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Work it! Seven Wardrobe Must-Haves for Every Young Professional

By Alison Rockwell

Published September 5, 2018 • 5 Min Read

Top fashion houses may be pushing the utilitarian trend (this season), but we are (thankfully) still a long way off from a nation of universal unisex jumpsuit-wearing workers. On the flip side, disposable fashion — think inexpensive, high-trend-turnover retail brands — offers quick style hits that generally only last a season or two. What’s a well-intentioned young professional on a budget supposed to do when it comes to dressing for your career?

Invest in some basic wardrobe items that provide a strong base for years to come, even in an ever-changing world of style.


We’ll keep this brief. Regardless of your gender, all of us (hopefully?) wear undergarments of some sort. Properly fitting “foundation garments” impact your comfort, style, and the overall look of every item layered on top of this base level. For brassiere-wearing workers, for example, getting properly sized is an absolute necessity. For those questioning a similar investment in the rebuild of their underwear drawer with a worn collection of college-day unmentionables, think of it this way: success is typically built from the bottom up.


Colourful, whimsical, ironic, inspired, socks (Edvard Munch’s Scream-themed version have always been a fave) continue to have their moment for both men and women. It’s now viscerally disappointing to look down at your lunch companion’s ankles only to see a pair of plain and anonymous black/grey/brown socks. Step up your style game and invest in several cool collections for the days you dress up. They don’t come cheap, so as boring as it may seem to those that love you — put style-forward socks on your wish list for birthdays and holidays.


Worn alone, with eye-catching jewelry, under a jacket / hip hoody, or paired with a fine pair of dress trousers or a skirt, the t-shirt has become a versatile wardrobe go-to. It also is the perfect example of, “You get what you pay for.” Yes, the basic 3-pack brands are still available at discount stores, and you can buy some flash trend options with high-style embellishments — that will fall out of your favour after one season — but for a wardrobe go-to that will always fit well, splurge a little, or a lot, on a well-crafted, well-made tee (or two.)

Black Pants / Trousers

Depending on how relaxed your office vibe is, the type of black dress pant/trouser will vary. Whether it’s a classic wool, a crisp cotton Brooks-Brothers (for men or women) pair, or a pair of black skinny jeans, the black pant will be repurposed many times over a couple weeks of work. It’s also a dead giveaway when you save verses splurge; from piling, to shrinking, to having seams come apart. If you pro-rate the number of days you’ll pull this basic bottom out of your closet, you shouldn’t have any angst about the initial outlay required from your hard earned stash of cash.


Some corporate cultures are casual all-day, every day. Some offer casual Fridays — a nod to try and satisfy a young workforce with colleagues who have more relaxed work environments. Other workplaces discourage denim except for the annual corporate offsite. Whatever the policy you work under, possessing office-appropriate jeans should be a priority. This pair should be more sedate than the ones you’d typically choose heading to a concert or a raucous house party where you play beer pong for hours. Rip-free, not too tight and without any studded embellishments are the keys to carrying off a great pair of work-appropriate jeans.


Canadian label Smythe made a name for themselves re-imaging the flattering cut (largely for their female customer) of the one item most likely to be found in any career professionals’ closet: the blazer. While your budget or fashion sense may not stretch to fit their high-end line, it is worth being inspired by the concept that a jacket — whether you are a man or a woman — should flatter, not simply act as a cover for the garment underneath. If you decide to purchase a middle-of-the-road price point option, consider investing some additional dollars and take it to a tailor who can alter it almost to the point of being bespoke, without the associated price point.

Winter Jacket

Few things you will loathe more at the end of March than the sight of your winter coat, having essentially worn it day in and out for months (and months) on end. It now represents everything infuriating about the unrelenting cold, sleet and ice of our Canadian winters. At the start each season, however, there can be the rekindling of your deep love affair with said coat, the one you were wise enough to talk yourself into purchasing. The expectation at the time was that its modern-yet-timeless design would serve you well for at least a couple years to come. And you were right.

Now that you’re looking fresh, brush up on these interview questions to WOW your future employer!

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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