I bought my first suit a week after accepting my first job offer. While I can count on one hand the number of times I've been required to wear it, my suit is definitely a confidence-boosting outfit that I always feel good slipping on.

Whether you're required to wear a suit every day, or you have an important work event coming up, you can make the conservative basic stylish with a few choice accents and accessories. Keep in mind:

  • You can't go wrong with basic black. Buy something that also works as separates — and remember, it's expensive because it's an investment outfit, not a trendy dress.
  • Patterned shells in breathable knits will keep you cool and add some fun to your outfit.
  • Pull colors from the shell into your accessories. A bright skinny belt, bangles and a beaded necklace all finish off your professional look when they coordinate, but don't match perfectly.
  • While black pumps are classic, I like to keep the color going in the shoes. Flats with a tiny platform stay comfortable from 8 a.m. till evening.
Blazer, $178 and pants, $98, J. Crew; shell, $70, Banana Republic; shoes, $120, Ann Taylor; necklace, $49, Talbots; bracelet, $20, Sabine; belt, $35, J. Crew.

Catherine Hageman dispatches fashionista tendencies fit for a corporate career on Small Town, Big Wardrobe.

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