It’s the fashion conundrum faced by women who are about to re-enter the workforce or those who are experiencing a change of career…
How does one maintain their personal style in an office environment?
It’s a question currently being pondered by Anni, who asks:
“This is my problem: after 4 years of nannying/teaching/travelling, I’m going back to an office job on Monday as an event planner. But after those 4 years, 4 years of living in jeans, shorts, maxi dresses and play suits I have no idea how to make my “style” work in a an office. Or my shape. I’m a size 9 – as in an 8 is snug and a 10 is loose but I have a tummy that I’m working hard to get rid of but it’s not going anywhere, I have reasonably long and toned legs and arms and I’m 5ft 3 so a shorty! My style is rather boho, or at least my casual style is. I was thinking of buying skirts and tops but all the skirts I’ve tried don’t seem to sit right! I feel like they all make my tummy seem bigger as they sit on my waist but the A-line shape doesn’t seem to work!
As you can see, I’m a total mess and I need help!”
You’re definitely not a mess, Anni – this is a change in direction for your career that calls for a slightly different wardrobe style.
Notice that I said “slightly” and not “totally”?
That’s because I’m a big believer in not losing your personal sense of style at work.
I work in an admin role in a corporate office and I’ve figured out just how far I can push the fashion envelope without breaking the dress code.
Here’s what I’ve learned…
- Start with a foundation of great basics. This might not be the most exciting tip, but it’s definitely the most important. Every woman needs a pair (or two) of tailored black pants in a cut that suits your body shape, a great white shirt, black blazer and heels of your choice (pumps, peep-toe heels/wedges) in nude and black. These will form the foundation of pretty much every single outfit you put together, Monday to Friday.
- Begin as a magpie, not a peacock. If you’re brand new to a workplace, opt for classic, simple outfits in your first week as you find your fashion way. There are so many levels of “corporate” in the worldwide workplace; every office has a different interpretation. Stick to basic black and white until you’ve seen firsthand how your colleagues dress and what’s suitable for your workplace.
- Scan social media for fashspiration. My favourite places to find fashion inspiration are Instagram (search the #everydaystyle hashtag) and Pinterest. I love seeing how other women put their outfits together and it encourages me to try styling things in different ways. It’s also a great way to see what other fashionistas are wearing to work.
- Mix floaty with fitted. Balance out your bohemian inspired pieces with your tailored corporate basics to create a boho luxe look perfect for work. Think floaty top with a pair of tailored pants and pumps, or pretty dress with blazer, opaque tights, and ankle boots.
- Wear what suits you and you feel comfortable in. Opt for pieces that suit your body shape and that you enjoy wearing. If you’re not a top and skirt kind of girl, don’t wear them. A great alternative is a dress – plus it’s an instant outfit! Aim for knee length or below as an office appropriate hemline.
- Add a pop of colour or print. Bring your personality to an outfit in the form of your favourite colours and prints. Hot pink is my happy colour and I have a gorgeous blazer in this hue that brings a smile to my face (and to other people) every time I wear it. Same goes for leopard print. A dash of leopard in the form of a shoe, scarf or blouse brings an element of me to the outfit while still being suitable for work.
- Add a hint of sparkle with accessories. Don’t just save your favourite jewels for the weekend – wear them to work! A pair of fabulous earrings or statement necklace can look amazing with a simple, sophisticated outfit. Just make sure not to overdo it. If you sound like Jingle Bells while walking down that hallway, chances are you’ve gone too far.
- Shoes are the full stop to an outfit’s sentence. Finish off your ensemble with a great pair of shoes. There are so many incredible styles out there right now in the form of wedges, ankle boots, printed pumps, peep-toe booties, et al. So long as you can walk in them and they’re not Perspex platforms you’d see on a dimly lit podium, the sky’s the limit (or, should I say, your pay check)!
- Shake it up with makeup. I tend to keep my everyday makeup look fairly simple; however one should never underestimate the power of a fabulous lipstick. A pop of colour in the form of a lipstick is an instant face brightener and another great way of showing off your personality without saying a word.
- Casual Day – hooray! Most workplaces have a casual day either every Friday or once a month (mine is the last Friday of each month). This is a great opportunity to wear your favourite threads to work – within reason. Definite no-nos include ripped denim, midriff baring tops, dresses you’d see in a nightclub and thongs (otherwise known as flip-flops… but then again, no one wants to see your underwear either).
Considering that Anni’s new role is as an event planner, this allows for a little bit of creative licence when it comes to outfits for the office.
Corporate Creative is the theme I’ve kept in mind when selecting the pieces that I think could work for Anni or indeed any boho babe in the fields of events, marketing, digital media or freelance, and I’ve put together three potential outfits for the working week…
1. Forever New Shae Panel Blazer $99.99
2. Forever New Audrey Pull-On Skinny Pant $69.99
3. Boho Bird Prairie Top from Birdsnest $89.95
4. Colette Hayman Andrea Fringe Bag (in Caramel)^ $34.95
5. Nine West Martina Heel $139.95
1. Katies Oversized Soft Trench^ $79.95
2. Blush & Co Midnight Blush With Pearls Necklace $79
3. Boom Shankar Amla Dress $71 on sale
4. Walnut Melbourne Jane Python Toe Ballet Flat from Styletread^ $49.95
1. Shabby Sisters Turquoise Droplet Earrings $18
2. Bohemian Traders Oversized Striped Dress (in Navy) $129
3. Bohemian Traders Utility Vest (in Plaid) $189
4. Anizoe Leather Fringe Hipster Bag $59 on sale
5. Therapy Shoes Florence Ankle Boots (in Tan) from Styletread^ $59.95
For more inspiration, read how to build a work wardrobe on a budget by Redcliffe Style and check out these great tips (and shopping suggestions) for a corporate capsule wardrobe on Styling You.
How do you maintain your personal style at work?
If you’re a boho babe in your downtime, which brands do you like to wear to work?
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