How to dress for work – A capsule wardrobe that is professional, comfortable AND chic!

by Sylvia

How to dress for work - A capsule wardrobe that is professional, comfortable AND chic! |

Oftentimes, being able to bring a chic and comfortable tone to office wear can be tough, especially when you want to put your own unique spin and style on what you can wear.

It can be done, however, and I will show you how to create a perfectly edited wardrobe capsule for work. 

From the best type of material to the most office appropriate perfumes, we tackle all you need to know about how to bring your chic and unique style to the workplace.

Comfort = Confidence

Work appropriate clothing and accessories should never hurt your feet, constrict arm movements, or be in any way uncomfortable.

If you find yourself wiggling, smoothing, checking or straightening your outfit a handful of times before you even leave the house, please change. When your clothes cause worry you can’t exude confidence and when you aren’t confident you don’t look as polished or professional as you could.

There are some tried and true materials, styles, and shoes to stick to when you’re looking for a combination of both comfortable and chic looks. These include

  • Pieces made of natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen, and wool
  • Lined pants, dresses, skirts, blazers, and jackets, which will help keep fabrics from clinging to your body
  • Sweaters or knit blazers and jackets that have a little give and are not as tight on the arms and shoulders
  • Heels with heights of 2½ inches or less give you the perfect professionalism without making you sacrifice your back or knees in the process.

Make a statement

In order to create a cohesive look, begin with your focal point, or lead piece. Teams, much like outfits, become unsuccessful when they have too many people vying for a leadership role. Pick one piece of clothing or accessory to steal the show, think of it as your team leader.

How to dress for work: colorful outfit ideas and accessories |

Layers are Key

Most offices experience a variety of temperatures throughout the day, from chilly conference rooms to downright balmy offices. Plan accordingly. This does not mean that you should keep your favorite loungewear sweatshirt at your desk; rather, always try to have a neutral cardigan or jacket available.

Keep the scent unobtrusive

Not all perfumes you love are workplace appropriate. The key to finishing out a chic look is adding a light scent that doesn’t leave everyone wondering who was last in the room. A crisp, bright or sweet, floral scent that is light and unobtrusive is absolutely key to the perfect work wardrobe. (For more tips check out our article on how to wear perfume the right way).

How to dress for work: Perfume ideas for the office | |

Build a chic collection of versatile work wear

Before you add a new piece to your wardrobe ask yourself, “What three other pieces does this match?” You don’t want to build individual outfits that have no relation to other looks in your closet. Instead, build a work capsule wardrobe composed of pieces that are easily interchangeable with one another.

The ideal 20-piece work capsule wardrobe

Let’s begin with the neutral basics that will anchor the work wardrobe. While we went with black suit pieces for this capsule, you can also go with gray, blue, or a lighter camel/tan hue.

The anchoring basics

How to dress for work: Neutral and black and white basics for the office | |

Tops, Jackets, and Coats

Now comes the time to add the tops and outerwear to your capsule. Select 3-4 tops that are versatile (yet offer their own unique look). Two additional blazers (with a variety of texture) will serve as great contrast pieces for creating new looks and a coat that can be worn across your wardrobe complete this portion of your capsule.

How to dress for work: Sweaters, blouses, and coats for women who work |

Pants, Skirts, and Dresses

A tailored dress in a pop of color that is flattering to your skin tone and body shape is the perfect addition to the capsule. A third dress that is more artistic or unique (such as the shirtdress below) is also another brilliant option, as it allows you to bring a creative and unexpected look to the office that is not too off-step. A second skirt with a pop of color and on-trend pants also help round out your collection.

How to dress for work: Dresses and skirts for the office |

Shoes and accessories

As you can see, we had a red/pink theme for our accessories selection. A tote with a pop of color and a scarf with a pop of color will help add some warmth to even your most severe looks. We also selected two statement necklaces to diminish the seriousness of some of the office looks and make them more unique and approachable. Finally, a leopard print flat allows you to bring in a print that pops without being too overwhelming or inappropriate, while still being quite comfortable.

How to dress for work: Scarf and necklaces for office and work outfits |

Here are nine looks using the pieces from our wardrobe above

How to dress for work: 9 chic looks for the office and women who work |

What does your work wardrobe look like? What are your go to looks to get through a long day?


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tg3

I’m afraid I’m going to respectfully disagree with you about perfume. I’m very sensitive to fragrance, and I know I’m not the only one, so I’d have to say that perfume is inappropriate at work. YMMV.


2 Mariko

I’m new to exploring 40plusstyle, and I found this post to be really valuable! The funny thing is, I’m a college student. I know that I’m off the path for the target market here, but women from all ages could benefit from this (especially college kids figuring out the career world!) This is definitely something I’m going to show to my friends, I totally think that they would find it valuable too.


3 Sylvia

Thank you for the lovely feedback Mariko. Yes, although I’m speaking especially to women over 40 a LOT of my content is useful of women of all ages. So feel free to browse through all the articles and I appreciate that you want to share the content with your friends too!


4 Petra

The Fashion industry won’t like your article, but basically this is all you need! Basics in good Quality, good Fit and neutral Colours, combined with interesting/on trend pieces … Saves Money, saves time and allows quick packing for Business trips …


5 Carol

Very attractive color choices and statement pieces here. I wear mainly black to work, as it is the most common color in my city for work outfits, worn by everyone from fast food servers to vice presidents. I often add a solid color blouse or a patterned scarf to my basic work capsule of black jacket, black cardigan, black pants, black skirt, and black dress. I think that tan/camel, navy, burgundy and gray can also be excellent “neutral” colors for work as long as the garments are high quality (wrinkled cheap khakis are not such a great look).


6 Kelly

Should I be concerned about a black top and a black bottom being the same shade or tone of black? Do all black items match?


7 Sylvia

I personally don’t like mismatched black items so much. Unless the texture of the 2 items is very different. It matters less if you combine the 2 black items with something on top of it (like a jacket or cardigan) so it’s less noticeable.


8 sharon

You left out ONE thing…what do you do about stockings?! Those lovely heels when worn with a dress…in WINTER…naked legs? Silly. Black tights? so boring. Can we please start wearing flesh-toned pantyhose again? They were so practical. Black tights with black shoes and a black dress looks so funereal. What do we wear on our legs when wearing dresses? It’s COLD.


9 Sylvia

Flesh toned sheer tights is fine, but this may be too cold still (as they’re thin). When wearing thicker tights it’s usually best to go with one of the colors in the outfit. More tips in this article


10 Sherry Edwards

I am employed with a large international construction/engineering firm. However, I do not have a top hat title, I do meet a lot of professional people. Also, I mostly work on the computer and sit for too many hours. Most people see me waist up, but when I do walk around I like my outfits to flow together. I travel daily to work by car for an hour both ways. I need to dress comfortably in the car and require proper footwear and coat. I also like to look nice for other drivers who may see me out my driver’s window. (Too vain eh?!!) A lot of times I do not go straight home from work so I need to be properly dressed for where I’m going. I need to dress for our 8 seasons. The office inside is frigid during summer and too hot during winter. I do my best to change up my look daily. Monday – dress, Tuesday – pants, Wednesday – skirt, Thursday – pants and Friday either more casual skirt or pants. Always something “red” on Fridays until all of our soldiers return home. Our company dress code does not allow for too casual. Mainly why I dress that particular way is where I am going after work. Also, I plan and co-ordinate my outfits on the weekend. I find it less of a struggle for me if I pick a “colour theme”. I pick my colour theme according to the season or something that reminds me of that season. Example for this week my theme colour is “camel” because I feel that it is a warm autumn colour that transitions well. (Also, reminds me of yellow leaves and pumpkin pie, crazy eh?!!!) I also have seasonal accessories and perfumes that are only worn during that season. (I have different perfumes for day and night). Guess I have toooooo much time on my hands?????


11 Nina

I love ROSS stores for finding low-cost, high-quality goods. I recently changed from working at home 100% to 1-3 days a week in office. So of course, I needed a new office wardrobe, having donated most of my previous wardrobe to those in need. Last week’s perusal found 4 business suits in complementary colors/styles from Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, New York and Company. A trench coat from London Fog. The only decision I have to make is skirt or pants!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: