Are you, like me, finding that not many clothing stores focus on providing women’s workwear?
If you’re not crazy about shopping for clothes in the first place, shopping for work clothes can become an even more daunting task.
MY RECIPE FOR GREAT WORKWEAR OUTFITS
In order to have a variety of work appropriate outfits to choose from — some stylish, some more formal — I’ve learned that building my wardrobe around a mix of trendy and formal clothes is what provides for gorgeous mix and match results.
Looking corporate and elegant, with an added touch of style, is what I always aim for.
How do I do that?
I shop in a variety of stores that give me just that. Some stores are fashion oriented. Some are geared towards the business woman — so that’s where I look for classic pieces, like pencil skirts, pant and skirt suits, and well cut quality pants.
Another trick? Since budget is a factor — as for most of you I gather — I love to mix higher end and affordable clothes.
I spend a little more on pants and blazers, in order to get the proper fit. On the other hand, dresses, skirts and tops can often be found at more affordable prices and still look good — it’s up to you to make sure that what you buy is best your body type.
The most expensive item you should pay for is a pant or skirt suit. The quality of the material and the cut will make a huge difference.
Bottom line, it’s important that you create outfits that meet your own personal style. When you put your foot in the door to go to work in the morning, you should feel good about yourself. This can do wonders for your sense of confidence.
GREAT FINDS, FOR SMALL PRICE TAGS
Always up to date on the very latest fashion trends, Zara is ideal when you’re wanting to add a few distinctive items to your workwear collection. The original pieces you’ll find (often looking like the upscale designer versions), for the price you’ll pay, is hard to beat. Their inventory turns very quickly, so you may very well find new collections have appeared each time you visit your local store.
What to shop: I’ve been lucky mostly with blouses, fitted sweaters and pants. Not so much with blazers and dresses, as the quality of the material is often not good enough to look sharp on me.
Where to find it: They have lots of stores in Canada and the US. On the other hand, if you’re like me and don’t have the patience to wait in line — which is what you’ll have to do to get to try clothes on, and then to pay — you should shop online. Once you know what sizes fit you best, this is the way to go. You get to see all the merchandise they offer (whereas each store cannot carry all styles). Then you try on clothes in the comfort of your home, having the advantage to check if they match with what you already have in your wardrobe. Finally you can simply ship what doesn’t fit, or bring it back to your local store.
This brand is geared towards suiting the corporate woman of pretty much all ages. You’ll find everything you need to build your business outfits, from clothes, to shoes, belts, handbags and jewelry. They offer a good variety of styles, which allows them to meet the needs of many silhouette types. What makes them so affordable is the fact that they frequently have sales of up to 40%. This makes them one of the top brands to get good value for your money. Which is why it’s become a favorite of mine!
What to shop: Classic suits, pants (many styles offered), skirts, tops. You can make great finds with their jewelry too.
Where to find it: They have stores in Canada and the US, and my experience has been that their store layout and customer service are really good. Which is why in this case (contrary to Zara), I much prefer shopping in store. Online shopping has the advantage of providing all the merchandise information, whereas stores might sometimes be out of stock for some items.
Simons offers a wide selection of very affordable women’s workwear. Their brand Icône caters to the professional woman looking for a younger and more trendy look, while their brand Contemporaine will please the more traditional business woman. They also carry other interesting brands like InWear, Hugo, and some more high-end lines, like Tiger of Sweden and Judith and Charles.
What to shop: Dresses, skirts, tops, vests, and now even shoes!
Where to find it: their online ‘Workwear’ section is convenient to get a quick look at what they have to offer. They only have stores in Canada, but have a user-friendly online store from which orders can be delivered anywhere in Canada and the US.
J.Crew is similar to Banana Republic, in the sense that it offers everything from clothes, to shoes, to bags, and jewelry. However J.Crew is a bit more on the casual side, and caters in good part to a the younger professional woman.
What to shop: Blouses, jewelry, belts and shoes have been my favorite.
Where to find it: They have stores everywhere in the US, and a few stores in Ontario and the Western part of Canada. Otherwise, online shopping is of course available and they ship to over 100 countries, including Canada.
This brand has a wide variety of business clothes for women, and in spite of their name, you’ll find more than just white and black clothes in their stores. I’ll be honest, I haven’t bought their clothes very often. But they have an interesting selection of ladies suits and dresses, and, a wide choice of pant cuts for the tall, short, petite, plus and curvy.
What to shop: Suits, dresses, pants, and check out their impressive selection of tops — classic with a twist.
Where to find it: They have many stores in the US, but only one in Canada (located in Ontario). They do ship anywhere in Canada if you shop online.
PRICIER BRANDS, STILL WITHIN REACH
The perfect clothing brand if you’re looking for formal, corporate style pieces. You’ll find beautiful work-appropriate dresses, blazers, tops and bottoms, in a variety of styles. And it’s a good shopping destination for pretty much all body types. Their clothes are 100% made in NY. Whether you like a slim fit, or you prefer a looser, more relaxed but tailored fit, this brand’s website is worth the visit. They even offer extended sizes between 14W-20W.
What to shop: Their wide selection of dresses, and everything else!
Where to find it: They only have one store in NY city. However, their website for online shopping is very user-friendly, letting you filter your searches by size, color, features like machine washable, and so on. They deliver internationally and deliveries are free in the US.
Ann Taylor offers a very wide selection of work clothes, in regular, petite and tall sizes, up to 18. AT also sells quality shoes, many of which (like their of pump styles) get highly rated reviews from customers.
What to shop: Dresses, suits, skirts, tops, and definitely shoes!
Where to find it: They have many stores in the US, and a couple in Ontario, Canada. Their online shop does deliver anywhere in Canada though.
COS is definitely a distinctive fashion-forward brand, with simple modern lines, yet impeccable cuts. Not all their clothes qualify as business attire, unless you’re working in a fashion industry or a creative environment with very loose dress codes. But if you feel like spicing up a couple of your work outfits, dare to incorporate one or two COS pieces to mix and match with your wardrobe’s most classic items.
What to shop: You may find dresses and tops that will fit the work-appropriate criteria. And pants definitely.
Where to find it: Online shopping is available but I don’t find it particularly user-friendly. It is probably best anyway that you shop in store (many locations in Canada and the US) since their original styles make it harder to be successful without trying on the clothes first.
The first clothing brand that comes to mind when I think of workwear for the woman who means business, is this one. You know, the pure corporate type of style that lawyers tend to wear.
Simple lines, conservative and classic attire, and the best cuts – that’s what you’ll get. They are expensive, but you’ll have to wear these clothes out before they go out of style. So they’ll stick with you for a long time.
What to shop: Definitely the suits — the best you’ll find!
Where to find it: You’ll find some Theory stores in the US. In Canada however, the brand can only be found in large department stores like Holt Renfrew and some Hudson’s Bay stores. Online purchases can only be delivered in the US.
This Montreal based company specifically targets the business woman. It offers well-cut and feminine designs, with an added touch of style that sets them apart from the rest. It also happens to be one of the rare brands where I can find blazers with the right length of sleeves for my long arms ;).
What to shop: Suits, dresses and blazers.
Where to find it: They have 2 stores in Montreal, and the brand is available online, both for Canada and US delivery.
Here’s another quality brand that offers a nice selection of elegant, formal and less formal clothes for the corporate woman. They also have their own shoe line, offering ballerinas and medium to high heel pumps.
What to shop: Blouses, blazers, and shoes are worth a look.
Where to find it: They have some stores in the US and online shopping is available for Canada and US delivery (they actually ship to over 50 countries).
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Even the most expensive, and most beautifully cut clothes, in order to look sharp and elegant on you, need to be well adjusted for you body type. A good fit is always a prerequisite to looking elegant.
I have very long arms, which means I rarely find blazers with the right sleeve length. So I got used to having alterations made to lengthen the sleeves, every time I buy a blazer.
No woman is made alike. So it’s just normal that you have to make some alterations. Make sure you have the right sleeve and pant length, and the right fit at the waist and bust line. Trust me, do not forego this last step. It will make an enormous difference on the end result.
Hope this list is of help! Let me know how successful you are when you shop these brands. And I’m curious to know…what percentage of the time do you wear business casual attire versus the more formal corporate look?