Where to buy casual work clothes
August 26, 2016 8:51 AM   Subscribe

i want an office wardrobe I don't have to think about. Please help!

I am a female oldster. There's no dress code where I work. My preference is for jeans and khakis or chinos, 3/4 sleeve tees (higher vee neck or crew), vee neck pullover sweaters and solid or striped long-sleeved shirts. I'm good on jeans but have no idea where to buy any of this other stuff new cause I've been buying from thrift stores for so many years. I've been wearing men's shirts but they are too long and look sloppy.

I'm 5'5" and weigh 128 pounds; I prefer skinny pants to boot cut, somewhat fitted tees to boxy, and non-iron shirts to regular because I don't iron anything ever. Finally, I refuse to own anything that needs to be dry cleaned. Help me, oh hive mind! Where can I find good-value (things that stand up to wear) chinos, tees, shirts, and pullover sweaters?
posted by Bella Donna to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I know it's considered "fast fashion" but I have good luck with t-shirts and sweaters at Old Navy (though a lot of their t-shirts are pretty loose and boxy right now, boo). Almost everything I've bought from them has proved surprisingly durable, especially for the price. I have basic t-shirts I bought there 4-5 years ago that I'm still wearing.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

What's your budget? 90% of my office casual stuff is from Banana Republic (via the sales rack & coupons - they have a sale at least once a week, never pay full price at BR...). Most of it only looks ok for a year or two, but it's affordable (relatively - and if the alternatives are e.g. Zara or H&M, good enough quality). With a bit more money, I'd be giving it to J Crew. (I have a wool suit from Club Monaco that is holding up, other things from there, not so much.) Talbots is marketed more to the mature crowd, and some of it is kind of frumpy IMO, but you can find basics there that are less frumpy & decently made (incl chinos, no doubt). (I have a few pairs of leggings from there that are great.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I like Sierra Trading Post mail order. They have hundreds of clothing brands. You might look at Columbia Sportswear, Carhaart, Royal Robbins.

I always wait for a good sale -- usually 30% off your order. Sign up for their email flyers and/or check their facebook page.
posted by valannc at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Ann Taylor (outlet).
posted by Dashy at 9:11 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

J Crew
Eddie Bauer
posted by erst at 9:17 AM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Land's End.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try Uniqlo. I've found their shirts to be affordable but durable.
posted by torridly at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've been pretty much relying on Uniqlo for my work wardrobe lately. I've found fabric and construction to of higher quality than brands like Old Navy, and cuts and fit of their clothing is more contemporary than Talbots.
posted by needled at 9:22 AM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Lands End for the t-shirts, definitely. Their sizes are large, so read the measurements carefully.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:23 AM on August 26, 2016

Loft is my go-to for inexpensive, easy-care, casual-officey basics. If you shop during one of their sales (which is nearly all the time), the quality-to-price ratio is hard to beat.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:31 AM on August 26, 2016

I dress like that. Uniqlo, Ann Taylor Loft, and Nordstrom. I've had less good luck with Banana Republic, but their basics are good. Sometimes Lucky Brand and Madewell. Online, American Giant. Sometimes LL Bean.
posted by matildaben at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2016

Best answer: I've had amazing luck with ThredUp. I recommend them all the time. It's an online thrift store BUT you can filter clothes for "brand new" and still get really deep discounts on stuff. I love thrift stores, but hate driving around town all day to find, like, one or two things that fit. My solution to this is ThredUp and most of my work wardrobe is from there. I wear J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, for shirts/skirts and Gap jeans, all of which I've gotten second hand in gently used or brand new condition. Returns are pretty simple, you can return for free for a refund in the form of store credit or get your refund back on your credit card and have $7 deducted from your refund amount. I buy in bulk and return what doesn't work for me. I know going in that I'll spend $7 to save myself a wasted day of shopping (which I really hate) so it's a happy medium that works for me.

I don't have as much luck with pants, but that's the same problem I'd have in any brick and mortar store, so I tend to stick with skirts to make life easier.

As far as an office wardrobe you don't have to think about - I'd seriously consider a capsule wardrobe. There's tons of previous threads on AskMe and a ton of websites devoted to the topic. I tried it a few years ago and never looked back. I've gotten to the point where I have a capsule wardrobe for the entire year with about 80 (90?) items including shoes, and maintenance is next to nothing - if my black sweater is faded, I buy a black sweater to replace it. No muss, no fuss. I never impulse shop and it takes no longer than 30 seconds to figure out what to wear in the morning. No last minute changes which make me late, no clothing distress in the morning, no painful decision making and I always look well put together. I love it.

On preview - YES to Loft! I just went there and everything in the store was 40% off. I got an amazing top and a white cardigan and they both were a steal of a deal.

Good luck!
posted by onecircleaday at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Loft is perfect, Old Navy is great for tops (they weren't before, they're much better right now).
posted by stoneandstar at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2016

I've been loving Everlane. Really good quality (and good price for the quality), very simple.
posted by sallybrown at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2016

Uniqlo makes great V neck sweaters in fine gauge merino and cashmere. I find the cashmere ones itchy but the merino ones are not. (I machine wash these on delicate and dry flat and they typically last 2 years).
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2016

I had to buy a whole new office wardrobe earlier this year, and had great luck with the Ann Taylor and Talbots outlet stores--casual, practical, presentable. It's been a few months and I'm happy with the quality of all the clothes I bought.

One thing that was really helpful during this round of shopping was to create strict guidelines for the colors of the clothes you're going to buy. I picked a few neutrals and about 5 colors I like that mix and match well. Getting dressed in the morning is soooooo easy when you're pretty confident that your different separates can all work together in a variety of ways. So, as much as finding stores you like, I recommend doing some pre-planning for your wardrobe as well.
posted by sk932 at 10:08 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love Smartwool pullover sweaters (linking to this one as an example since you mentioned stripes). They're pricey but they're amazing - soft, stretchy, great quality. I wear mine as a second layer (with something underneath) and therefore can go days or weeks before I need to wash them (I rotate through several so it's less obvious that I'm doing that!). I wash them on delicate and dry flat - I have ones that I've worn heavily for years that are still going strong. They also have nice sleek-and-sporty-but-not-too-tight lines. Highly, highly recommended.

If you decide to branch out from jeans, I also love the Betabrand dress pant yoga pants. I've gotten compliments even from pretty fashion-savvy folks who didn't realize they were yoga pants. Tip: Get ones with a pattern instead of a plain color to make it less obvious that they are yoga pants. Don't know why it works, but it does! I also wash these on delicate and dry flat (or hang dry). I'm seeing some minor pilling in the crotchal area after a few months - yay for big strong thighs! - but other than that, they're holding up well.
posted by bananacabana at 10:16 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I buy just about everything you describe at the thrift store.
My thrift store usually has many of the brands listed above (Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, J. Crew, Land's end), usually in fine shape for casual work attire, and priced at a few dollars a piece.

YMMV, and this approach can take a few trips rather than one, but you can save a lot of money and also perhaps feel better about the ethics of production.

Edit:Sorry, didn't see that you mentioned a long familiarity with thrift stores. Maybe it's just as easy as trying a thrift store in a different neighborhood/side of town?
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Kohl's has really good sales if you have their store card, ditto Macy's, and both have good quality stuff.

I buy a lot of my clothes like that at Target, too. Their stuff is a bit cheaper, maybe with the corresponding length of life.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I heard about WoolOvers here on AskMe and have been very happy with their sweater quality after one season. Many but not all of the wool sweaters are machine-washable, so not too fussy.

More general advice: a thing that's helped me a lot in not having to think too much about work clothing was setting a couple of rules and just buying within those rules. After looking at some capsule wardrobe examples, my rules are "black pants, socks, and shoes, bright or interestingly-patterned shirts." Almost everything goes with everything, and when I go shopping I don't get overwhelmed with choice. It sounds like you have this piece down pretty well but I thought I'd add it for maximum brainless-work-uniform planning.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

2nd Uniqlo if they're available in your country. (Excited about them coming this way soon.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2016

Hi, you are me. For sure your answer is The Limited. You can find them in any mall or online and they have 50% sales and coupons alllll the time (seriously, never buy anything at full price there). They have basic work pants/skirts in all styles, so you find one you like and then buy several colors. They change fabric weight and slightly change the styles for the seasons, but once you find something there you like it's easy to pick up similar items on subsequent visits. They have a million shirts/blouses you can wear with a cardigan or on its own. Plus lots of dresses that are cute but basic work appropriate. Maybe you will like this capsule wardrobe idea, which I find very helpful.
posted by LKWorking at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kohl's is, by far, the best place for jeans and khakis. Great prices and good quality. They carry Lee, Levi's, and lots of others. The Lee khakis wear like iron. For the button downs, look for the brand Jones New York. They don't need ironing and I swear they never wear out. They come in every solid color imaginable and stripes, too. They are professional looking and easy to care for. I retired five years ago and can't bring myself to get rid of the last few in my closet. I don't think they carry them at Kohl's, I bought mine at Dillard's.
posted by raisingsand at 12:26 PM on August 26, 2016

Kohls and Target would be my first stop.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2016

I can wholeheartedly recommend Eddie Bauer shirts and sweaters. They retain color, don't stretch out of shape, and ime the no-iron shirts stay wrinkle-free very well. All my shirts from them last at least 5 years.
posted by epj at 1:49 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing Uniqlo! Be aware that some of their tops do have a boxy/flowy fit.

I have a worrisome addiction to v-neck sweaters from Express, which are snug and layer well with a camisole underneath. I hang them up to dry and they've held up pretty well over the years.
posted by phatkitten at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2016

For super simple, durable work basics I go to Loft for shirts and Limited for pants. I have some Limited pants that are still in rotation after 12 years and are still in perfect condition. Loft is where I buy all of my white tops that I know I'll have to trash after 18 months due to armpit stains, but I don't mind because they were so cheap to begin with.
posted by gatorae at 7:25 AM on August 27, 2016

Response by poster: Hey hive mind, thanks for the answers! I ended up ordering stuff from both Uniqlo and JC Penny, of all places. I loved the tees and hoodie I got from Uniqlo. Was not happy with the stuff from JC Penny because of fit, primarily. The all-cotton tees I bought were a great price but too baggy for me. Also, took forever to arrive. Will be trying out some of the other suggestions later in the year when I'm in the market for more pullover sweaters.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:20 AM on September 27, 2016

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