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Workwear Essentials by Sarah Winton

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By: Sarah Winton

Minimalist Desk

Source: White Smartphone Beside Silver Laptop Computer | Pexels

Sarah Winton of Poutine and Prada delights us with workwear wardrobe essentials

Source: Sarah Winton | Poutine and Prada

Business casual. It’s probably the most common office dress code, yet it can also be a bit tricky to navigate. What’s too casual? Can you be too dressed up?

According to the all-knowing oracle Google, business casual can be defined thusly:

relating to or denoting a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression.

Source: Business Casual | English Oxford Dictionary

Clear as mud, yeah?

I’ve been working in offices for about 10 years now and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on dressing the part.

The following is a list of what I think are essentials for dressing business casual. Having some or all of these pieces will allow you to maximize your work wardrobe and incorporate some of your off duty pieces, allowing you to keep your outfits fresh and your style your own.

Skirts and Dresses

My biggest tip is to wear skirts and dresses most of the time. Hear me out on this.

When you buy trousers for the office, you are only going to wear them at the office. I resent having to buy something I’m only going to wear at work.

Skirts, however, can be worn with your more casual looks, as well. They can be worn in winter with black tights (or nylons if that’s your thing – I’m looking at you, Ms. Middleton) and in the summer with bare legs.

I feel that skirts just give you a bit more mileage. That said, I do have a pair of trousers or two because some days I just can’t be bothered to put on a pair of tights.

My first essential is a black skirt. This will be the true workhorse of your work wardrobe.

I feel that pencil skirts work best with my figure, but pick the shape that you like best – a-line, skater, flared, etc.

Mine is the Stretch Ponte Tube Skirt from Everlane. Sadly, it’s no longer available, but I’ve tracked down some similar ones for you herehere and here.

I wear this skirt at least 3 times a week. I’ve washed it more times than I can count and it’s held up beautifully.

If skirts really aren’t your thing, then go for a good pair of black trousers in a high-quality fabric like wool and you’ll be all set.

Solid T-Shirts

My second essential are t-shirts in solid colors.

My favorites are from Kuwalla but there are lots of places to find good tees.

A t-shirt in black, white, grey or a simple stripe can be worn tucked into skirts, under blazers, with trousers or jeans on a casual day. They can also be worn under sweaters for an extra bit of warmth.


A nice sweater in a light knit – like merino – can also go a long way in a work wardrobe. I have two washable merino sweaters, one red and one blue, from Gap. I wear them multiple times a week.

A slim sweater is great on its own but it can also be styled by tucking it into high-waisted pants or a skirt, under a blazer, or even under a cardigan.


A good blazer in a solid color or plaid is another essential.

Blazers can be worn over dresses, with skirts, with pants and always add a bit of extra professionalism to an outfit.

A good blazer can be quite pricey, so I’d suggest checking out vintage options on eBay, popping in consignment stores or thrift shops. You can often get an excellent quality wool or silk blend blazer for a steal at these places!

These Shoes Were Made for Workin’

The last essential on my list is a good pair of black or nude shoes.

Heels are nice if you can wear them but flats are fine, too. I have a pair of black velvet Sam Edelman loafers that go with everything.

Those are my top workwear essentials. Once you have these basics you’ll be able to create lots of different work-appropriate outfits. 

Bug’s Two Cents

Yes, yes, and YES! I can’t thank Sarah enough for outlining her workwear essentials.

Although I currently work from home, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrambled over what to wear to interviews or events. I’ve always managed to get by in a pair of black dress pants paired with a black or grey ribbed-knit shirt, but where’s the fun in working when you’re always relying on the same monochromatic wardrobe?

Following Sarah’s advice, you could spice up your work wardrobe with a comfy and tastefully colorful sweater balanced by a pencil skirt, tights, and a pair of pumps.

Head on over to Sarah’s blog for even more fantastic fashion advice that’ll have you ready to revamp your wardrobe (or better yet, give you some ideas on how you can “upcycle” some of your retired tees and trousers that you can’t seem to part with).

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