Once upon a time, the corporate working womans’ wardrobe consisted of various suits in grey, black, navy. Court shoes in plain colours, striped or plain white cotton collared shirts. Possibly pearls or simple studs.
Times have changed. Women have become more powerful in the corporate world and are slowly changing the way they want to be portrayed, holding their own style rather than fitting into the man’s world. Women even in senior positions are tossing the more conservative style and adopting a more “me” style which is refreshing and showing their peers that success starts from within. If you feel great in what you’re wearing, you will exude confidence and hence perform better.
So what was once a very conservative work wardrobe that consisted of maybe 5-7 basic essentials, the “new modern’ basic essentials has broadened. Hence this post. It is about the staple pieces to have in your corporate wardrobe and the do’s and don’ts with your work wear.
Working in a corporate environment doesn’t mean your wardrobe has to have a complete overhaul or has to be boring. Yet it does have to be appropriate for your type of work. You can cleverly incorporate your own personal touches into your 9 to 5 style, all you need is a few key pieces that will give you a professional edge without looking like weekend wear or ‘disco’ wear. General dress codes vary per workplace and professional field. I call it the Three C’s: Conservative, Creative and Casual. For example, your office’s business casual dress code may be an everyday affair allowing you to wear denim and open-toed shoes to your heart’s content. Or your company’s definition of casual solely rests on Casual Friday’s, but still requires a denim free and closed-toe shoe policy. Use your best judgement and tweak these fashionable trends as necessary.
Some articles worth referring to for tips and ideas on how to jazz up your work wardrobe. ‘Working It’, ‘Spring into Work’, ‘Mixing Prints and Patterns‘, and ‘New Year New Looks for the Working Woman’.
The Basic Essentials:
The first essential requirement is figure out your body shape and what looks great on you, working out the parts you love and the parts you prefer to hide. We all have parts we love, so be good to yourself and work it well: in moderation of course. If your best asset is your breast or legs, that does not mean you go to work wearing Hollywood style daringly low-cut tops or a mini skirt up to your upper thigh. Leave that for your weekend. Below are some of my tips for a general, basic corporate wardrobe. From here you can just keep adding with on trend pieces each season, mixing it up a bit and adding your own flair as I love to teach my clients to do.
- A good quality suit jacket with a pant and skirt option sets a great foundation for you to build on. (Remember here I am talking about a more conservative corporate environment where a suit is required). A black, navy, or charcoal suit will get you off to a good start. There are so many lovely interesting styles out there now such as the ones pictured above, that you don’t have to go for the classic cut anymore. In that way, you can mix the jacket with a different pant, skirt or dress to add some interest.
- A versatile well cut blazer that can be worn over any pant, skirt or dress. Choose one in an accent colour or pinstripe that can jazz up a plain pair of pants or skirt. A blazer also works over jeans for casual Friday.
- A pair of pants or/and skirt (depending on your style) in a vibrant colour such as red or/and an interesting cut skirt such as an asymmetrical style. These can be worn with a simple blouse and a blazer. Skirt length to sit on or just above the knee or midi length.
- A couple of stylish and versatile dresses that suit your body shape so you can go from day wear to evening wear. For example the wrap, A line, boat neck, pencil dress. One you can easily add a jacket/cardigan/scarf/various jewellery and different style shoes to give you variety. They don’t necessarily need to be black or grey. As shown in images above, some colour with an interesting yet simple cut does not date. Length of dresses: knee or just above, midi length.
- Soften your look with satin and silk blouses to wear under your suiting or to wear alone with the pants/skirt option. Pick up styles that suit you and in the season’s hottest colours. Apart from bold plain colours, you can even go for patterns like paisley prints, small florals and geometric shapes as long as they are not too large and psychedelic loud.
- Mid height or kitten heels seem to be the more comfortable option for work. However some women don’t mind wearing a little higher which is fine providing they are not disco heels and can walk well in them. There is generally no rule as to the style of shoe whether it is sling back, ankle strap, pumps or peep toe. It’s quite acceptable to slip into higher more jazzy shoes for an after hours corporate event. But once again careful not to drag out the sparkling ultra high or chunky disco numbers. Colour is good though, don’t be scared to experiment with block coloured, patterned or two-toned shoes. They jazz up a black/navy suit.
- An interesting handbag will give your ensemble a polished look. Again to jazz up a navy/black suit look for handbags with details like buttons and pockets or even vivid colours.
- Belts and Jewellery also gives your look an edge. Add bangles, a necklace or a chic brooch to your lapel.
- In winter, add a colourful knit or wool scarf to your suit, and some stylish leather boots and closed in shoes to cope with the cooler weather. In summer you can swap your suit jacket for a cardigan, and your boots for some peep-toe heels. You can add and subtract these to your basic suits for all year-round style.
As you can see, I have suggested the basic essentials for your corporate wardrobe. From here you can keep adding, mixing and matching to make your wardrobe ‘work for you, not you for it’. Now for some NO-NO’s.
OFFICE NO-NO’s/BASIC HYGIENE TIPS
- Clean, trimmed nails. Keep it simple with clear gloss, soft pinks, reds and shorter nails at work do look better than extra long. Manicures and pedicures are cheap.
- Clean, neat hair. Some of you can afford the luxury of a once or twice weekly blow dry. If not and time is poor, purchase dry shampoo to spray on roots which will give hair volume and allow you an extra day or two between washes. Hair tied back or up neatly with a pretty clip is also another option. But please do not go in to work with unkept hair. Make a little effort with hair; it is a big professional turn off if you don’t.
- Shoes in good condition (especially heels). If your shoes are scuffed, then get them fixed immediately or throw them out. It is not a good look to have scuffed, worn out heals.
- Wear a little bit of makeup at all times even if you don’t like to wear makeup as it looks professional to your clients and colleagues. It says “I CARE”. The bare minimum is important i.e. under eye concealer, mascara, lip liner, lipstick.
- Carry in your handbag or leave at work – mints, dry shampoo, 2nd pair of stockings, lip liner, gloss, baby wipes for marks on clothes(believe me they are excellent for taking off makeup and certain spillages)
- Invest in properly fitted and comfortable bras and underwear. The right fit bra not only makes you look slimmer, but your outfit looks a whole lot better if you are wearing the right bra/knickers. Bras in black, white or skin colour and seam free underwear are a good start. Adding a push up bra is fine if you would like to add a “little” cleavage. But absolutely not appropriate to have the breasts on full display. Go here for tips on lingerie.
- If wearing a transparent blouse be sure to wear a camisole underneath and not have just your bra on full display. And don’t wear a coloured bra under a light coloured blouse. Believe me I’ve seen both these fashion faux’s in the office more times than I can remember.
- Skirts/dresses length to be NO shorter than just above the knee. Either on the knee or just above, or midi length are perfect for work.
- No leggings as pants. Leggings only look good under dresses, tunics, skirts.
As a personal fashion consultant working around the world – Barcelona to Dubai, Milan to Sydney – one of Style by Gessica’s offerings has been to provide presentations for staff in corporate environments on how to “use” style to present appropriately and impressively at work. The result is a) improved company image b) boosted self-worth among colleagues and c) confidence from clients.
A corporate workshop is an important investment with results seen almost immediately. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire of the corporate workshops and personal consultations.
Stay tuned for my next style article. Will be a big one with lots of new looks.
Bye for now.