The Life of Bon: Professional Wardrobe essentials

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Professional Wardrobe essentials

I know the picture on the right is terrible quality.  I thought I could take it with my camera phone and zoom in later.  So naive.  The picture quality is terrible, but I still thought it worth showing the outfit, so whatevs.  Deal with a crappy picture.

Picture #1:  Cardigan: Gap Outlet, Striped Tee: H&M, Skirt: Express, Tights: Forever 21, Flats: Gap Outlet (Similar here)
Picture #2:  Blouse: Forever 21, (Similar here) Skirt: Forever 21, (Right now the only color skirts available are black and gray, but they change their colors constantly.  These skirts are only $7 so I have it in about four colors) Tights: Target, (Hard to see, but the tights are nude fishnets.  I wear them with EVERYTHING) Boots: Macys (Similar here)

(DISCLAIMER:  Originally this was supposed to be a "What I Wore + What we did in class" and then the "What I Wore" part just kind of took over, like some kind of bad fungus.  I'll post what we did in class next week.  Also, I don't know that I have ever dedicated an entire blog post to clothes, and I am a little embarrassed to now as my love for clothes is one of the more vain and unawesome things about me, but whatever.  It is what it is.  As discovered tonight, I can talk about clothes for a long time.)

It is tough to find cute, professional looking clothes without breaking the bank.  Sure, J. Crew and Banana Republic got plenty of drool worthy merchandise, but I can never justify spending that much money on my clothes.  I have found the trick is to get a few expensive "staples" and supplement the rest with cheapo skirts and blouses from Forever 21 and Target and call it a day!  Here's my basic "professional wardrobe" breakdown.


Wardrobe Essentials that are worth the splurge:
Dress pants.  I get all of mine from Express.  They're around $80 a pair normally, but you can almost always find a sale to get them cheaper.  Right now Express is giving $30 off if you spend $75, and their pants are also buy one get one 50% off.  Combine the deals and you spend $45 per pair of pants instead of $80.  It's still expensive to me, but it's worth it because the pants are not frumpy, easy to clean, and last forever.  I love the "Columnist" pant- they are almost more of a skinny pant and they give nice shape to your rump and legs.  I also have a few pairs of "Editor" pants, but they flare out too much at the bottom for me.  I ain't tall enough to pull that shiz off.

White button up shirt:  I paid $50 at Banana Republic for a beautiful white button up my first year of teaching and I have used it ever since.  My only regret is that I didn't get the non wrinkle verzion- the only thing that ever prevents me from wearing this is I'm too lazy to iron it.  Still, I say it's way worth the $50 as it's a total staple and I use it often.

Black pencil skirt:  I bought mine from Express, and I think I spent about $60 on it.  That was four years ago.  The zipper doesn't go up all the way anymore without sucking in, (oops!) but other than that it is in perfect condition.  I wear this probably at least once a week.  It does not look worn or faded at all even though I've probably washed it 100 times.  Worth the money for sure!

Items you should have a lot of:
Flats:  As a teacher it's pretty hard to wear heels all day, but I still want to look professional.  That is why I have about 20 pairs of flats.  I try to never pay more than $20 for flats, and because I buy them cheap I let myself buy a lot. (Greg is unaware of this little deal I have made with myself.)  About every store sells them and you can find them in any color or pattern.  I have a red pair and purple pair that get WAY more use than I would ever think.  Whenever my outfit is in muted colors I wear bright flats and it helps to brighten the whole outfit. (I'm a freaking genius, I know!)  My all time favorite place to get flats is called Forever Young.   They have so much variety, the flats run around $20 a pair and I've never seen the store not have a buy one get one half off sale going on, meaning the flats are only $15 each.   If you are local there is a store in the University Mall.  They don't have an online site so I don't know what to tell the rest of you.

Gap Outlet has great flats (I scored a couple of pairs for $8 each in October.  You just gotta hit the sales!) and Target can really surprise me with their flat selection as well, although they can be a bit overpriced.

Tights:  This is a winter necessity if you live in cold weathered areas.  I don't like wearing pants all the time to work, (something about skirts makes me feel like I'm the boss!) but there is no way I'm going bare legged in the winter.  The solution is tights.  My nude fishnets are perfect for any hard-to-match outfit and I have found navy tights to be pretty much essential as well.  I've got black stripes, black fishnets, black eyelets, etc. Bright colored tights can be way fun too, but it's harder for me to figure out colors- I'm always going way too loud with them.  I have a red pair that's just been sitting in my drawer for two months while I figure out how to wear them.

The tight queen is Forever21.  They easily have the best selection and best prices.  Their tights get runs very easily though, so beware.  As soon as you take your shoes off, take your tights off!  Target's tights are a bit more expensive and they have less variety, but they last longer.  And I'm sure you could always spend $30 for a pair of tights at Nordstrom, but I like to keep mine in the $5-8 range.  I'm certainly not going to blow my retirement on tights!

Cardigans:  Again, this is probably more specific to cold weathered places, but I feel like almost any outfit can have a cardigan thrown over it and then if you need to take it off during the day, take it off!  Cardigans are perfect for layering and for when it's 7 degrees outside but in a room with 40 horny seventeen year olds it's 83 degrees.  Gap has great cardigans, although a bit more expensive.  ($30 range) Target usually has cardigans for around $20 but I find they look kind of dingy after three or four months of wear and washing.

(Also, in general my opinion on clothes from Target is that they are not worth the price if not bought on sale.  Target's clothes are cute, but the quality is not great and they charge as much as higher end places like Gap or American Eagle that are generally going to be much better quality.  That's just my two cents- I only shop clothes at Target if they're on sale.)


Oh, and here's more pictures of me in clothes if that's what you're into.  If you're into me not in clothes, you are SOL.

Notice it's pretty much a big vomit of cardigans, tights, flats, skirts.


  1. My favorite flats are red and black patent leather from Shoedazzle. The only downside is now that I live somewhere that's so cold for so long, my closed-toe ballet flat weather is a very short time period. I've been wearing snow boots for a week now, and I will be stuck in them until March, most likely.

  2. having a proud moment here bonnie. oh so proud :)

  3. Loving all of these pics haha. You're so cute!
    I tend to buy mostly dresses these days as they are easier to put on than separate pieces!

    Anna xo

  4. You have some posing skillzzzz, especially love the middle bottom..that sounds weird, the photo middle bottom...still sounds weird, darn. Loving the white/yellow outfit and the polka dot skirt the mostest x

  5. Your SO beautiful :)

  6. Anonymous7:16 AM

    Can you be my stylist?! You look so darn cute!

  7. I needed these pointers..I basically live in oversized sweaters, skinny black work pants and boots and I just don't think I am screaming "HR PROFESSIONAL" over here.

  8. Anonymous7:40 AM

    The bottom middle pic is my fave! Love the chunky scarf and the unexpected neutral pop of tan in your shoes!
    Great mix-and-match variety, Bon. Lovelovelove.


  9. One year away from needing professional clothes, aaaaaand..... #helpmenow.

  10. I feel the same way about spending. But let's be realistic, no one wants my lousy English degree so I just stay home all day anyways. Have you checked Old Navy? I am such a posterchild for them, so cheap! so cute! variety! wins!

  11. Why don't you try your red tights with a black dress and a neutral cardigan? Or with the black and white striped dress that's in a couple of the pictures?

  12. i love this post. i literally asked you about this like yesterday so im glad you gave a ton of details.

  13. You nailed the teacher wardrobe. I own like thirty cardigans and I was always like, "What the?! I need another one in a different color for this outfit…" When I lived in Kentucky I lived close to a mall [now I'm 45 minutes away from the nearest shopping…great for my budget!], and I always would pop in to Ann Taylor Loft. If I went like once a week and only shopped clearance [plus teacher's always get 15% off on top of that], I scored a lot of high quality garb for minimal cost. Their pants and skirts and cardigans are awesome quality. And THANK YOU for saying what I always tell people about Target's clothes. Cute, but fairly crappy quality for the price. I'm okay getting a crappy quality shirt at walmart for $5, but for $15 at Target? No thanks. :)

  14. Are those skinny black pants the Columnist from Express? Because they are fabulous, and I need them in my life.

  15. Those are wonderful! If you want some good quality not $30 cardigans, old navy has some great ones! Working at a bank I feel like these are the staples of my closet too! And then I just wear the same outfit every two weeks! Thanks for this! :) gave me some great ideas!

  16. You must not be a maxiskirt fan because I LIVE in maxiskirts as a teacher. Basically, they're my go-to for when I want to dress up in a skirt, but I haven't shaved my legs. Win-win.

  17. Have you shopped at New York & Co? It is my fave even over Express, especially for dress pants and accessories. If you sign up for their coupons they are amazing! Love your style :)

  18. Anonymous9:48 PM

    Can we discuss the phrase "vomit of cardigans" fo ra second...

  19. I love flats. They always come in some of the cutest styles and colors and go with just about everything. Only issue with them is many I find are flat on the inside and my feet need more padding and arch but otherwise I could live in them all year along with sandals and boots.