Tips for Building a Professional Wardrobe

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Tips for Building a Professional Wardrobe

This blog post was written by Courtney Pelot, our University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus Ambassador.

There comes a time in every young woman’s life where she needs to limit her purchases of boyfriend jeans and crop tops and instead begin investing in pieces that she can wear in the real, working world. Even though I don’t think I will ever find myself in a corporate office, even in the creative industry, you need to dress professionally. While you might find it challenging to decide where to begin your wardrobe makeover, I have compiled a list of must-have garments, stores to shop and overarching do’s and don’t to provide you a head start on your working girl wardrobe!

Key Pieces

Blazer: I think it’s a great idea to have at least one solid colored blazer (black or white) and a fun, patterned one, such as a cheetah print or colorful stripe motif. You can pair a blazer with a pencil skirt, black trousers or even dark wash jeans on casual Friday.

Flats: A neutral-colored flat is perfect for running around the office or around town for errands.

Trench Coat: There should be at least one professional coat in your closet, and this is a great go-to. The khaki color pairs well with everything, and it’s a timeless piece.

White Button-up: This shirt is extremely versatile! It pairs well with any bottom and always looks polished.

Black Trousers: These are a must have piece in every working girls closet!

Pencil Skirt: This is a classic skirt silhouette that’s a must-have for your closet. I suggest investing in a black one first because you’ll be able to dress it up or down and wear it all year round.

Statement Necklace: A single statement piece goes a long way! This is the perfect way to add a bit of personality to your work attire.

Large Tote Bag: A bag that’s big enough for your laptop, lunch, water bottle and other necessities is a must. I suggest a sleek, sturdy, leather bag in a neutral color.

Closed Toe Heel: While I don’t suggest wearing heels all the time (for the sake of your poor feet) but you may need a pair for an important meeting or other event. Investing in a quality black or nude closed toe heel is a great idea!

Shift Dress: Whether you select a bold color or one that’s more neutral, a simple shift dress can be paired with blazers and cardigans to achieve different looks and easily go from work to drinks.

Stores and Brands for a Recent College Grad

Banana Republic: I shop here most often for blazers, professional tops and dresses.

H&M: They have great basics at low prices!

J.Crew: This is my go-to for skirts, pants and statement pieces.

Zara: This is another great place to shop for basics, but theirs are a bit trendier and more unique. 

ASOS: If you’re looking for trendier items, this is a great place to visit!


As always, watch for sales, use coupons and show your student ID for a discount! Banana Republic and J.Crew offer 15% discounts for college students.

The Do’s and Don’t of Professional Attire


  • Show your personality through your wardrobe!
  • Iron or steam out any wrinkles in your clothing.
  • Make sure you wear the proper undergarments and ensure that they are not visible.
  • Dress to impress everyday!


  • Add too many accessories. When in doubt, go for understated pieces or one bold statement necklace or earrings.
  • Wear anything you would wear out on the weekend or at a club. Chances are it’s not appropriate for an office. Avoid anything too sexy or revealing.
  • Wear any garment that is ripped or torn. Avoid those holey jeans in the office!

I hope these tips and tricks help you out as you begin curating your own professional wardrobe!