Whenever I think of the phrase “work outfits for women,” I always think of the opening scene of the movie Working Girl. We watch Tess, played by Melanie Griffith, rush through the streets of New York in a typical ‘80s commuter getup: Sheer nylon tights, a smart skirt, a blazer, and sneakers. When she gets to her desk, she quickly changes from her sensible shoes into stilettos.
I love this scene, not just because it’s so totally ‘80s, but because it pretty seamlessly illustrates what workwear for women was like in the past. There were strict dress codes that had to be adhered to, and women got around them by lugging other pieces (like their shoes) to the office in order to be comfortable while commuting. It wasn’t exactly minimal.
Luckily, things have changed. Dress codes have loosened significantly since the days of Tess McGill, but that doesn’t mean dressing for work has gotten easier. More choices mean that we’re stocking up on more clothes, building bigger closets to house them, and are spending more precious time picking out what to wear to work.
That said, more choices don’t necessarily have to mean more clothes. In fact, one of the easier ways to get dressed for work is to adopt a minimal approach to outfits. In 2015, art director Matilda Kahl penned an essay for Harper’s Bazaar about how wearing the same thing to work every day improved her creativity. “The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, ‘what the hell am I going to wear today?’” she wrote.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to wear the exact same thing every day. But having a handful of pieces that work in myriad situations is an easy way to take the stress out of picking out a work outfit while still being creative in your dressing. Ahead, I’m laying out five outfits that just need one swap to go from formal to casual. It’s the minimalist’s guide to work outfits for women — and you’ll be stylish all day long.