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8 Pieces, 13 Outfits: How to Build a Starter Wardrobe for Work

If I could travel back in time to the first time I bought work clothes, these are the pieces I’d get.

By Madeleine Kim

You’ve passed your finals, secured your diploma, and landed the job. Congrats! Now, the only question is: What are you going to wear to the office? 

Building a work wardrobe from scratch can feel daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. This summer, we’re offering special complimentary styling appointments for recent graduates, both in-store and over Zoom. Book your appointment now to determine which pieces to invest in first and develop outfit formulas geared toward your personal style and professional industry. Plus, save 20% on full-price items with a valid student ID.

What makes a successful starter wardrobe? The key is to prioritize versatile pieces that maximize the number of outfit combinations you can create. Neutral colors are your friends, as are items that can be styled many different ways (think: a button-down shirt that doubles as a lightweight jacket). This doesn’t mean your work wardrobe has to be boring. Incorporate texture, experiment with styling, and have fun with accessories to infuse your mix-and-match pieces with personality. 

If I could travel back in time to the first time I bought work clothes, here are the pieces I’d get—and the outfits I’d create with them.

  1. The Mila shirt: A timeless, crisp white button-down with pinstripes for extra polish. 
  2. The Smith pants: Classic straight-leg trousers that are comfortable enough to wear all day. (If you prefer more flare, try the Horton pants.)
  3. The Lisey cami: A 100%-silk layering tank that’s machine-washable.
  4. The Pepper dress: An elegant, summer-ready shirtdress that doubles as a fashion-forward chambray trench.
  5. The Merritt jardigan: The structure of a jacket combined with the stretch and ease of a cardigan. Try it in our ribbed navy-and-ivory knit for a more casual, slightly denim-esque look.
  6. The Milo jeans: Our stretchier, more elevated take on denim. With the right styling, these comfy jeans read as trousers. (If you like a straight-leg cut, try the Daria jeans.)
  7. The Maaza dress: An easy, endlessly style-able shift dress made from our machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant OrigamiTech fabric.
  8. The Oval Buckle belt: A styling essential in a rich olive hue that goes with everything.

Outfit 1

While it may not be your first instinct, buttoning the Mila shirt all the way to the top makes you look extra put-together. Try tucking it into the Smith pants and adding accessories like a belt and boots (I’m wearing an old Jeffrey Campbell pair) for a Western-inspired office look. I’m also wearing gold coin earrings I picked up in Greece (similar: Etsy).

Outfit 2

With those same essential pieces—the Mila shirt and Smith pants—you can also create a much more relaxed work outfit. Just add the Lisey cami, lose the belt, and wear the shirt unbuttoned. Instead of the boots, I’ve swapped in a pair of mesh sandals from Shop-Pêche for a touch of whimsy.

Outfit 3

There’s a myth out there that you can’t mix black and navy—not the case! It’s an endlessly versatile pairing, and throwing some camel in the mix just makes the palette that much more dynamic. Wear the Merritt jardigan and Smith pants with loafers and gold jewelry for a look that’s understated yet interesting.

Outfit 4

Get more mileage out of those same pieces with a few simple styling tweaks: Remove the Merritt jardigan’s sash to show off the Lisey cami and swap your loafers for platform sneakers.

Outfit 5

Relying on light neutrals is a simple way to look chic. In this outfit, I love how the warm-toned Milo jeans create a subtle contrast with the brighter white of the Mila shirt. Against the light backdrop, the black Lisey cami functions almost like a pop of color. Loafers and a belt complete the look.

Outfit 6

Take that same outfit but swap in the Merritt jardigan, and you have a whole new look. Textural brown sandals (similar: Carter slides) keep the ensemble feeling summer-ready.

Outfit 7

To make the above outfit a bit more formal, replace the Lisey cami with the Mila shirt. I’ve left it untucked to play up the fashion-forward, oversized vibe, but you could also tuck it in for a more traditional look.

Outfit 8

The Pepper dress is ultra sophisticated, but its laid-back chambray fabric stops it from feeling like occasion-wear. Just add sandals and earrings, and you’re ready to go.

Outfit 9

For a look that’s fashion-forward but still professional, try wearing the Pepper dress unbuttoned over pants—almost like a lightweight chambray trench. The black Lisey cami and tusk Milo jeans create a color-blocking moment, and pearl jewelry (like this necklace from Ana Luisa) pulls the palette together.

Outfit 10

Everyone loves a good LBD—especially when it’s easy-care, lightweight, and ultra comfortable. The Maaza dress fits the bill and can be dressed up or down depending on how formal your office is. Here, I’ve styled elevated it with heeled sandals and jewelry, but you could also try sneakers and a baseball cap for a more casual look.

Outfit 11

For a business-casual look with a twist, pair the Maaza dress with the ribbed Merritt jardigan and mesh sandals. Silhouette-wise, this look is quite classic, but the textures of the jardigan and sandals stop it from feeling overly corporate.

Outfit 12

Switch things up just a little by un-belting the jardigan and adding a sharp pair of loafers.

Outfit 13

Two dresses are better than one. Top the Maaza dress with the Pepper dress for some dramatic proportion play. The knit Lana boots add height and extra glamor.

Want to build your starter work wardrobe with help from an expert stylist? Book your complimentary appointment here and bring a valid student ID to save 20% on your purchase of full-price pieces.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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