What to Wear to Go Back to Work


(Disclaimer: Don’t hate me for saying “work.” I know that we all work. Wherever you are and whatever you do for work, it is still work. But “work” is easier to say than “working outside the home at a paying job that requires you to dress up a bit.”)

If you’ve spent the last few years in yoga pants and college sweatshirts, this is going to hurt a little bit: You can’t wear those to work. I checked, and, unless you work from home and never see anyone, there isn’t a decent job out there with that kind of dress code. Sad, but true. So how do you transition your laid-back at-home wardrobe to a more professional, business casual wardrobe? Well, you take it step by step, following much the same formula you use for temporary transitions, like weight loss/gain and pregnancy.

Assess What You Have + Set a Budget + Buy Core Capsule Pieces = Work Wardrobe

Here, how to break down this process so that it works for you!

1. Assess What You Have

Chances are, no matter how casual your lifestyle has been, you have a few work-worthy pieces in your closet, collecting dust. Take them out, shake them off and make sure they all still fit and that you still love them. This is your Starter Capsule Wardrobe. This sample wardrobe is a mishmash of colors and patterns, like many of our actual wardrobes, but with a few steps, we can make everything work together.


2. Set a Budget

Yes, I’m using the B-word again, but it’s important to have a ballpark of what you would like to spend on to get started. If your budget is very limited, start with dark colored solid bottoms, then add a jacket, if one is appropriate for your workplace, and then a dress and tops. Unlike a temporary transitional wardrobe, look at these pieces as long term investments that will form the foundation of your professional wardrobe. Don’t be limited by your budget. You can find amazing quality items at hrift stores, online consignment stores (more on these coming up!), flash sales, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, and outlets.

3. Buy Core Capsule Pieces

If you’ve been following these posts, you’ll know that I talk about these pieces a lot, and that’s because they are really the gap-fillers in almost any wardrobe. These are the pieces that make everything else work well together. With a business casual wardrobe in mind, the core capsule pieces I would focus on include: black woven or knit (ponte) pants, jacket, and skirt; black dress; assorted tees and shells. I also chose blue (which already appeared in the starter wardrobe) and added solid pieces in cobalt. Here’s how these 11  new pieces combine to turn this hodge-podge collection of clothes into a stylish business casual capsule wardrobe.


Now that you have assembled your business casual work capsule wardrobe, use my start-from-scratch accessories wardrobe (or your own accessories) to create multiple outfits. You’ll be amazed at how the addition of accessories stretches your whole wardrobe. Here are some examples using this wardrobe combined with the accessories to create multiple combinations. (Because this is a professional wardrobe, I switched out a couple of pairs of shoes from my accessories wardrobe for more work-friendly options, but kept the number the same). Here is the result:


I hope this systematic, step-by-step process of transforming your wardrobe from casual to work-worthy was helpful to you! Transitional wardrobes, whether the result of pregnancy, weight loss/gain, or a change in lifestyle take focus and a little planning, but the result is an effortless wardrobe that makes the most of your existing wardrobe and your budget.


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