Cole Haan Nike Air pumps. These don't come cheap, but they're so worth it: these are the most comfortable heels. (The good news: they go on sale often, can frequently be found at discount places like Nordstrom Rack, and the Cole Haan outlets carry them at reasonable prices.) These are what people should give college graduates in lieu of fancy pens.
A classic trench coat. Fabulous for those days where you oversleep, wear something boring, and get asked to do something fun later. J. Crew Collection's Icon Trench is gorgeous. Dear J. Crew: PLEASE make this in tall. Love, Me.
A good work bag that fits a laptop, but isn't embarrassing to take out for a dinner or a drink after work. As an aside, I'm a huge fan of Cole Haan's bags (and no, I don't work for them, I swear). They're not inexpensive, but the quality is unbeatable: I had one in law school that I used to lug around my ridiculously heavy textbooks and laptop. The strap frayed (the weight I was carrying was ridiculous -- I blame you, Business Organizations casebook), and they replaced it twice, happily. The third time, I realized I was the problem, and they gave me back all of my money. I was so impressed -- and the bag was so beautiful -- that I got it again after I graduated. And it still looks perfect, four years later. For deal hunters, the outlets typically have a good selection at great prices, and they're the same bags that they sell in the regular stores. And for more more beautiful work bags, check out See Jane's suggestions today.
A pouch -- separate from your wallet -- that you can keep in your work bag for receipts and other random scraps of paper (you never know when your Miranda Priestly will be demanding "that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday").
An umbrella you can jam in your work bag. You and your hair will be thankful.
A nice-looking watch. This Timex is timeless and perfectly priced.
A cheery calendar for brightening up predictably dreary offices and cubicles. I love Snow & Graham's.
A picture frame for a photo of the people you love.
If you drink coffee or tea, an excellent leakproof mug for when you're in transit, and a pretty mug for when you're in the office.lint roller, breath mints, under eye concealer, a spare umbrella, a hairbrush, bobby pins and a rubber band, deodorant, a nail file, safety pins, and Band-Aids (regular and the special kind for blisters), and an extra phone charger.
PS: bonus suggestion for lawyers or those in similar suit-requiring professions: take the the ugliest suit in your closet (you know there's one lurking back there that you will never wear unless 100% of your clothes are at the dry cleaners) and keep it in your office. On the day you get caught in a downpour or you show up wearing jeans and a tee shirt and get a random phone call to go to court or an important meeting, you'll appreciate it.
What are your working-lady essentials?
(Top image of Peggy Olson via here, originally by AMC.)