How To Build The Right Work Wardrobe For You

best clothes for work

Jena Viviano

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The working world is so much more than corporate America and Wall Street these days. Between casual startups and work-from-home gigs, plus the side hustle, the work wardrobe is nothing like it used to be. Long gone are the days of wearing a pencil skirt, button-up top, suit jacket and heels. It’s 2018, and the best clothes for work come in many styles.

Career coach and entrepreneur Jena Viviano has worked at all types of companies. Once an investment banker and then business analyst at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street before becoming a sales trainer at startup career website The Muse, Viviano now works for herself. Her work wardrobe has evolved over time, but she never stopped realizing the power that her clothes have over her confidence and productivity.

“I firmly believe that if you’re dressed in a way that’s not sloppy you’re going to attract more positive energy,” Viviano said. “You’re going to just feel better about yourself and feel more confident if you’re working for yourself or you’re working for somebody else. It’s the feeling that you get — there’s something about getting dressed every day.”

That feeling is important to thriving in our careers. So no matter how old and stale the work wardrobe conversation might seem, it’s still very necessary to put effort into the clothes you wear for work every day. Here’s how to figure out the best clothes for work, and for you.

Figure out your office dress code.

how to dress for work

Jena Viviano

Many companies have embodied the “no dress code” culture, but there still seem to be a few rules around what’s office-appropriate and what’s not. If you’re not sure, there are a few ways to figure it out.

Viviano suggested checking out a company’s website to get a sense of what employees are wearing. Glassdoor may also have employee reviews that speak to the company dress code. If it’s a startup, you can most likely assume it’s going to be on the casual side, while corporate offices may be all about business casual.

“For a startup, I recommend wearing a pair of dark jeans, really funky shoes, a blazer and a simple top,” Viviano said. “Wherever you work, I would say more put together is the better way to go.”

If you’re interviewing and trying to figure out the company dress code, don’t get bent out of shape. Viviano stressed the importance of wearing what you want, yet going a step up from what you’d wear to work every day.

“A lot of people say ‘what should I wear to an interview? Do I wear a suit or are they going to think I don’t know the culture?'” Viviano said. “And I’m like, wear what you want to wear. If someone doesn’t hire you because you’re overdressed, that’s dumb. You don’t want to work for them anyway. Try to be the person who has color on. In a sea of black, they might remember the person who wore color more.”

Find your go-to outfit.

Whether it’s a plain black sheath dress and pumps, or jeans and a t-shirt, it’s important to find the outfit that makes you feel the most confident at work, while also sticking to the dress code. Think about the styles and colors that you tend to wear when you want to feel confident. Then think about ways to improve them so they’re work-friendly. You’ll walk into the office every day feeling like a badass who’s ready to accomplish everything on your to-do list.

When Viviano lived and worked in New York City, her go-to work outfit was always dark jeans, colorful pumps, a plain black top and a blazer over it. Now that she’s in Nashville, she keeps it a little more casual, but dresses it up with heels or jewelry.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure what your best clothes for work are, try a subscription box service like Stitch Fix or Amazon Prime Wardrobe. You’ll be able to pick the styles and trends you like the most online before receiving customized options in the mail. Then you can try them on before you buy. You might just find your new #boss blazer in that box.

Instead of buying all the time, try renting.

best clothes for work

Jena Viviano

Buying fast fashion and keeping up with the trends is fun, but can get overrated, especially for work. Viviano suggested creating a capsule wardrobe once or twice a year with just a number of classic pieces that won’t go out of style for a while.

“The things that can change are the accessories and shoes,” she said. “That’s where you can keep it modern.”

A few items to keep in your closet include dark jeans, a blazer, multiple basic tanks and t-shirts that you can layer, an A-line dress and a great pair of shoes. Once you have your staple pieces set, you can rent the rest.

“If you have a big meeting, do Rent the Runway,” Viviano said. And she’s not talking about renting just anything. Rather, she’s thinking of that dress that will make you look like the boss when walking into that boardroom. You’ll look so profesh, your client might not know who’s in charge.


Viviano’s all about accessories that speak to who you are while keeping the outfit clean, professional and basic.

“Basic colors are always great, and you can have your accessories be the pops of color,” Viviano said.

Whether that’s a red pair of pumps, a great statement necklace or a tote bag with all the right design details, you can’t go wrong with accessories.

The best work clothing is still uniquely you.

No matter what work clothes we suggest, keep dressing in a way that is unique to you and your personality. Viviano said it’s easier than you might think to assimilate to work culture while also remaining true to yourself.

Don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not at work, and if you feel the need to do that, it might be time to find a new job anyway.

Stick to what works for your budget and your personality. Just because all the other women in the office are shopping at Banana Republic or Ann Taylor, that doesn’t mean you have to. Find the right work outfit and stick with it so you can be confident and productive while thriving in your career every day.


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