A little while ago I featured an outfit I wore to work and asked whether people might like to see more of my office outfits. Although I would never claim to be an expert in anything fashion related, after working in an office for four years I feel I am somewhere near mastering the art of the office wardrobe. With this in mind, I wanted to write a short guide to dressing for the office, and I hope those of you who are starting an office job (or any job that requires a smart casual dress code) will find it useful.
Firstly, I have gathered together (through scribbling ideas in my notebook), my top five tips for office dressing. Some of them could be described as ‘the bleedin’ obvious’, and others came about through bad workwear related experiences that I have now learnt from (see ‘don’t wear a playsuit and tights under a skirt because you love that floral playsuit but shorts are too short for the office… because you have to get completely undressed to go to the loo’).
1. Buy a pair of heels you feel amazing in, and keep them under your desk for those moments when you need a confidence kick – Tottering your way to work and rolling your ankle in a subway – fail. Having a pair of killer heels under your desk to slip on when you’re going to a nerve-racking meeting – win. (Also effective for the walk of shame round to the IT boys because you spilt tea in your keyboard).
2. High waisted skirts cover a multitude of sins – A plain t-shirt (H&M do a great range of basic t-shirts) or a shirt tucked into a high waisted skirt is one of my most used ‘go-to outfits’ for work. I say they cover a multitude of sins because, if you’re anything like me and you have a bit of a belly (or if you have a post-lunch meeting and are feeling the bloat!) they are so flattering and make me feel much less body-conscious.
3. Limit the amount of clothes you buy that you CAN’T wear to work – When clothes shopping I have to constantly remind myself that 60-70% of my time is spent in the office, and my wardrobe should reflect roughly the same ratio of work/non-work clothes. As depressing as it is to realise that it’s not practical to fill your wardrobe with jeans, varsity jackets and vintage-print t-shirts, it makes better financial sense to buy pieces that can go from casual to work-wear and vice-versa. It shouldn’t be too difficult – it’s surprising how many dresses/skirts you’d think you could never wear to work can be transformed with some flats and a cardigan.
4. If you’re worried something is too short, too revealing or just too darned uncomfortable to wear to work, don’t take the risk – I have learned this the hard way too many times; you know the feeling when you have a new item of clothing you love, and you want to wear it all the time, right? Well when you have that moment when you stand in front of the mirror just before you go to work and you think ‘Maybe there’s a chance I’m showing a little too much cleavage’ or ‘These shoes rub like hell, but dammit I love them so much!’ – trust your gut. Last week I spent a whole two hour meeting yanking my skirt down because I realised it was a lot shorter when I was sat down than when I was parading in front of the mirror before I left. Don’t forget, once you’re at work, you’re stuck there, and you can’t change!
5. Keep a sewing kit in your drawer – After the aforementioned playsuit incident (a.k.a the one where I realised that being in the work loos in your undies feels really weird), I triumphantly exited the toilet before realising that in my haste to get re-dressed I’d pulled one of the buttons off the front of it (the top one, of course), and accidentally rendered my outfit completely inappropriate for work. I had to use a pin badge to retain my modesty – if you pop a little sewing kit into your desk drawer you won’t make the same mistake!
Finally, learn to do the ‘is my dress tucked in my tights?’ check before you leave the toilets. It really saves a lot of embarrassment – especially, especially if your route back to your desk goes past the Chief Exec’s office.
I have also compiled a little rundown of a very basic work wardrobe. Owning a few basic pieces you can mix and match (as I mentioned before, H&M are great for basic shirts and t-shirts) means you can create loads of great work outfits from just a few pieces. Once you’ve found a few outfits you really feel great in, remember them, and pull them out for those days when you need that extra confidence kick.
Please do let me know if you found this useful; it’s quite a diversion from my usual blog posts but I wanted to include more variety in my blog on the offchance that you all are tiring of photos of cupcakes and me prattling on about how much I love living in the country!