By Cameron Kelsall

Whether you are about to start your first job or you are a 20-year corporate veteran, one question looms large in the minds of working women everywhere: What should I wear? Thankfully, we are living in an era in which the choices extend beyond pastel pantsuits and frumpy fashion statements like shoulder pads. But with great freedom comes even greater responsibility. How do I manage to look both stylish and professional? How can I update my wardrobe after a decade or two on the job? The following styles provide a myriad of options for the essential modern work wardrobe, touching on everything from business-casual to traditional boardroom fare.

1. The Blazer/Jeans Combo
LOFT Custom Stretch Blazer
LOFT Custom Stretch Blazer $128 available at loft.com

"A start-up spin on classic workwear"
Start-ups not only revolutionized the way we do business; they've changed how we dress for success. Gone are the days of stuffy suits and silk shells. Today, you can't go wrong with a pair of stylish jeans and a modish blazer. This look can be matched with any number of blouses or button-down tops. It's the business-casual answer to the traditional work suit.

Modern Boot-Cut Jeans
Modern Boot-Cut Jeans in Dark Rinse Wash, $69.50 available at loft.com

This look communicates style and substance. We recommend a straight-leg or boot-cut jean, both of which pair perfectly with a high-heeled boot or fashionable flat. A tailor-fit blazer is the ideal business-casual compliment. We love a blended fabric, like a poly-viscose, which will look crisp and clean from 8:00AM to 8:00PM. Perfect for those long days behind the desk!

2. The Wrap Dress
Jones New York Faux Wrap-Dress with Elbow Cuffs
Jones New York Faux Wrap-Dress with Elbow Cuffs, $69 available at jny.com

"Effortless elegance from day to night"
Diane Von Furstenberg introduced the wrap dress in 1974 and the rest is history. But that doesn't mean you need to break the bank to rock this classic look. Elegant yet professional, the wrap dress can be worn simply with some distinctive jewelry, or dressed-up with a form-fitting blazer or tasteful cardigan. The knee-length cut also makes it the ultimate dress to highlight your best pair of nude heels. While the wrap remains solidly work-appropriate, it also provides an easy and eye-catching transition for after-hours fun. Though jersey-knit is the fabric most associated with the traditional wrap dress, a cotton or polyester model makes for durability and easy care. This is a wardrobe evergreen: dressed up or down, it will never fall out of fashion!

3. Color-Blocking
Chaps Colorblock Sheath Dress
Chaps Colorblock Sheath Dress, $69.50; available at kohls.com

"A burst of color for your businesswear"
The old adage "a little goes a long way" has never been truer than with the color-blocked dress. A popular sight in offices across the country, the injection of color enlivens your classic business blacks, whites, and grays. Traditional color-blocking uses mostly solid colors, making it a prime choice for a more conservative working environment. Still, that burst of blue or red will cause you to stand out from the sea of black dresses!

Dorothy Perkins Black and Peach Color Block Shirt
Dorothy Perkins Black and Peach Color Block Shirt, $49.00; available at dorothyperkins.com

Color-blocking doesn't have to end with dresses, though. It can also offer the perfect attention-grabbing top to build your business look around. Paired with a flared jean, palazzo pant, or pencil skirt, a classic collared color-block shirt makes a splash without pulling too much focus from the work at hand. Whether worn on its own or with your favorite blazer, the right color-blocked blouse should be a cornerstone of every woman's wardrobe!

4. Wide-Leg Trousers
Chelsea28 Wide Leg Flannel Pants
Chelsea28 Wide Leg Flannel Pants, $98; available at shop.nordstrom.com

"A retro favorite reimagined"
A European wardrobe staple for over half a century, wide-leg trousers are revitalizing modern American office-wear in a major way. These flared trousers, sometimes called "palazzo pants," are often high-waisted and can help produce a taller, trimmer silhouette. They provide an excellent alternative to more traditional suit trousers, and make a big enough statement to be worn without a blazer. Recently, Amal Alamuddin made a splash when she wore custom-made palazzo pants to marry George Clooney in Venice. Still, you don't have to be a jet-setter to make this funky, fashion-forward look work for you!

Since the wide-leg trouser is a statement in and of itself, we recommend monochromatic, non-patterned styles. Gray, black, and blue are ideal, with white stepping in as a great summer substitute. Accessorize with a colorful patterned top and nude heels. Trust us: wide-leg trousers will provide you with a head-turning flare—literally and figuratively—that won't soon be forgotten!

5. The Pencil Skirt
Anthropologie Checked Knit Pencil Skirt
Anthropologie Checked Knit Pencil Skirt, $98; available at anthropologie.com

"A versatile favorite with a variety of possibilities"
Trim, tailored, and flattering to any number of body types, the pencil skirt has been an office favorite since Christian Dior introduced it in the 1940s. Characterized by its long hem and form-fitting shape, pencil skirts can be worn with a blazer to give the impression of a suit, or simply paired with an elegant sweater or blouse. A more adventurous dresser can swap out the traditional business blazer for a sharp leather jacket. Knee-high boots are the classic accoutrement, though the skirt looks equally stylish with flats or heels. Just don't trip!

Wool is a traditional pencil skirt fabric, though cotton, polyester, and even denim have become frequent substitutes. This is an item that looks great in a solid color or a vibrant pattern. Every working woman should have at least one in her closet—preferably more!

6. The Jumpsuit
LOFT Sleeveless Jumpsuit
LOFT Sleeveless Jumpsuit, $98; available at loft.com

"A classic evening look goes corporate"
When someone says "jumpsuit," images of Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger at Studio 54 probably come to mind. Don't be fooled, though. This retro wardrobe must-have is making a comeback in a big business way. A two-toned jumpsuit is a high-fashion spin on a traditional professional pantsuit.

The piped, pleated white top offers an alternative to the blouse that's conservative yet fun. And while the high-waisted trousers are not as distinctively flared as a palazzo pant, they feature a similarly chic and roomy wide-leg. A blazer or cardigan is this outfit's supreme compliment during business hours—no jacket required after work!

7. The Fit-and-Flare Dress
The Fit-and-Flare Dress
Luck Be a Lady Dress, $79.99; available at modcloth.com

"Mad Men meets modern style"
Palazzo pants aren't the only occasion for flare in your wardrobe anymore. Due in part to the success of television shows like Mad Men and Masters of Sex, the classic fit-and-flare dress is popping up with the most regularity since the days of Dick Van Dyke.

The style is categorized by a fitted bodice that gives way to a full skirt, making the look perfect for the workday and the weekend alike. Add a color-complimented cardigan in the coolers months. A cotton-poly blend will take you through the year with this look. Peggy Olson would be proud!

8. The Classic White Shirt
The Classic White Shirt
LOFT Essential Softened Shirt, $49.50; available at loft.com

"This timeless treasure may just be the most important piece in your closet"
The classic white shirt is an essential component of every working woman's wardrobe. Attractive and adaptable, it makes a striking statement in a variety of looks.

But don't think that this conservative closet staple has to look old-fashioned. With jeans or a pencil skirt, underneath a blazer or a leather jacket, or matched with a pair of classic slacks, colleagues and clients alike will be drawn to the refined style of this timeless piece.

9. The Peter Pan Collar
The Peter Pan Collar
Dorothy Perkins Black and White Collar Dress, $44.00; available at dorothyperkins.com

"This stylish spin won't make you look like a Lost Boy"
The Peter Pan collar takes its name from J.M. Barrie's classic tale, but the look is more Carrie Bradshaw than Captain Hook. On a dress, the Peter Pan offers a distinctive and dazzling substitute for a more traditional neckline, like a boat-neck or scoop.

Peter Pan Collar Blouse
Urban Outfitters Confidence and Chance Eyelet Peter Pan Collar Blouse, $39.99; available at urbanoutfitters.com

On a blouse, it calls to mind a classic club collar, and can be worn with or without a jacket over top. Paired with a jean or a skirt, the Peter Pan collar will send your fashion score soaring!

10. Don't Forget Your Accessories
Don't Forget Your Accessories
Michael Antion Joyana Navy Pu Bootie, $59.99; available at heels.com

"Shoes, scarves, and stunning jewelry—the perfect additions to any outfit"
Knee-high boots are a constant on the shoe rack of nearly every professional woman. Always choose a neutral color like black, brown, or gray.

Madden Girl Propose Nude Heel
Madden Girl Propose Nude Heel, $49.95; available at zappos.com

A popular footwear alternative is the nude heel. The demure coloring on this most-malleable shoe allows it to suit any style. No need to worry about matching colors—the nude heel goes with everything.

Buffalo Plaid Infinity Scarf
Steve Madden Buffalo Plaid Infinity Scarf, $32; available at Nordstrom.com

The infinity scarf is a perfect way to bring pattern to or brighten up a neutral outfit. A youthful and vibrant update to the traditional silk scarf, it is quickly becoming a go-to piece for year-round wear.

Triple Disc Beaded Necklace
TopShop Triple Disc Beaded Necklace, $30; available at Nordstrom.com

Colorful, chunky, and altogether creative, the so-called Statement Necklace is making a splash in the business world. Tasteful yet playfully lively, it can bring a burst of fun flare to any outfit. Just don't weigh yourself down with too heavy a piece!

Finally, we leave you with five simple style rules to live by when coordinating the perfect office outfits and building your business wardbrobe:

1. Dress "The Company Way": When starting a job, it's a smart idea to take stock of your colleagues and their clothing choices. If your co-workers largely wear jeans and button-down shirts, then keep a business-casual look in mind. If the work environment feels more conservative, silk blouses, pencil skirts, and wrap dresses might be more appropriate. A general rule of thumb: don't out-dress your boss.

2. Don't Over-Accessorize: If your outfit is the soup, then your accessories are the salt. When you add just enough, the result is delicious. But when you go overboard—by a pinch or a pound—the entire enterprise can crumble. Choose pieces that accentuate your overall look, rather than distract from it. And don't feel the need to wear all your jewelry at once!

3. Minimize Your Spending & Maximize Your Budget: We're all working people, and we don't have endless cash to spend on new clothes. Smart shopping is the key. Sample sales and end-of-season reductions are a great place to start, but for your everyday shopping, seek out the labels that high-end designers are creating specifically for mid-range department stores. Both Vera Wang and Elie Tahari recently debuted exclusive collections for Kohl's. Why not start there?

4. Quality, Not Quantity: Who says you need to fill a walk-in closet to look like a million bucks? By making every outfit in your repertoire an essential, you will always present a classic style, and greatly reduce the amount you spend on clothes. My best advice: invest in separates that allow you to easily mix and match!

5. Fit Is Everything: Good clothes should feel like you were born wearing them. They cling to the skin, accentuating your best features and skillfully masking your flaws. In choosing anything from skirts to tops, make sure that the fit is right. Whether too tight or noticeably baggy, a poor-fitting garment isn't just unattractive—it's unprofessional.

Caring for Dark Clothing
Caring for Dark Clothing

Keeping those dark clothes, well, dark, is a challenge to most people. But it doesn't have to be. If you aren't bringing the specific items to Orth, here are some tips: Be sure that, when you wash dark clothes, flip them inside out and use cold water to prevent fading. Hot temperatures and over-washing contributes to color's demise. After washing, hang your darks to dry instead of throwing them in the dryer. If you really want to go the extra mile, invest in a darks-specific detergent such as Woolite Extra Dark Care or Cheer for Darks.