“Style for the professional woman is an expression of her vitality, self-confidence, and power to superbly deliver her product, service, or philosophy in the marketplace.”
Women don’t have to turn away from their love of style to compete in the corporate world. Great style (combined with wit and intelligence) is an effective communication tool for women (and for men) and yes, it can be fun. It’s our visual voice. In fact, appropriate, expressive and contemporary business style is more important than ever as the world we live in becomes increasingly visual through technological advancements and the expansion of social media outlets.
I have written this post as I am constantly asked to give advice on jazzing up a work wardrobe consisting of mainly black. I couldn’t be happier writing this post, even though I could write much more than what I have, this is a start. I truly hope you find it helpful.
As a fashion consultant I am frequently asked to conduct corporate styling sessions in offices where I guide women and men on appropriate yet stylish work wear in a relatively conservative environment. Today’s modern professional understands that great style is just smart business. For those in creative industries such as fashion, media, T.V.,marketing, advertising, events etc, it is pretty normal not to even own a suit and you can generally let your creativity run wild (save that for another post). This post relates more to the “conservative” fields such as finance, law, accounting, certain sales, politics, real estate, I.T., health etc where it seems to be a given that you wear suits and black, navy or grey is the colour. Well I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be all about suits, not that there is anything wrong with a great cut stylish suit. In these modern days, many bosses won’t dictate the attire or necessarily mind if you don’t wear black or grey…as long as what you do wear looks stylish and appropriate for your job. There are many articles telling you the basics of what you must have in your wardrobe and as many of you reading this would most likely have a suit, then I am not going to repeat the same ole thing. I am here to guide you on how to mix it up a little, get a little creative …….and lets add some colour whilst we’re at it.
Working in a corporate environment doesn’t mean your wardrobe has to have a complete overhaul or has to be lifeless. 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 unique pieces that will give you a professional edge without looking like weekend 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 company’s definition of casual solely rests on Friday’s, but still requires a denim free and closed-toe shoe policy. Use your best judgement and tweak as necessary. Experiment, experiment, experiment until you have figured out your own flair………is something I will keep repeating. And if you don’t know your flair….that is what people like “moi” help you with.
The first essential requirement is figure out your body shape. It really is not that simple to say you’re an hourglass, pear shape, apple etc etc. We all have a unique shape that can be a mixture of several. Click on the body shape link as this site gives you a comprehensive guide to various body shapes. Once you work out your body shape you can determine what looks great on you and 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 assets are your breasts or legs, that does not mean you go to work wearing Hollywood style daringly low cut tops or a mini skirt shorter then your mid thigh. Leave that for your weekend….if that is your thing. Below I’ve put together some outfits that are stylish, jazzy and appropriate corporate wardrobe. The key here is to add new pieces each season, mixing it up a bit and adding your own flair.
I don’t have to tell you that a good quality suit jacket with a pant and skirt option sets a great foundation for you to build on. Although black, navy or grey suit with a classic cut will get you off to a good start, I’d like to suggest purchasing a suit with an interesting cut design or a completely different colour i.e. red, blue, even white in spring/summer. Or how about a bright coloured separate such as a jacket or pant.
These colour combinations are great. If to start you’re a little afraid of colour in your clothing, be bold instead with the shoes,handbags, accessories to add to your blacks and greys. And who said you had to be uber young to wear colour?
Add flair with an interesting cut jacket and wear it with solid coloured pants. Again mix up colour with shoes and accessories. Pants should not be too tight nor overly wide. And absolutely no leggings worn as pants.
A versatile dress that suits your body shape is feminine, professional and takes you away from the suit look. One you can easily add a jacket/cardigan/scarf/various jewellery and different style shoes to give you variety.
If you do have many grey or black dresses, add colour to it. Depending on the corporate environment, even adding a unique neck piece such as a feather cape pictured or brooch can make an otherwise dull colour look simply “stunning” and professional without going OTT.
Mix up the shape and style of dresses to suit you. Again add two-toned shoes, bold necklaces and earrings to make simple dress stand out. You don’t have to be matchy matchy as you can see I have not done in any of the photos. Again experiment.
As you can tell, I am guiding you to get out of black and into exploring colour for work. Even if it’s just a little bit, trust me, the slight changes to your work attire will have you feeling like a different person and your colleagues/clients will be loving it too.
Soften your look with satin and silk blouses or camisoles to either go under your suiting or to wear alone with skirts/pants. This is where you can be a little more trend-driven with your choices; pick up styles in the season’s hottest colours. Apart from beautiful bold plain colours, you can even go for patterns like paisley prints, small floral and geometric shapes as long as they are not too large and psychedelic loud for the office. With the amount of gorgeous feminine blouses out there(at reasonable prices), there is no excuse to be wearing casual jersey t-shirts under your suits. I’ve seen it time and time again, and it is just not chic.
In regards to skirts: make it interesting with pleats, tucks or slightly asymmetrical. The length of the skirts/dresses should at least come to your knees when standing.While you are seated, your thighs should be covered.
If you like to wear business shirts, why not make it interesting by going with a double collar or large collar, or one of my favourites is shirts with cuff links. This is a powerful simple statement on women which enables you to bring in your own creative flair with the many varieties of cuff links out there.
Just a few extra tips:
SHOES: careful not to drag out the disco heals. I’ve seen it all too often in the office. Opt instead for pumps, peep toe, kitten heels or strappy heels avoiding sparkles and ultra chunky heals. And please no scuff heals. If you don’t like wearing too high, then the kitten heel shoe looks gorgeous with most outfits. Colour is good though. Don’t be scared to buy shoes with colour and pattern. If you’re a little shy to wear clothing with colour, then shoes is the next best thing. They make black/navy suit look hot. Be daring and go for it!!
ACCESSORIES: As you see above in the images, belts and jewellery gives your look a point of difference. Add cuffs, a necklace, a chic brooch to your lapel and remember to mix up the colours a little. You can go a little dramatic with brooches if your suit or outfit is quite simple. I love adding many crystal brooches in a cluster together on lapels. You can also add them to a silk scarf around your neck. You dont’ see many people in the corporate world wearing brooches, they are underrated and hope to see a lot more people wearing them.
In winter, add colourful knit or wool scarf to your suit, bright coloured cashmere or wool tops to pants and skirts, opaque tights with coloured shoes. 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.
My mission is to see women break out of their fear zones and “shine” in their own style. Not clone.
If you have any questions, I would be delighted to assist you further.
I look forward to hearing from you personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy work days