WORKING YOUR WORK WEAR
The moment I wake up, one of the first things that pops into my mind is, “What the hell am I going to wear to work today?” Am I alone, or do you also ask this question? The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I get many questions from corporate clients, and you, asking me how to wear clothes for work in a more modern way. So, I’ve been keeping a diary and paying attention.
I think that there’s a sense that work wear means black and navy, mainly because it’s an easy uniform that just works. But what if you wanted to tweak the norm, or add something new, what would that look like? And how can you express your personality and incorporate fashion trends?
THE BLAZER - My first obvious choice for work wear is to invest in great suiting, and because if you buy good quality, no one will notice or care that you wear it over and over again. It really means business and it always makes me feel that I’m ready to tackle anything in a beautifully fitting blazer. Another positive – blazer trends don’t really change that often.
1. Buy a blazer without obvious buttons as you can wear it in more ways.
2. Pay a little more for a good cut and quality. However, brands like Zara or H&M can do a very nice blazer for under $200, so shop around before you decide.
3. Single breasted is flattering for most women. For a larger bust, try an open front (collar/button less) blazer. Long line tends to suit everyone, however, make sure you wear a fitted/skinny leg bottom.
4. Start with black, then a neutral, add a colour, then a texture.
WHAT’S BELOW - Then the bottom half…the pant or skirt. You are either a pants girl or a skirt girl…or in my case, both. And I don’t believe in those rules that our (grand)mothers taught us, that fabrics need to match. Once you realise that this is a myth, you’ll have many more options with how you wear your suiting. It is also really difficult to find a perfectly fitting matching jacket and bottom - normally one part is perfect and the other piece not so much. So, if you treat your suiting as separates, your dressing day dilemmas are over! Disclaimer – if you’re willing to put in the time and can find a black suit with a matching top and bottom, then this is ideal.
1. I think slim leg or tapered leg pants are more flattering and wearable than a wide leg pant. However ‘man style’ trousers are very popular at the moment and look amazing for a slouchy suiting vibe. Find a pant and leg length that works with a heel or a flat. I also always like my pants to have side pockets.
2. Buy a pant with a waistband as they are more flattering when you wear something tucked in. Also, they make your tummy look flatter.
3. Belt loops are not essential but pants do look nice when you wear a belt.
4. Skirts don’t need to be a super tight pencil skirt. Try pleated or flowing fuller options, as these look really nice back with a blazer.
FABRIC MATTERS - I have a few clients who have bought into the ‘wearing a blazer to work concept’, however leave them hanging in their wardrobe…yet to be worn. The idea of wearing a blazer for many women is good in theory - the answer to corporate dressing dreams – but wearing blazers can be far too restrictive and uncomfortable for the office. What you see on Instagram or Pinterest, or on someone walking down the street, maybe what you envisage you will look like, but because of whatever reason, it doesn’t work on you. So, please stop buying those blazers just because you think you need to! Alternatively, explore easy wearing fabrics in a blazer shape. Try stretch fabric, jersey or a heavy knitted unstructured blazer, as these can give you the same look, while being more flattering and comfortable to wear.
- The comfort factor for work wear is important. Look for fabrics with stretch or that are unlined.
WHAT TO WEAR UNDERNEATH - One of my chicest work wear looks is the classic man style shirt with a structured skirt or trouser. Google ‘Meghan Markle’ (pre Duchess) in the show, Suits, if you need some inspo! Worn under a blazer is true Parisian chic. However, you can still look dressed for work without having to wear structured items you find uncomfortable. Some of my clients find shirting very restrictive and although they love the look, they just refuse to wear it. Try a fine knitwear piece with a long or short sleeve. Good quality knitwear with a crew neck, scoop or vee neck - although very basic, can be sophisticated and classic. You can even buy affordable cashmere and wool blends from the likes of Uniqlo or H&M so it doesn’t have to be an expensive purchase.
1. Make sure the gauge of your knitwear isn’t too fine as you don’t want to be able to see your bra underneath. Or go up a size so it isn’t too clingy.
2. If you want to wear a shirt, you can get stretch cottons that are more comfortable.
3. I buy my shirting from the men’s department (or steal my husband’s). The fabric and cut is normally much nicer and a French cuff looks wonderful without cuff links.
TOO CASUAL? - Wearing denim to work?? I say yes, but you knew I would say that! With more relaxed work place vibes, wearing denim jeans…or should I say the right kind, can work for work. And I know I’m going to sound 100 years old here, but think of your denim like a pair of tailored pants - no rips, not too skinny, no weird sand blasting, and mid to high rise only. And with a heel or flat, jeans look very chic – you just have to be mindful to keep the look work and not weekend.
A QUESTION OF COLOUR - Then there’s the conversation about colour. Should you wear colour to the office? In the past few weeks, I have tried to not wear black or navy…once, and I would like to admit it was very very hard. Reaching for my favourites (which happen to be all black) each morning then forcing myself away from them. I admit it’s difficult, especially as wearing colours means standing out in the coffee line, in the lift and in the office…which sometimes I don’t want to be doing! But the upside of this colourful dilemma is that people notice and comment, and all the comments have been positive. So, maybe wearing colour is good on a day you want to stand out, or when you feel terrible and need to be on game.
1. When wearing colour, I don’t mean crazy prints! Think minimal colour, tone on tone of variations of the same shades, and small splashes of colour.
2. Tones of the same colour pallet work really well without screaming, “I’m in colour”. Or neutrals and whites can be colour in a subtle way.
3. Wear prints with care – select appropriate prints for the office and wear your wilder ones on the weekends or after hours.
SHOE BUSINESS - Ok work shoes! If you are like me, and binge watch too many TV shows - all the strong, sophisticated leading ‘working’ ladies all rock a heel to the office. (again the Duchess in Suits is one of them) and look incredible (and hot) doing so. But in reality, how many of us really like having to strut around in heels all day long? Heels do make me feel more confident and for some reason make my outfits look way more “wow” than they would if I wore a flat. However, I have about 3 hours in me of wearing heels before I want to throw them out the window.
Thankfully sneakers have saved the day!!! And I know not in all work places, but sneakers with a suit is such a cool yet chic look. But if your boss gives you a weird look, wearing a flat is an option…but it cannot be a nana pair of ballet flats. I say nana, as we all have a pair of ballets with a round toe that are our favourites, that really look like they should be worn around the house only, and not in public. If you are nodding…throw them in the bin now! Instead, try a pair of pointed ballets flats or loafers, which is a dressier option and makes your outfit elegant rather than frumpy.
1. If you still want to wear heels, try a block heel as they are sturdier and you can get in lots of different heel heights.
2. Sneakers don’t need to be the same ones you wear to the gym. You can buy dressy sneakers or designer sneakers which blur the lines of active wear to office wear.
DRESSES - I think wearing a dress for work is an easy solution for work wear. And they are a great solution as it is just one item of clothing to think about when getting ready. But there still is an appropriate work dress style that sometimes gets forgotten about.
1. As boho chic has really been embraced trend wise, wearing these styles of dresses to work may not be appropriate.
2. Keep maxi dresses, hippy style dresses and festival and clubbing body con style dresses for the weekend.
3. Instead, embrace wrap style dresses, figure hugging in a classic style and longer length or shirt style dresses.
You can really still show your personality and most importantly, your style, even though you maybe in a corporate environment. If you dress up for work, I believe people take notice of you as you don’t blend in. In addition, you may not be the CEO but that doesn’t mean your can’t dress like one - perception is everything!
Don't forget to make a comment below....I love reading your thoughts.
This article is copyright and may not be used without the express written permission of Where Did Your Style Go. Images by Charlotte Curd