Is There Really an Essential Business Wardrobe for Every Woman?

Essential Work Wardrobe for Every Woman

Two truths you should know and 2 items you should consider.

 

If you subscribe to fashion listings or read fashion magazines or follow fashion on twitter, you may feel saturated by claims of “X essential pieces for women,” “the X basic pieces ALL women SHOULD have,” and its different variations.

Needless to say, these proposals touch a very deep cord, as our wellbeing is related to how we look, and how much and what kind of energy it takes us to decide what to wear, and what we need to feel and look good.

“What and how many are the essential pieces every woman needs in her work wardrobe?” A response to this question is undoubtedly attractive, as it carries the promise of saving time, mental energy and space in our cluttered closets.

But when you look at these proposals, don’t you feel they are not quite—or not at all—for you?

I don’t know about you, but I distrust sweeping and homogenizing generalizations (without qualifications). They do not consider the individuality of each woman.

In the best cases, we disregard them and don’t care; in the worst (and unfortunately very common) cases, we feel badly, a sense of inadequacy, of not fitting in (pun super-intended).

So what should we consider when thinking about essential work wear pieces?

Truth Nº 1: There is no universal essential wardrobe because every woman is unique.

The essential wardrobe is a construction that assumes a particular type of woman, without regards for the diversity of women's positions, personality, aspirations, values, personalities and body type(and geography!). And this proposed wardrobe may not reflect who you are.

I couldn’t agree more with Iris Apfel, style and individuality icon, when she says that “The greatest fashion faux pas is looking at the mirror and seeing someone else.” The business world expects women to dress formally in a palette of “conservative” solid colors, but your personality may call for more vibrant hues and styles within the dress code (if required).

Truth N-2: It is possible to think about “partial” “functional” wardrobes that are adequate for similar work contexts.

What industry are you in, and what kind of work do you do? Are there any dress codes?

Similar work contexts may then have a core of basic pieces. If you are in a formal to semi-formal profession (lawyers, accountants, for example), you may need a suit, and a few blouses to pair with pants or skirts. But that’s about it.

Your “homework” is first to ask yourself whether you only want a functional wardrobe, or whether you want a wardrobe that expresses something uniquely yours.

Having proclaimed these two truths (I am just making fun of myself given my distrust for oversweeping generalizations), there are two great items that almost every woman can make hers (note the ‘almost’).

Next- The two great items for almost every woman

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About the author

Mara Kolesas

Mara Kolesas, Ph.D., is a style with substance expert, based in Berkeley, CA, who provides intelligent styling for professionals. She grew up in Buenos Aires where she breathed style from an early age. She went on to a career in political science, studying for a doctorate in New York City, and later lived in Florence, Rome, Berlin and Beirut, where she pursued my two passions: she studied and promoted citizen empowerment, diversity and inclusion, and she explored small boutiques, helping friends find outfits that gave them joy and confidence. Along with her artistic eye and knowledge of fashion, she brings analytical and social expertise to a field with superficial associations. 

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