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Shopping for work clothes has its ups and downs. On one end, curating your in-office identity through style can be a creative and even inspiring process—especially if you snag work clothes that can easily transition from the office to a night out. But, on the other, there are a lot of things to consider, including how to balance your style with what is professionally acceptable, comfortability (after all, you’ll be wearing them for most of the day), and quality, since you’ll need to get a lot of wear out of them.
Another tricky thing about shopping for work clothes: So many of us have spent the last couple of years working in our sweatpants at home, so there’s the added factor of figuring out how to dress for work again.
“You might have to tweak and adjust a few things to make it more work-appropriate, but you can easily keep your style at the office by mixing and matching your favorite pieces with more functional items for work,” says celebrity stylist Naz Meknat, adding that finding investment pieces that take you from the office to after-work activities—such as dinner with your significant other or drinks with friends—are key.
Meet the Expert
Naz Meknat is a Los Angeles-based celebrity wardrobe stylist and author. She's worked with celebrities including Sterling K. Brown, Tara Reid, and Nyambi Nyambi, among others.
Regardless of where you are on your work clothes journey, we’ve got you covered. Up ahead, find our curated list of the best work clothes for women, including office wear staples that transcend a variety of personal styles, staple items that are sure to become mainstays in your wardrobe, and investment pieces you can wear on repeat for years to come.
Best Overall: Reformation Kinsale Set
This wouldn’t be a work clothes roundup without the iconic pantsuit. For this category, we looked for a pantsuit with an elevated design that stands the test of time (and trends). This Reformation pantsuit is our pick, thanks to its blend of classic meets modern design with the flattering wide-leg pants and center front buttons on the blazer. On top of that, it’s made from sustainable deadstock fabric, making it a great eco-friendly choice.
Material: Deadstock satin back crepe fabric made with 100% polyester | Size Range: 0-12 | Colors: Black, Ivory
Best Slacks: Spanx The Perfect Pant, Slim Straight
Since you’re spending most of the day in them, you want your slacks to be as comfortable as possible—and we can’t think of a pair of slacks more comfortable than these from Spanx. The best-selling pull-on style pants are made with four-way stretch fabric and available in regular, petite, and tall, with an inclusive range of sizes.
Material: 68% rayon, 28% nylon, 4% elastane (body) 80% polyester, 20% elastane (lining) | Size Range: XS-3X (in regular, petite, and tall) | Colors: Classic Navy, Classic Black
Best Button-Down: Everlane The Silky Cotton Relaxed Shirt
Button-down work shirts can be stiff and unflattering, but this one from Everlane is anything but. Made from 100 percent cotton, the dress shirt has a lived-in feel with a spacious fit so you can dress it up with a pair of slacks or dress it down with work-appropriate jeans.
Material: 100% cotton | Size Range: 00-16 | Colors: Off-White, Black, Pale Blue, Grey/White, Mariner Blue/White, Scarlet
Best Dress: M.M.LaFleur The Dylan Dress - Slinky Knit
If you’re looking for a fitted work dress, we are all about a knit style dress that boasts maximum comfort. This one from MM.LaFleur features a straight, curve-hugging cut in ultra-soft knit ribbed fabric. It’s a dress you’ll want to wear to work with a chic pair of flats and on the weekend with your favorite sneakers. Plus, it's versatile and layerable, so you can wear it year-round.
Material: 71% acetate, 18% polyester, 11% nylon | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Safari, Adriatic Blue, Pearl, Tuscan Yellow
Best Flats: Vince Camuto Elanndo Square Toe Ballet Flat
Ballet flats are a great office shoe on days when you want to dress a little more casual, or need a break from heels. And, with the right pair, you can even dress up a low-maintenance casual Friday look, too. These flats feature a square toe versus the round toe traditionally seen on a ballet flat, giving them a little something extra. Plus, they are made with sleek leather that gives them a more polished feel.
Material: Leather | Size Range: 5-11 | Colors: Lotus Green, Deep Orchid, Black, Beige, Sandstone
Best Loafers: G.H. Bass Whitney Super Lug Basic Weejuns
Loafers are a great investment piece for your office wardrobe since they are always in style. We love these loafers by G.H. Bass because they are a more modern take on the traditional penny loafer design with their extra chunky sole. On top of that, they are available in several colors, making them the perfect vessel for your style.
Material: Leather upper with rubber outsole | Size Range: 5-11 | Colors: Black, Wine, Black/White, White
Best Jeans: Reformation Miami Pleated Trouser Jeans
These days, wearing jeans to work is a lot more acceptable—whether your office participates in casual Fridays or not. The key is to find a pair that fits like a pair of slacks, such as these from Reformation. The high-waisted jeans boast a loose yet flattering fit that features neat pleats to mimic a traditional pair of trousers in a work-safe dark-blue wash. And, as a bonus, they are made from a mix of regenerative and recycled cotton.
Material: 80% regenerative cotton, 20% recycled cotton | Size Range: 23-34 | Color: Tatum
Best Skirt: Eloquii Faux Leather Midi Skirt
Skirts are a fun mix and match item you can wear to the office, whether your dress code is formal or casual. We are obsessed with—read: cannot stop starring at—this faux leather skirt from Eloquii. The skirt is available in classic black with a contour waistband, pockets, and a front slit for added flair.
Material: Vegan faux leather | Size Range: 14-28 | Color: Black
Best Blazer: Theory Oversized Boy Jacket in Good Linen
Every work wardrobe needs a blazer—even if you work in a more casual environment, as it makes for the ideal jacket over slacks, jeans, button-downs, and tees. And, because they have such timeless styles, they make for great investment pieces. This one from Theory is our top pick for this category because of its modern yet timeless design, flattering fit, versatility (you could wear it with literally anything), and a slightly oversized fit for those chillier days when you need to wear with a thick turtleneck or sweater.
Material: 62% linen, 36% viscose, 2% elastane | Size Range: 00-12 | Colors: Black, Butter Yellow, White, Mint, Concord
Best Turtleneck: Athleta Foresthill Merino Wool Ascent Turtleneck
Turtlenecks are a great winter office staple and can be paired with slacks, jeans, skirts—you name it (we even love wearing one under a frilly and flowy dress). Our top pick for the best turtleneck is this one from Athleta, thanks to its slim fit, soft and stretchy fabrication, and inclusive sizing. One thing that makes this turtleneck so great, is that it was designed to double as activewear, so you know it’s super comfy. Plus, it has thumbholes.
Material: Wool and nylon blend | Size Range: XXS-2X | Colors: Black, Walnut Brown, Dark Sky Violet, Chantilly Cream, Decadent Red
Best Cardigan: Caslon Open Front Cardigan
When shopping for work clothes, choosing pieces you can layer is key and cardigans are perhaps one of our favorite layering items. This open-front cardigan from Caslon is available in two office-friendly colors/prints and features a cut that is smart enough to pair with dressier ensembles yet casual enough to get a lot of wear on weekends, too.
Material: 89% polyester, 8% nylon, 3% spandex | Size Range: XS-XXL | Colors: Black, Brown Shiitake/Pink Maggie
Best Polo: Alex Mill Suzanne Ribbed Button Front Polo
The polo shirt is a great choice for business casual, as it can easily go with a pair of high-waisted trousers, skirts, and even some sleek denim. We love this one from Alex Mill because of its soft ribbed texture and elevated spin on the polo collar. Not to mention: It feels more unique compared to other polo tees, thanks to its full button front.
Material: 45% cotton, 35% linen, 20% CiCLO polyester | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Ivory, Navy, Gray
Best Blouse: Polo Ralph Lauren Corset Cotton Mutton-Sleeve Blouse
We’re not going to lie: choosing the best blouse for work was hard since there are so many to select from. Ultimately, we decided that a blouse is a great place to have some fun and tie in the trends, so we landed on this puff sleeve Polo Ralph Lauren top. The corset-style blouse has a structural fit that can easily be dressed up or down, depending on your office dress code.
Material: 100% cotton | Size Range: 00-18 | Color: White
Best Coat: Everlane The Long Mac Coat
A classic trench coat is a must for all work wardrobes as it pairs well with virtually any office attire. And, our top pick for this category is this Long Mac Coat from Everlane. We love the modern and feminine spin on a timeless office design, its versatility, and eco-friendly fabrication. Additionally, it’s a design you’ll feel good about investing in as you’re sure to wear it often.
Material: 100% cotton with 100% recycled polyester lining | Size Range: XXS-XL | Colors: Toasted Coconut, Stone, Pewter Green
Best Heels: Margaux The Heel
Work heels are tricky because you want something that feels formal yet comfortable. For this category, we landed on these heels from Margaux because everything just felt right. The style is a classic, the height is accessible, and the blocked heel makes it more universal for both formal and casual wear (imagine these with a pair of slim-fit jeans and a white button-down—swoon!). Not to mention: They are made to last with high-quality materials, including Italian suede and leather.
Material: Italian suede upper and leather lining | Size Range: 33-45 | Colors: Black, Cacao, Leopard, Midnight, Steel +more
Best Socks: Richer Poorer Blanket Socks
Richer Poorer is one of our favorite places to shop for work socks, as the brand has tons of great options that feel work-friendly yet fun. We selected these Blanket Socks for this category because socks are a great place to add some personality—and these have a subtle flair to them but aren't super over-the-top. They would also look great with a pair of loafers or clogs. Additionally, these are made with a fabric called Silver Lining, which is a blend of silver fibers to keep naturally occurring odors at bay.
Material: Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and wool | Size Range: One size | Colors: Bone, Black
Best Jumpsuit: M.M.LaFleur The Carr Jumpsuit
Jumpsuits are great for all occasions, including the office. For this category, we were all about finding a jumpsuit that has some structure to it, giving it a smarter appeal. We landed on this one from M.M.LaFleur because it has a structural utility meets casual-cool vibe. We also love how you can wear the sleeves down for more formal settings, and then roll them up if you want to keep it more casual. And, the added drawstring helps tie the look together by creating a more purposeful fit.
Material: 100% organic cotton | Size Range: XS-XXL | Color: Sepia
What to Look for When Shopping for Work Clothes
The industry you work in
“The most important thing to consider is the industry you work in,” says Meknat, noting how different industries will help determine how formal or informal your workwear should be. According to Meknat, you’ll want to consider whether your work environment is casual or formal, if you have to meet with clients and attend meetings or if you spend most of your time behind a desk, and how active you are at work (which would require more comfortable, stretchy fabrics).
Your personal style
“Our style and the way we present ourselves to the world is the first impression others will have of us,” says Meknat. “Therefore, it’s important to wear clothes and accessories that authentically represent us and our individuality,” she adds. While in a professional setting, you don’t need to let go of your style and individuality—you just need to find pieces that feel appropriate for work while also feeling true to you.
What is smart casual dress code for work?
“Smart casual dress code could be a pair of tailored pants and a nice sweater or button-down shirt with no third piece, like a blazer, or it could be dark denim, a silk shirt, and a jacket,” Meknat explains. “It can also be a below-the-knee shirt dress in a neutral color." When dressing for a smart casual dress code, Meknat recommends ditching the jacket or cardigan since the third piece usually makes an outfit more formal.
What kind of dresses are appropriate for work?
“While it depends on what kind of work you do, there are a few styles of dresses that are best for the work environment,” says Meknat. “If you work in a fashion industry, you could be more playful and trendy with your dress options, but for someone who works in a law office or a school, it might be more appropriate to go with a more classic and conservative style." She notes how, in general, a sheath dress is a great choice for work. “A sheath dress that hits right below the knee with a higher neckline is the safest way to dress for an office,” she explains. In addition to sheath dresses, wrap dresses, a belted shirt dress, or a tweed column dress in the right length are also great work-friendly choices.
Why Trust Byrdie
Contributing writer Jessie Quinn has a bachelor's degree in fashion journalism. From working in the fashion closet and interviewing designers at NYLON to now writing about the best style trends for various publications, Jessie researches and sources the best fashion finds. When researching the best work clothes for women, Jessie searched high and low for staple pieces that fit a variety of styles (and office environments), could easily be mixed and matched, and felt more elevated compared to some traditional workwear options.