I’ve just graduated from university and am in the transitional phase between “youth” and a “working adult”. Not sure about the adult part, but definitely hope I’ll be working. My dilemma is that I’ve never really cared about my wardrobe so at the moment it consists of three pairs of black jeans and a multitude of t-shirts that make me look 15. I’m 160cm tall and generally wear size 12/14 (M/L) for tops and bottoms.
What would you recommend for someone who wants a minimal wardrobe that can transition between professional and fun, and day to night? Thanks!
Dani, 25/Sydney, Australia
Congratulations on finishing university, Dani! I’m glad that you’re taking a moderate approach to becoming a working professional via fashion.
I do wish you were a little more forthcoming about your color preferences or body dimensions. Knowing whether you have broad shoulders, are short- or long-waisted, or prefer blacks and grays to pastels gives me a better idea of what pieces I can suggest for you. Still, do read on and see if there’s something you might like.
Tailored and structured blouses and tops are the easiest way to rock a smart-casual look which fits nicely into your day-to-night, “professional to fun” aspirational wardrobe. While collared blouses and shirts are definitely essential, collarless tops can also be chic, and easy to pair with all kinds of outerwear from work cardigans and blazers, to vests and heavier jackets. Personally, I like tab-sleeve blouses because they make it so easy to look casual or more dressy just by folding and unfolding the sleeves.
Fabric is definitely something you should consider especially if you want your tops worn tucked. Soft fabrics such as chiffon are soft and drapey, but they also wrinkle easily. Jersey knits and cottons are sometimes made to be a little stretchy, while knits can vary from fine and light to thicker blends depending on the season. Also, look for subtle but standout details that add visual or textural interest to your top. It can be as simple as tonal bows or ruffled cuffs, bias cuts, pointelle details on knits, lace trim or embellished necklines.
Essential Skirts and Trousers
You certainly have to expand your current collection of jeans to include skirts and trousers, Dani. Adding regular trousers to your closet offers you more options, such as rocking preppy or androgynous looks. You can choose tapered, slim fit, wide-leg or bootcut styles, but do make sure your pants fit your lower half well and have the correct inseam for your height. Nothing looks more unseemly than badly sagging pant cuffs.
With skirts, you’ll find that they pair well with most if not all tops, as I mentioned here. Though you can wear maxi skirts if you want, mini and midi lengths work better for petites. Structured A-line skirts and pencil skirts can transition easily from networking meetups to dinner with friends. Just make sure to choose the right fabrics like cotton, jersey knits, tweeds, synthetics or even lace and Neoprene. Save the denim skirt for the weekends.
Dress for Success
Don’t rule out dresses just yet. It’s a complete outfit and just needs a few extras as finishing touches. Similar to skirts and tops, tailored or structured styles can win the day (and possibly the job) so look for those with defined waistlines, fluid silhouettes like A-lines, and smart and sweet touches such as collar, pleats, pintucks, etc. A belt can do wonders to a simple dress so make sure you have a good selection on standby.
I know it’s approaching summer in Australia so you don’t have to worry about heavy outerwear for now. However, cardigans can come in handy, even if you don’t actually wear them. Dress cardigans, for one, are shorter and hit your waist instead of the hips. For longer versions, you can wrap a skinny belt on top. Don’t forget casual blazers as well as collarless zip or buttoned jackets as these are work wardrobe essentials.
All the best to you, Dani!
P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!