Having a stylish work wardrobe means different things to different people.
Two years ago I went to a networking event and met a man who claimed the reason for gender inequality is because women don’t know how to dress properly for work. Well you can imagine I ended up giving him a lecture for the next hour on what utter bollocks he was saying.
One of many ‘observations’ that really irritated me was his comment that women shouldn’t be trying to stand out at work, they need to try to fit in. Having had the pleasure of meeting a lot of senior women over the years, I can safely say every single one would strongly disagree.
Wearing something bold makes you memorable. Particularly important if you’re working in a typically male-dominated environment.
But striking a balance between being noticeable and work appropriate can be tricky. There are the right ways to stand out, and the wrong ones. I always chuckle when reading a glossy magazine’s ‘work wardrobe guide’.
This month I’ve seen articles trying to convince us that tie-dye shirts and boiler suits are totally appropriate. And don’t get me started on the number of times they’ve tried to push tailored shorts.
Corporate dressing is certainly becoming more relaxed, with some banks having even abolished their dress code. But unless you work in a creative field it’s pretty unlikely you’ll feel comfortable rocking up in a t-shirt and jeans. So here are some tips on how to tread that fine line between appropriate and boring.
Despite our gravitational pull towards navy, black and grey, there are very few jobs where colour is an absolute no-no. And while there is nothing wrong with wearing those colours, you shouldn’t feel restricted to them.
Wearing a bright colour amongst a sea of darker ones can make you unforgettable, which can be particularly important at a networking event or in a board meeting. And there’s no colour off limits. Even bright pink can look smart yet fun and vibrant.
If you’re a bit nervous, start with a bright coloured jacket that can be removed if you begin to feel very uncomfortable. And keep the rest of your outfit simple; black in particular looks great with most bright colours.
A beautiful blouse is ideal for going from day to evening
It can be difficult knowing what to wear if you have an event straight after work. An easy option is to go for a statement blouse. It can look funky at work, but equally as cool for the evening. Then you can simply switch up your jewellery, adding a bit of bling. Touch up your makeup and you’re good to go!
When wearing darker colours, focus on texture and details
There are some occasions that simply demand wearing a darker outfit. But that still doesn’t mean it has to be dull.
Look for contrasting textures that will add interest and a new dimension to your look. For example, combine a wool knit with a crisp cotton shirt and a leather skirt. Also focus on details – little extras such as golden buttons, or a contrasting cuff look sophisticated and show care in your appearance.
Stick to a simple formula for ‘smart casual’
While Casual Fridays are meant to be a positive, they can bring stress for a lot of people who may feel it inappropriate or are uncertain about what it means. The key is to achieve balance. Combine some of your more formal pieces with one or two more casual ones, and that way you will still feel professional but more relaxed. An easy way to do this is by following this formula:
A chic top + good jeans + pretty pumps
Jeans are the perfect way to dress down an outfit, but make sure they are nice ones and fit well – dark blue is smarter, and slim fit will look clean and slick. Then by wearing a nice blouse or shirt and elegant shoes, you can still feel comfortable and work-appropriate. And the bonus is you will probably already have those pieces in your wardrobe.