What to wear to work can be such a minefield. Depending on the role you do, or the industry you are in, what you wear is open to scrutiny, and can mean the difference between being promoted or passed over. It shouldn’t mean that much, but in truth, the way we dress says a lot about how we view ourselves and our job.
To be honest, I have only spent a short time in a truly corporate environment, and it wasn’t for me. I can’t do power dressing, and a grey trouser suit was never going to cut it for someone who loves their trainers and views jeans as a second skin.
But while the dress code of my creative agency is a lot of more open, we still have corporate clients and I always need to look professional.
Your work wardrobe doesn’t need to be completely uninspiring, or indeed that separate from your ‘play clothes’. In fact, investing in the right pieces will ensure you look on point for the boardroom, while also reflecting your personality and sense of style, whatever line of work you are in.
I have a few workwear wardrobe heroes that make up my 9-5 uniform – a pick and mix of these and you will be ready to face the commute in no time at all.
The Tailored Jacket
Almost without exception, whatever you are wearing will be made 10 times smarter with the addition of a tailored jacked. Worn over a dress, a skirt, or even jeans – a jacket looks professional and makes it clear you mean business. Practical as well as stylish, a jacket is a cover-up for air-conned offices (no a cardigan is NEVER acceptable at work) and it works to transform an evening outfit for the working day. From tweed or wool in the winter, to linen in the summer. You simply can’t go wrong with a jacked for a workwear staple.
The Smart Jean
I love jeans. In fact, if you took all my many pairs out of my wardrobe I would be naked from the waist down about 60% of the time, so it’s no surprise that a lot of my work wardrobe revolves around denim. I know that not all workplaces approve of jeans, but you might be surprised at how many offices are now denim friendly, given the right pair that is. Step away from boyfriend, girlfriend, ripped or stonewashed jeans – your work denim must be crisp. I favour an indigo straight leg, with no wash and a high waist for a smart work look. Perfect with flats and a cashmere sweater, this work look is just the right side of preppy, and ideal for dress down Friday in even the most white-collar of workplaces.
The Perfect Black Trouser
When jeans really are a no no, seek out the perfect pair of black trousers. So many women make the mistake of wearing a trouser shape to work that they would never consider on days off. Shapeless wide leg, or bootcut trousers are standard office fayre, yet they flatter almost no one. Instead invest in perfectly tailored straight, tapered or slim fit trousers in a high quality fabric. Baring a few trips to the dry cleaners, the perfect trouser will go with everything, work with flats or a heel and is the perfect blank canvas for any work separates. Super smart, super stylish, super easy.
The Leather Skirt
Is there a rule against leather at work? We all wear leather shoes right? I adore a leather skirt and I feel it is the hem line rather than the material that will determine how smart it is. Team a leather pencil skirt, or a ‘long mini’ with a smart blouse, sweater and flats for a killer work look. Just enough sass, with more than enough smart.
The White Blouse
For workwear, a white blouse is non negotiable, but you need to choose carefully. The wrong white blouse can leave you looking like a waitress (which isn’t great if that doesn’t happen to be your line of work), but pick well and a white blouse looks sharp, fresh and feminine. I have too many white shirts, from boyfriend Oxford shirts, to high-necked victorian and ruffles – all of which work well with any and all of the above separates. Keep it fresh and bright white for the perfect office look.
The Smart Flat
There has been so much in the press recently about women working in heels. It is complete nonsense that our professionalism or productivity has anything to do with the height of our heels. Flats are super smart, and can be as stylish as they are practical. In fact, there are times when wearing heels would look silly, so finding the perfect work flat is essential. Shoes are also a great way to work colour and pattern in to your outfit, and I have never met a leopard print flat I didn’t like.
The Workable Heel
Of course, there are times when we all love and want to wear heels, and we have every right to do so….I love donning a heel for work events or pitches. However, teetering in too high heels never looks professional, so finding a heel that leaves you feeling staple and strong all day is a must.
The Work Tote
From laptops, to notebooks and changes of clothes, my work bag works hard. It is a tardis-esque workhorse that I rely on, but I need it to look chic and belie the array of ‘stuff’ it has to carry. And because I can’t be bothered to change it with every outfit, my work bag needs to be neutral and work with a range of looks. A bag this hardworking is worth investing in.
The Desk to Dinner Dress
When your working day is varied and you never know where your meetings will end up, its wise to have a few wardrobe options that can take you from the boardroom to the bar. Finding a chic dress that works well for the office and can be transformed for an evening event or date night is worthwhile.