Build Your First Career Wardrobe

So you are starting out in the “real world.” You’ve got your own place and the countdown to your first day has begun.

There are a lot of things to think about when making the transition from college grad to career professional. Though you may have considered what to wear on your first day, you may not have thought about all that goes into building a career wardrobe. Before spending your entire first paycheck on trendy clothes that will only last you a season or two, take time to build a wardrobe that lasts.

There are a lot of resources to help you determine your style, your colors, your “look.” Use those resources (some listed below) to compliment the following wardrobe basics. Also, I am providing information for both genders; separating men and women only for simplicity’s sake.

See Also: Interviewing Attire 

Shopping Tips

  1. Only buy items that can be worn in at least three combinations (example: top with three different bottoms).
  2. Try to avoid “outfits” that only allow you to wear each piece with the other pieces purchased together.
  3. Don’t forget appropriate undergarments.
  4. Steer clear of fashion trends that only last one or two seasons.
Basic Career Wardrobe : Level One Basic Career Wardrobe for Women: Level Two
In addition to the items listed in LEVEL ONE,
gradually add the following
Item Quantity Item Quantity
Shirts/Tops 6 work appropriate
T-shirts 1 white | 1 black T-shirts 1 striped
Sweaters 2 pullovers/cardigans Sweaters 1 fitted pullovers | 1 cardigans | 1 dark turtleneck
Skirts 2 all season Skirts 2 summer
Jeans 1 work appropriate
Pants 3-5 pairs all season Pants 3 pairs winter | 3 pairs summer
Dresses 2 all season Dresses 2 summer
Suits 1 classic suit Suits 2 classic suits
Jackets 2 all season Jackets 1 wool blazer | 1 winter jacket | 2 summer
Outerwear 1 classic trench Outerwear 1 hip-length | 1 lightweight spring
Shoes 1 pair dark | 1 pair neutral
Bag 1 leather shoulder | 1 tote

This post was inspired by the ebook, Wardrobe Magic, by Diana Pemberton-Sikes. It is my take on building a basic wardrobe. To learn more and purchase your own for $24 visit her website at

By Laura Kestner-Ricketts
Laura Kestner-Ricketts Executive Director, Career and Professional Development