Building Your Wardrobe – Guide for Nigerian Girls & Guys

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By Coco Anetor-Sokei

You’re reading this article because you’ve decided you want to take this corporate world thing seriously, and you want it to take you seriously as well. Kudos! Making the decision was the first step on the ladder of success, now we move on to the second – Your wardrobe.

No need to fret. Contrary to popular belief, revamping your wardrobe so that it serves a more corporate function isn’t the herculean task it’s made out to be. Of course, this is based on the assumption that you already have a few basic necessities in your current wardrobe. However, if a look through your belongings only manages to turn out t-shirts, jeans, a couple of low-cut tops and shorts, then we might have a little problem.

No, don’t be discouraged. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”. We’re going to put together an affordable corporate wardrobe that leaves you feeling, and looking, like a million bucks. Look! I’ve even made you a checklist! :D

Ladies Gents
Jackets 2-4 3-4
Bottoms 3-4 3-4
Shirts 5 5
Shoes 2 pairs 2 pairs
Socks (hosiery for ladies) 5 pairs 5 pairs
Extras 2 matching sets of cardigans and tanks 3-4 ties

 

Now, that you’re on your way to building a wardrobe, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re looking for something you can wear comfortable for a reasonable amount of time. We’re focusing on quality and durability, not just trends.

We’re looking for outfits that are versatile, so we’ll be looking for items like jackets, skirts and pants in neutral colors – black, grey, navy blue, cream/white, tan – that will enable us mix and match. Yes, in the fashion world, navy blue serves as a neutral color. Sticking to neutral colors is a wise move because you can wear them repeatedly in different combinations as they blend so easily, and no one will know (remember to dry-clean though).

BUYING SUITS:

We’ve already established suits should be purchased in neutrals, so the only other thing to remember is to buy suits in complete sets. No, buying a jacket separate from the pants or skirt will not cut down your expenses. Plus, getting complete sets makes it easier to split up and combine with something else.

For the men, you want to look into purchasing: one solid black suit, one solid navy, one gray suit, one pin-striped navy, and one Khaki suit. Khaki suit because sometimes it’s necessary to not look so dull.

Ladies get to have a little more fun than the guys when shopping because they can be a little more “free”. Of course, you should make sure you have at least one pair of black dress pants, but you may also consider buying a pair of denim boot-cut jeans. You can dress your jeans up to make them look more corporate. Also, in place of the usual suit jacket, you might want to invest in a blazer (black preferably) to help structure your frame. More into skirts then remember to keep it below the knees for a more conservative look. Curvier girls will prefer the pencil skirt, and the not so curvy will look totally glam in A-line skirts. Peplum skirts are gorgeous on almost anyone.

BUYING SHOES

Shoes can either pull your entire look together, or rip your best intentions apart, so it’s important to get the right pair. Females should have no problems in this department, seeing as your closets are already packed full of shoes. Just remember to get one or two pairs of flats (in neutral colors) and to avoid wearing heels over two inches high (for the sake of your feet), and never wear slippers or sandals. If you have to wear hosiery, then nude or beige hose are most suitable.

Male should have at least one black pair of dress shoes FIRSTLY, and then consider other colors like dark brown, or burgundy. Go with a wing-tip for a more sophisticated and mature business look, and, for warmer months, loafers are the best and add flair to your wardrobe. Your socks should be black or dark brown.

No matter what shoes you go with, wear them with heel and toe taps and put in shoe trees when you don’t have them on to help them last longer.

BUYING SHIRTS AND BLOUSES

This is where you guys (I mean actual guys) have the advantage. You should have a couple of dress shirts in your wardrobe already. Stock up on solid colors that compliment your skin tone, but make sure you have the basic colors – blue, white, blue-and-white-striped – in your closet because they work with everything. The key to an amazing business wardrobe is in the tie. Now, there’s a wide selection of modern ties to mix and match with your already versatile basics.

Because your larger pieces (skirts, jackets, and pants) are already in neutral colors, you now have a wide selection of coordinating colors to choose from. In addition to dress shirts, the ladies can select a few button-down tops and blousy tops already in your closets. Have a little fun with necklines and sleeves, or choose button-downs with cool buttons to spice up your look, but remember to keep it conservative and professional, and keep a jacket on when the sleeves are too thin.

A COUPLE OF EXTRAS

Here are a couple of accessories you should consider investing in to add that extra zing to your wardrobe.

For the gentlemen, pocket squares give your suit an air of elegance, but keep it as simple as possible (no patterns) and wear it square. Buying a matching tie and pocket square set is a VERY bad idea.  Belts should be slim and tasteful, and should never be anything but black or brown. If you choose to wear cufflinks, resist the temptation of flashy cuff links. The more refined your cufflinks are, the more responsible you look. And of course a watch is an essential part of the corporate wardrobe. A slim, clean-cut, classic piece will help you attain a balanced look, and stay neatly tucked away until you need it.

My only other advice for the ladies is to invest in one or two LBDs and/or sheath dresses. Looking professional doesn’t mean you have to completely flush your sense of fashion. Sheath dresses show off your shape, but keep you looking conservative and LBDs can be worn to meetings and other events. Blazers are very effective with both dresses. And then, you may also think about investing in plain cotton tees or tank tops, and cardigans for when the weather shifts. Where jewelry is concerned, keep it simple – nothing too loud (in appearance and sound)

Well, that’s about it. Now you’re ready to assemble a wardrobe you, and everyone around you, can be proud of. But do you know what the MOST important accessory is? Confidence. Wear it everywhere you go, and you’ll definitely look like a winner.