Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Core Items for Women, Both Work-from-Home and Post-Career?

Two reader questions: 

As I recall, last year around this time there was a reader question concerning core wardrobe for men. As I am currently, reassessing my wardrobe for replacements and additions (for post-career purposes), I would love to see the readers make a list for the ladies. Sources are always a welcome addition. Thank you for such an enjoyable blog and for sharing my question with the community. 



Hi Muffy, 

I have been holding off purchases for my professional wardrobe, but enough!  I want to refresh my outfits.  I am an early-thirties (maybe more mid-thirtiesđŸ˜‰) women who spends about two hours a day on zoom calls, and had just starting making some office trips for meetings and business lunches at outdoor seating restaurants before Delta.  Pre-pandemic, my office was on the formal side of business casual.  But now this seems a little too much compared to what I am seeing on these calls.  I want to strike the right balance and any suggestions from your readers for wardrobe staples would be helpful.




  1. My late mother always dressed in chinos, an ocbd shirt (short sleeved polo shirt in Mexico), and leather flats. Every day for the last 30 years of so of her life. Pearls, earrings, and her hair pulled back in a ponytail completed the picture. A navy blazer or sports jacket for more formal daytime meetings or lunches and, when in Mexico, a lighter weight sundress for evenings out at a restaurant or party. And always sunglasses. Either on her head, or over her eyes when the sun was out. She always looked very pulled together and yet casual.

    Best Regards,


  2. I love the "Sophie" open-front sweater-blazer from JCrew (actually on sale right now). I have it in tan and black. It is made from a sweater-like material, but is also structured, and goes with anything. I wear it when I want to look more "pulled together" for a Zoom call. But you can also dress it down - I've also worn it to my son's (outdoor) sporting events in the fall. I feel like it's a just right in-between piece to bridge any gap.

  3. I find that slim pants in a variety of colors pair well with a boat-neck tee or turtleneck. I love my Kiki jackets from Ann Mashburn--great for Zoom calls or in-person meetings, or even with jeans if running to the store. They are definitely a lifelong item and a good investment. I almost exclusively wear my Stubbs & Woottons and find they are appropriate for almost any occasion, from formal to informal.

  4. The perfect picture of simple elegance! The perfect look, that looks effortless! Thank you!

  5. These are great questions. I work from home, mid-to-late 40s, female, and I'm very almost stumped as to how to keep the sartorial end of things together when under usual circumstances it felt easy. Please ladies and gentlemen, as many responses to these questions as you can muster!

  6. I only participate in about 3 zoom calls a week and, after trial and error during the past year, I have discovered that a basic solid top works (usually navy or black) for everything. It's inconspicuous and nobody has ever commented that I seem to wear a similar top each time. Nobody notices or cares, and it's so easy.

    As for going out into the world again, my advice is ~ less is more. Simplify! Buy the basics.

    When I was younger, I made the mistake of buying every pretty thing that fit me. Mistake! My closet got out of control. Now that I've minimized, I go for simple classics and do a bit of mix and matching. Not sure if this is what you were wanting, but I find it helps to build a new wardrobe slowly. Happy shopping!

  7. You can never go wrong if you stick to classic designs in colors that flatter you. Alas, I must also add, in the correct size as it seems that wearing clothing that is too short and too tight is all the rage but it looks ridiculous. If you cannot move or bend without revealing too much, then please, size up. This applies to the gentlemen as well (I am so weary of tight suits and shirts!) I love the way a blazer, jacket or scarf can add polish to a basic crew or turtleneck. Talbot’s merino wool blazers and their Glen Plaid blazer are my cool weather staples, and BB’s coral seersucker blazer for warmer temps. A cotton button up cardigan with a scarf is easy and versatile, straight skirts and shift dresses are elegant without being overtly so. Following trends is disposable fashion that will disappoint so stick with timeless styles.

  8. One final thought… if you wouldn’t wear it live and in-person, then please don’t wear it on Zoom. Dress appropriately regardless.

  9. My wife dresses herself chiefly with things from Talbots, but I have gotten her some things from Johnny Was that she really likes. It is a bit of a hippie era throwback look but so well done that it pairs beautifully with prep.

  10. I believe classics are the only way to go, anything else looks like a costume. If you aren’t certain what is right, stick with clothing from Talbots. My question is what do people think about slacks that are other than navy, black, tan, khaki, or brown…plaid, tweed and houndstooth aside.

  11. I’m also a big fan of Talbots, especially for pants and blazers. I often add silk scarves over merino or cashmere sweaters or an ocbd, especially when it’s too warm for a blazer.

    As for sources, I’ve had a lot of luck with consignment websites like Poshmark for finding quality items at a fraction of the retail price.

  12. Since I've been working mostly remotely since COVID hit, my work wardrobe is similar to what I'd wear on weekends - cashmere sweater, (crewneck or turtleneck), or Ralph Lauren OCBD with corduroy trousers or dark-wash barely-bootcut jeans, and leather or suede ballet flats. In summer it's polo shirts (Ralph Lauren or LLBean), sleeveless "perfect shirts" from Talbots worn mostly with chinos, or a maxi skirt and v-neck cotton tee, all worn with leather sandals with varying heel heights. I work for an international non-profit, and when on a Zoom or MS Teams meeting with overseas colleagues, then I dress like I do when in the brick-and-mortar office, blazer (I'm petite, so prefer a shawl-collar blazer), skirt or trousers, and leather or suede plain 3-inch heel pumps. Silk jewel neck or bow-neck blouses or a plain, flat-knit cotton sweater will all work with either the blazer-and-skirt combo or a matched suit. A silk scarf can add extra punch to the more casual looks, and a simple 18" strand of pearls looks great dressed up or down. Much of my work wardrobe used to come from Talbots as they always offered nice suit separates, but sadly the past few years they have been offering more trendy items that I don't like at all, plus their quality is taking a nosedive. The cotton "perfect shirts" are one of the few exceptions; they still have a great fit and hold up well.


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