Ladies. Here is the punchline of this post – a blazer is the absolute number one best piece in your wardrobe for polishing every single look in the workplace. You should own several of them whether you work in a casual or a formal work environment. And you should wear them often. Enter and read on for more…

A couple years ago I was given a new role at work that was going to require a lot of face-to-face interaction with many executives. This was new for me, and I hadn’t been in the position where I needed to influence leaders to do what I needed them to do in order to make my employees happy. The stakes were high, and I wanted to command respect – not just in the way I spoke and led meetings, but also in the way I dressed.

I sat down with one of my mentors – a man who has worked in HR and consulting for many years and who always gives it to me straight – and said, “Peter. Be honest. What should I be wearing at work to be successful in this role?” As I’d hoped, he was very honest with me. We went through hair (never messy), we went through makeup (yes, wear it), we went through shoes (pumps are safest). But the most important thing he told me was, “When all else fails, wear a blazer. It adds polish, shows respect and puts you on the same level as your executive audience – who is likely wearing a nice jacket, as well.” I love this idea that there is one item in your closet that is a ‘leveler’ in the workplace. It takes the guess work of getting dressed for work significantly easier.

After that conversation I went out and invested in a number of different blazer options, and I am convinced that they work. My confidence level and structure at work has increased when it has counted most because I feel like I am on the right professional level and convey seriousness. I wear them on casual fridays with jeans and a white tee, over a sheath dress when I’m giving a presentation or leading an in-person meeting, and with a camisole and trousers for regular workdays – like this look pictured.

To add your own flair to this item, I recommend a jewel tone like this deep purple Rebecca Taylor option from my Rent the Runway unlimited monthly subscription. You could also go for an interesting print, funky zippers or an interesting front cutout or closure. Skip any bling or major hardware, though!

Blazer: Rebecca Taylor via Rent the Runway (similar here) // Camisole: LOFT // Culottes: Ann Taylor // Snakeskin Pumps: Nine West // Pink Chainlink Bag: Who What Wear for Target // Sunglasses: Silvano Apparel c/o (similar here) // Lipstick: NARS Afghan Red

P.S. Did you catch last week’s professional post on what to wear to a networking event? Or last year’s post about culottes? Tons of great professional wardrobe advice plus blazer options there too!