Dressing for the office is tricky. As a personal stylist, I am always helping my clients to strike the right balance between professional but current, gravitas but approachable, office-apropos but authentic. It’s no wonder that many women’s default for office wear is to go for the safe option: outfits that are conservative and boring.
The problem with this is that dressing for work becomes a chore. It’s uninspiring and can leave you feeling a little empty and frustrated if, like me, you like to express who you are in the way you dress. Yet, how you dress for work is so crucially important to how you are perceived and how careers develop. So how do you inject personality and derive enjoyment into your work uniform?
1. Unexpected pieces
I love to introduce unexpected pieces into office outfits. The best example of an unexpected piece is the jumpsuit. If it’s well cut and coveys a polished look, then it’s the perfect way to mix up your office wear repertoire. The one featured in the cover shot is from Rock the Jumpsuit and is magic in every sense.
Instead of tailored trousers, try a pair of exaggerated wide leg trousers with a paper bag waist. Still professional. But they show character.
If you’re active in your spare time, consider introducing activewear-inspired pieces into your office wear. A pair of trousers with go-fast stripes that might be sweat-pants adjacent could be made all the more professional with the introduction of a shirt and tailored blazer and heels. There’s very little a razor-sharp blazer and equally polished heel can’t make office apropos. Experiment a little.
When I do wardrobe workouts with my clients, I find that their office wear default colours are navy, black and grey. No wonder our every day office outfits get boring fast.
There is nothing wrong with wearing colour to work. But not just colour. COLOUR! I recently posted about why pink is my new go-to colour for workwear. My clients are often afraid to wear colour, whether it’s in their personal lives or at work. And to that, I always give the following advice:
- find out what colours suit you. If you can’t afford a stylist to help you with this, think about the colours you generally default to. If they are more blue-based and cool, then look for other colours with a slight element of blue to them. If they are warmer tones with more of a yellow base, look for those types of colours.
- introduce colour gradually if you are reluctant to wear colour. A bright blue top here, a green skirt there. You’ll find your colour comfort zone gets bigger the more you experiment with colour;
- don’t let fear hold you back. If the colours work for your skin tone, it’s going to look good. Embrace it.
If you’re already comfortable with colour, think about colour combinations as a way to liven things up. To find out how to do this, check out my guide to colour blocking here, and tonal blocking (or tonal blending) here.
3. accessories and shoes
The simplest way to inject some personality into an otherwise conservative work outfit is with accessories and shoes.
A leopard print shoe, a statement necklace or (even better) earrings, a wide belt over a conservative sweater. All perfectly acceptable ways of showing that you are multi-dimensional and have stuff going on besides being a kick-ass [insert profession here].
4. prints (and print clash)
Prints can perfectly convey authenticity and interest in how you present yourself. But, they can be tricky. A lot of my clients need a little guidance with prints especially in the work place. But you can master it yourself with a little trial and error. Wearing prints will be a blog post of its own (coming soon), but for now, if you’re not 100% sure about prints, then start with the more conservative ones, such as a striped shirt, a fine polka dot blouse, a checked blazer.
Once you’re comfy at that level, try introducing a more unique print. But balance it with a block colour. e.g. a floral shirt with plain tailored trousers.
And for the very adventurous, try a print clash.
5. create contrast
Mix up your work outfits by creating contrast. A feminine midi dress with a boxy masculine blazer. Casual athleisure-inspired pants with a sharp blazer. Colour contrasts. Pristine trainers with a power suit. Get creative.
Overall, the key is to ensure you’re still conveying that kind of professionalism that you need to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t convey who you are in how you dress every day.
If you need that little extra help with your work wardrobe, find out about my styling services here.