With the sunset of summer now a faded memory, many of us think of fall fashion. For me, the feeling of “back to school” returns each September and I have fond memories of packing away summer clothing and pulling out fall pieces to sift through, before heading out to shop with my mom for my “first day of school outfit” (which was just as exciting as the brand new package of pencil crayons and schoolbag)!
By this point in time, as middle-aged professional women, our closets contain many stand alone pieces, and many we no longer wear but don’t want to part with. With a new season (and of course a good sale), we tend to keep adding without concentrating on clearing out and keeping it simple. So, over the last few weeks and in the spirit of “back to school”, I decided to take a deep dive into my “back to work wear” with the focus of “basics” and “quality versus quantity”.
The process involved pulling everything out of my closet, identifying:
- “what do I need?”
- “what do I keep?” and
- “which pieces should I retire that still have some life left, and could be given to a charitable organization supporting women entering back into the workforce?”
After my initial purge, I contacted Simmie Globerman at Danali (one of my favourite local boutiques), who took my gently used items and forwarded them to the women’s charity, The Clothes Closet, helped me review the remainder of my closet, and completed the task with suggestions for new staple pieces. After a few visits, I can confidently say success was achieved! I have fall workwear that is simple and basic, with quality pieces that can easily be mixed and matched, transitioned to winter, AND a closet that consists of “less is more”… mission accomplished!
I was so thrilled with the process, and the honest and knowledgable support provided by the team at Danali, that I asked Simmie if she would share her insight with all of you. She was happy to!
What staple “workwear” pieces should every professional woman have in her closet?
- A black or navy 3 piece suit (blazer, pant and skirt) in a lightweight wool fabric that can be worn year round,
- a white silk blouse or cotton button down shirt,
- a neutral cardigan,
- a dress that is either just above the knee or just below, and
- a pair of black pumps.
How could these pieces be interchanged, or mixed and matched?
- A black blazer is versatile and can be paired to pieces you already have in your closet, such as a houndstooth or plaid pant.
- A cotton button down shirt would work nicely under a dress or sweater.
- A skirt can be paired with a knit sweater for a daytime look as well.
From an office day to an evening out?
The great thing about a black suit is that it can be worn into the evening. The quickest way to change up the look would be to switch the blouse to something a little more fun and flirty with either the pant or skirt (blazer optional). Add a higher heel or strappy sandal, an evening clutch, and some jewelry to complete your look (don’t forget a bright lipstick on your way out the door).
Considering fall is a shoulder season, what pieces can easily transition into winter work staples?
The benefit to buying a lightweight wool suit is that it can be worn year round. On those really cold days you can wear a thicker tight and opt for a dressy boot instead of a pump. Layering a white collared shirt underneath a light sweater with or without your blazer will keep you extra warm on those cold winter days.
How do you know when it is time to pass your pieces along?
First and foremost, if you haven’t worn it in the last year, it’s time to donate. As well, any piece that has lost its shape or is not fitting you properly anymore. If your suiting is starting to get a sheen to it, that means it has been well loved and now its time to be replaced.
What are some fall trends that can easily be mixed into staples for some fun?
As far as trends go, I always suggest dressing for your body. A big trend we are seeing this fall is a cropped flare pant/jean which would look cute with your black blazer. We are seeing a lot of cropped boxy sweaters which would pair nicely with your black pencil skirt. Adding pops of colour will always refresh what you currently have in your wardrobe.
It remains important to me to not only support local boutiques as much as possible, but to also ensure the pieces I purchase are ethically made. I’ve become fond of the Canadian brand Judith and Charles as well as Part Two out of Denmark throughout this process with Simmie and the Danali team.
And, as Thrive Global’s Arianna Huffington states in her #stylerepeats campaign, remember you can wear the same outfit more than once. It’s not sustainable to wear clothing items only a few times, nor are “one hit wonder” items sending the right message to the next generation. The right staples will last for years and help you feel great every time you wear them.
While personal shopping may seem indulgent, it creates an enjoyable relationship that lends value time and time again, and keeps your closet lean with quality items. Explore your style a little, and enjoy the benefits of a timeless wardrobe at your favourite local shops. Because at this stage in life, everything we touch and do speaks to the quality of our lives, and we’ve worked hard for it. And…because we can!
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Photos: Casey Nolin Photography