Workwear is yet another rather silly fashion idiom to add to the list – for unless you wear an actual uniform, there shouldn’t be restrictions set in stone. Now, I understand that we can’t all be fluttering around the workplace in cherry-red Doc Martens, and that, given the option, most of us wouldn’t want to host a meeting about budget cuts wearing this season’s ironic puffball skirt. That’s a given. But it doesn’t need to mean that we have to stick to a navy skirt suit and a good all-rounder sensible shoe. To some extent, all these rules can be a little stifling – so let’s not forget that rules are often made to be challenged.
Take mixing patterns, for example, the perfect rule to turn on its head, as combining graphics, stripes, checks and florals can be clever. The trick is to offset smaller, intricate florals with something more masculine – perhaps a bolder stripe or check. Go for an outfit that’s busy in pattern but not in colour. A neutral background is a good base. If you are worried about getting the balance right, think of yourself as a set of scales, in that nothing should outweigh the other. If it does, we need to add to the opposite to equalise.
We often steer clear of clashing colour, which is a shame, for it can be rather elegant — take black and navy as a good example, especially if the difference between the two is subtle. Vertical print panels will give a slimming effect, while a wide belt will help create an hourglass shape.
Believe it or not, the way that most fashion industry professionals shop is rather sensible: they splash out on one big-ticket item per season, wear it to death and put it away when the new season comes in. This is assuming, though, that you have the basics covered. When it comes to a suit, for example, invest in the best you can possibly afford, and then play with using individual pieces. If the suit you’re buying also has a matching skirt and/or dress, then buy those too – the concept of mix and match is a real timesaver.
A suit trouser worn with a T-shirt will give the look a new spin, as will adding a short, cropped jacket to a wide trouser. The mid-calf length is ideal for a more conservative workplace; although be sure to pair with a slim-fitting chiffon blouse, which will balance out the extra volume at the bottom. A clever way to check out which length of skirt suits your figure best is to take a large piece of fabric and hold it in front of your body in front of a mirror and find where on the leg is most flattering for the skirt to end.
Most, if they want to splash out, will go for a jacket when it comes to an investment piece, as it’s the most versatile. Silk is a great alternative to wool, as it’s cooler while it also drapes beautifully. Remember, a working wardrobe needs all its parts to work together. The shoes must work with most of your jackets and skirts, while your jackets should be interchangeable with cardigans and your trousers for skirts. Although don’t forget that in the grand scheme of things, we’re not meant to ponder fashion too much, so try not to take things too literally and leave a little breathing room for interpretation and whim.
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