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No matter your job, you always want to show up to work looking professional.

A strict workplace dress code can raise fears like “Is this okay?” and “Is this professional enough?” On the flip side, if your job allows you to dress casually, it’s easy to get lazy — and when you don’t put in the effort to look put-together, you can come across as disrespectful.

To help you avoid the stress of getting dressed for work, here are a few essential items you’ll need if you’re to build a wardrobe that will make you look and feel professional:

1. A Shift Dress

Shift dresses are the perfect go-to pieces for professional settings. Aim to have at least one in a solid neutral color and another in a print. These super versatile dresses can be formal or casual, and they can be worn with layers like blazers, sweaters, and scarves.

The best part? A shift dress is a one-step outfit. When you’re in a rush, you can just throw one on and head out the door without worrying. Make sure the dresses you choose hit you at the knee and aren’t too tight. The optimal shift dress should have a structured look and skim over your body.

2. Minimalist Basics

Keep classic staples like white button-downs and black slacks and skirts at the forefront of your closet. These minimal pieces can function as professional bases for your outfits, helping you get dressed more quickly. Sure, you can keep that funky skirt or top for special occasions, but when it comes to your day-to-day look, you can’t beat a simple white top and black pants.

If minimalism isn’t your thing, dress up your basics with accessories that let your personality show through. A colorful scarf, a trendy pair of shoes, or a bold necklace can help keep an outfit from feeling completely stuffy.

3. The Perfect Blazer

When you’re aiming for professionalism, you can’t go wrong with a well-tailored blazer. Whether you choose a structured, suit-like navy option or a casual longline duster in a trendy neutral color, the blazer is a must. It adds layers and depth to your look while remaining professional. On a practical level, a blazer helps keep you warm in the colder months (or in a chilly air-conditioned office).

Dress your blazer up with slacks and a button-down for a client meeting, or use it to add structure to jeans and a t-shirt in a casual setting. A high-quality blazer that fits you properly can be a significant investment, but it’s well worth it. The blazer will become an important staple in your business wardrobe, one that you’ll consistently reach for each morning, knowing you’ll look and feel confident in it.

The Right Pieces Help You Shine at Work

Keep in mind your personal preferences as you’re shopping for professional wardrobe staples. You can make even the strictest dress code work for you, whether you’re more comfortable in a fancy skirt or a low-key pair of trousers. Acknowledging your preferences will help you feel confident when it comes to curating your wardrobe — and that can improve your attitude at work. When you feel comfortable, you appear sure of yourself, and your coworkers and bosses will notice.

If you’re building a professional wardrobe from scratch and don’t want to break the bank, head to secondhand shops and consignment stores to find high-quality, business-ready essentials at a major discount.

Lastly, remember to get dressed with intention every morning. Try not to get into too much of a routine, where getting dressed becomes boring. Just because you’ve curated the perfect work-ready closet and getting dressed seems easier doesn’t mean you should just go through the motions. Intentional dressing will help your overall attitude and ensure that you show up to work every day looking professional and feeling your best.

Rebecca Piersol curates content for The Crystal Press and writes for thredUP.



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