For many years, I had my "work clothes" and my "real clothes." My work clothes were your typical boring unflattering dress pants, ill-fitting collared shirts, and floppy cardigan sweaters that I had somehow decided were what office jobs required. I put much more thought and effort into my "real clothes" and felt more comfortable in the unique dresses and outfits I wore to fun events with my friends.
I have since largely integrated my work wardrobe and my "real clothes." I no longer have a division in my closet, and I am not ashamed to meet friends at the tiki bar right after work (in fact, sometimes that mai tai is essential and must be acquired ASAP).
Many of us have requirements for work wear (no jeans, covering tattoos, natural hair colors) that are limiting, but they don't make expressing your style and feeling great impossible. If you are in a conservative industry or position of authority (yes, and yes for me), the rules (or rules you place on yourself) may be even stricter. Thankfully, a lot of retro dresses and other pieces work well for the office.
I like skirts and dresses for work to touch the top of my knee when standing. Feel free to disregard my suggestions if you are confident that you are in a more creative or permissive arena, but I don't think that miniskirts belong at any type of office job. I also abide by no cleavage at work, but daring dresses and tops can easily be worn with a scarf or camisole.
A few items that do more than their share of heavy lifting in my work wardrobe:
- comfortable, cute, and great for those mornings when you forgot to pick an outfit the night before - no decisions to make! I wear both knit and cotton dresses
most days of the week. Ponte knit is a great fabric that is comfortable yet has a very refined look. Cotton dresses will keep you looking sharper and feeling more comfortable in the warmer months.
High-waisted black pencil skirt
- any top tucked into this looks more pulled together. The three piece rule can also be helpful. Three pieces can make a more complete looking outfit. Skirt, shirt, sweater. Pants, top, scarf. Dress, jacket, scarf.
Plain black blazer - great for making any outfit look like serious business. Look for jackets that are fully lined. A structured blazer thrown over a cotton dress like the Monique
is a great look, and an easy way to make more casual dresses work appropriate. Leave the blazer at work during the summer to take the chill off of excessive air conditioning. A sleeveless Ella blouse
and swing skirt like our Twirl Skirt
is an outfit that can keep you cool during a hot commute. My business travel and or conference uniform is one blazer thrown over several knit dresses.
It is as put-together as a suit and certainly more comfortable for long days in meetings.
A large tote bag is essential for carrying your shoes, lunch, work, purse, and even gym clothes without looking like an overburdened pack rat. I have this canvas tote
- it is stiff enough to keep its shape well, and has a zip top. It is decent enough to carry into a meeting, yet can be thrown into the washing machine.
With spring comes many graduations, and then new jobs and internships. Take some time to really think about the look that you want to project at work, and invest in a few key pieces. You will feel better, and look great – the corner office is waiting for you!