is blasting too high or I just need to feel cozy, for whatever reason, I reach for my Work Cocoon. Unlike people, it never lets me down! Thanks, Work Cocoon. I love you.

Okay, sure, "women's business clothes" summons thoughts of dresses and skirts, pant suit after pant suit, a button-down shirt here, some blouses there, and more dresses and skirts. Whether your office is business casual or business formal, or just "standard business attire" (whatever that means), your wardrobe of work clothes doesn't have to be so boring. You can spice up your business clothing and still meet those business professional attire standards while adding a little personality to your suit, skirts, shirts and all your clothing.


Kaitlyn Duling is an author, freelance writer, and poet who is passionate about supporting and uplifting other women. Her work can be found at www.kaitlynduling.com