Yes, you can wear colour, slogans and a statement skirt to work – it’s time to rethink the workwear rules.
As some of you may know, I also have a fairly formal job outside of Wardrobe ICONS that requires me to dress more office-appropriately. It is a job where leather leggings and sequin skirts have no place. The tendency on these occasions is to play it safe, so navy trousers and a cashmere jumper are my go-to uniform. However I have started trying to invest in pieces that will cross both worlds – my fashion and my corporate life. Here are the items that marry these two as conservatively as possible.
A utility skirt is one of those pieces that can cross many divides. It works for the office because the thickness of the fabric means it can look both structured and smart. Equally, with the right accessories it can be informal, due to the visible pockets. Khaki is also a handy shade, as it will go with the majority of your neutrals and is a ‘non-colour’ like denim, so it works well with brights too. When it comes to a utility skirt to wear primarily for work, I would recommend a pencil skirt in a longer length.
Officewear shades tend to include black, grey and navy. However a pop of colour can really make a difference, and you are more likely to wear the item informally too. We are not suggesting rocking up to board meetings in head-to-toe acid yellow. However green, pink and red can all be suitable workwear if worn with neutrals to tone them down. If the thought of wearing colour is too scary, why not try an accessory such as this Anya Hindmarch bag. The bright strap is easily removable, so you can always take it off on a day when you prefer to play it safe.
Tailored trousers are an obvious workwear staple. The most common choices are wool or crepe fabrics in a straight leg, and there are some great options out there. However should you want to go for something a little more daring, I would suggest a wide leg. And not just any wide leg, a wide silk leg. This is the officewear equivalent of pyjama dressing. Wide silk trousers are comfortable, elegant and luxurious, but still feel formal. They are a great day-to-night option, too – just make sure you have a travel steamer handy so you can give them a quick steam at the end of the day before heading out.
The majority of office workers must own at least four white shirts, so why not go for one that has a deconstructed element. This Joseph shirt is a brilliant example – it is formal and basic but with a twist. It also happens to be quite fashion-forward, so you will be on trend without even trying. With white shirts, always make sure the cotton is thick enough not to be see-through and that the cut suits your frame – nothing is less work-appropriate than a bulging cleavage.
Finding the perfect black office bag can be a tricky process. You need something large enough to fit your essentials for the day including a make-up bag, diary and possibly a e-reader for the commute. However a tote size can sometimes feel excessive and not great if you have to go out after work. Enter this Mansur Gavriel piece – the lack of detail means it is timeless, the size spot-on for an average work day and with this label you will be in with the front-row crowd. It’s the kind of bag that will subtly draw people’s attention as it oozes quality.
I have to admit this is pushing the boundaries of officewear, even for a part-time fashion journalist. However I included it in the edit for three reasons. The structured dress is making a comeback – it is the new shirt dress, only more formal. The shoulder detail makes it feel a little Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, and who doesn’t want a dress like that in their wardrobe? Lastly, silk doesn’t traditionally belong in the office, but I would argue with the right accessories it can become your most elegant work partner.
Heeled courts are a corporate standard, however we often get asked by readers what would be our less painful alternative. The pointed flat is our answer; whether you go for durable patent or luxurious velvet, this shoe is a great workwear basic that you will wear off-duty too. We can imagine this pair with cigarette trousers and a polo neck for work, or with a slogan jumper and leather mini off-duty. They also happen to be very commuter-friendly.
We hold the statement skirt in high regard and consider it a staple, however it can be difficult to find a workwear equivalent. When it comes to the statement work skirt, we would recommend playing it safe and choosing one with a mix of textures rather than colours. This DKNY version is a good example; it’s plain enough not to scare your work colleagues but has enough detail to be interesting for the fashion-forward among you.
A jumper dress isn’t in everyone’s workwear vocabulary, but for more casual days we can’t recommend it enough. Equivalent to wearing a hug on a winter day, it is also a good option for pregnant women as it can stretch with your bump. Here I have teamed it with a ankle boot and trench which might be a little too informal for some of our corporate readers. However, team it with a heel and a tailored jacket and you’ll be surprised at how dressed-up it can look.
A slogan jumper is about to be become your favourite workwear icon. Try to go for a low-key kind of slogan, such as Bella Freud’s 1970 jumper – it has to say something without saying something, if you know what we mean. It can work as a great alternative to a traditional knit or even a shirt with your more boring office attire. There are then 101 other ways to wear it off-duty. We are basically giving you permission to get more mileage out of your expensive slogan pieces.
We have always loved a good tote, especially as a workwear staple. In the past we have always gone for something simpler and more formal. However we never tended to use them much outside of the work environment. This Sophie Hulme tote is the perfect marriage between something practical for the office and off-duty with the kids. It can fit everything from a laptop to a toy truck, and it’s super hard-working with killer hardware.
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