Whether you’re looking to move up the corporate ladder or land your dream job, it’s important to look the part. And those disposable discount buys—that peeling “leather” purse and boxy, too-short suit—simply aren’t going to cut it. Not to mention, investing in some higher-end products that will last for years will save you money in the long run.
1. A SUIT
You’re a grown-up now, it’s time you traded that ill-fitting suit you wore to your cousin’s wedding for a classic, tailored version. A good suit in a neutral color—charcoal, navy, or black—can take you from a job interview to a business conference to a formal event (you need only switch out your accessories). Skip the discount stores and buy your suit at a store with knowledgable sales associates who can help you find the perfect fit.
Women who don’t work in a field, such as law or finance, that regularly requires them to wear a suit would be wise to invest in a high quality blazer, again, in a neutral color. Slip a blazer on over a shift dress or blouse and pencil skirt and you can confidently tackle that big presentation or important client meeting. Throw it on over jeans and a tee and you’re ready for date night.
2. NEUTRAL PUMPS
Now that you—and your joints—are getting older, comfort should be a top priority when it comes to footwear. For ladies, this means investing in a pair of well-made, high quality high heels. Look for proper arch support (or add a gel insert), a sturdy heel of walkable height, and a non-slip sole. And go for a color that can easily mix-and-match with your wardrobe, such as black or nude. By all means, score a deal on those trendy neon strappy sandals, but when it comes to day-to-night pumps, it’s worth shelling out for a more durable product.
3. A GROWN-UP BAG
It’s time you retire your college backpack. Every young professional should have a go-to bag that is as chic as it is functional, be it a briefcase, messenger bag, tote, or (hole-free) backpack. And you don’t need a designer label to make a statement; a classic shape made from durable materials will make you look polished and put-together. If leather isn’t your thing, there are many high-quality faux leather options available, or look for weather-resistant canvas or nylon.
4. A TRENCH COAT
A classic trench will never go out of style, so it’s a good idea for both men and women to invest in one that’s able to weather any storm. You don’t need to splurge on that tell-tale plaid lining, but choose one made of quality cotton (rather than synthetic materials) that hits at the right length. If your trench is too long or wide— especially if you’re a woman wearing a skirt—you can risk looking like a streaker.
5. A MODEST BLACK DRESS
Should a friend or family member pass away, the last thing you want to worry about is what to wear to the funeral. If you’ve invested in a dark-colored suit, you’re covered. If not, women should purchase a modest black dress—not too short, form-fitting, or low-cut—to keep in the back of their closets. This way, you can focus on those closest to you in their time of need, not the dress code.
6. A WELL-FITTING BRA
If you haven’t been fitted for a bra since middle school, you’re way past due for a check-up. Stifle your embarrassment and head to a department or specialty store to get measured by a professional; a bra that fits properly will not only help with back and shoulder pain, but will make you appear slimmer.
7. LEATHER (OR HIGH QUALITY FAUX LEATHER) BOOTS
Stop buying a new pair of riding boots every year. Even cheaply-made leather and faux leather boots come with a sizable price tag, so it’s worth it to bite the bullet, spend the extra hundred dollars, and invest in a well-made pair—we promise, you’ll save in the long run. If your boots have a leather sole, bring your boots to your local cobbler and have him add a rubber sole; this will make them more weatherproof and add to their lifespan. Follow-up visits once a year for re-soling and buffing will keep your boots looking brand new.
8. A GOOD PAIR OF BLUE JEANS
We’re not saying break the bank for the pair of blue jeans you wear while gardening and walking the dog, but it’s worth it to pay a little extra for the perfect pair of jeans. As with most items on this list, they’ll not only last you longer, but a great fit will give you an extra boost of confidence. Invest the time, if not the money, in shopping around and finding the pair that’s best for your shape.
9. A CASHMERE SWEATER (OR TWO, OR THREE)
If the sweater you’re considering buying looks like it would go up in flames should you stand too close to the radiator, put it down and back away slowly. Cashmere is not only one of the softest textiles, it’ll also keep you toasty warm in the winter (or in your office’s frigid air conditioning). Trust us, a few of these bad boys in your closet are well worth the dry cleaning bill.