Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The Best Basics: Work Clothes You Can't Live Without

When it comes to buying work clothes, I’m often spurred by trends I see in magazines that get me excited about upcoming fashion seasons.

But in reality, this isn’t the best way to build a work wardrobe—having a closet full of statement pieces often leaves you puzzled, unsure how to put together an outfit in the morning. It’s more important to make sure you have all the work-wardrobe basics covered—hey, even if you want to try something trendier, it almost always involves starting with the basics!

Not sure where to start when building up your base of basics? Below are some of my favorite picks from tried-and-true workwear brands.

The Best Pencil Skirts

Not all pencil skirts are created equal! If a pencil skirt is done wrong, it can look super unflattering—but all these brands and cuts really come through. I’ve found that Banana Republic and Gap pencil skirts never fail, and I recently got this number from 25 Bedford in black, which I adore—it’s more flattering than any other pencil skirt I’ve owned. Try any of them with a patterned blouse, a blazer, and boots for the perfect winter-to-spring look.

Get the Skirts

The Best Trousers

Perfectly cropped, slightly tapered, wide legged, or high-waisted—no matter what you look for in work pants, one of these picks will fit the bill. Best of all, they’re all super affordable, which means that when you find a pair you love, you can buy them in a couple different colors to wear throughout the week. (Black, grey, navy, and tan are the best for go-to basics.)

Get the Trousers

The Best Silk Blouses

Classic and perfect for all seasons, silk blouses are work wardrobe musts—but if they don’t fit quite right, they can end up making you feel awkward and hanging in your closet unworn. The brands that never fail me are Everlane and Equipment (admittedly an investment, but if taken care of will last you forever). Madewell has a silk shirt in a t-shirt cut, which is great for looking just dressy enough in a casual office. For a more elegant, draped look, try 25 Bedford or Uniqlo—both are begging to be dressed down with dark jeans on casual Friday or dressed up with a high-waisted skirt.

Get the Blouses

The Best Blazers

If I told you how many blazers I own from H&M and Zara, I would be more than a little embarrassed. I don’t know what their formula is, but they’ve got it down to a science—blazers that are tailored well and still have that androgynous not-too-short-or-girly feel that makes throwing one on over a sheath dress and being work-ready so darn easy. Top Shop and French Connection also have a good selection, and this Diane Von Furstenburg pick is a special treat—it’s both classic and just a little playful (and on sale—hurry!).

Get the Blazers

The Best Dresses

The only dresses you need in your work wardrobe? A sheath, a fit-and-flare, and a shirt dress. That’s it! The navy sheath is from ModCloth, which has some great silhouettes for work. I love these two fit-and-flare dresses—a black and white pattern is perfect for work because you can wear it in so many ways and with so many other patterns. For something a little more casual, try the classic shirt dress by Gap or a fun but simple silhouette yellow dress from Poem.

Get the Dresses