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What To Wear To The Office

I was asked back in the autumn to do a blog post about office wear and more specifically suitable attire for a Natural (find your style personality here) so it seems as good a time as any to tackle this subject. That said, my office days are long gone and I don't class myself as any form of expert in this field. In fact, I've been putting this post off for ages because I'm so out of touch but I promised so shall deliver. Let's see how we get on shall we?

Back in the day when I was required to dress for the office it was very much suits and heels. In fact thinking about it, trousers really didn't feature at all. I know my kids think I lived with the dinosaurs but trousers were perfectly acceptable back then. I guess it was just a personal choice. We certainly didn't have dress down Fridays though, gosh perish the thought! Even the husband's office attire has changed. He no longer feels the need to do the double cuff thingy, tie and formal day suit. These days he'll quite happily wear a shirt and jumper for day to day meetings. I'm thinking progress - yes?

Here are my tips for office wear.

1. Split your suits

You'll find that your wardrobe becomes much more versatile if all of you separate your suits into separates.  A suit jacket may work with a dress. And a favourite pair of trousers may take on a whole new lease of life with a different jacket. I'm almost certain that you'll find new combinations if you sort your wardrobe in this way

2. Don't buy suits!

Buy separates. I would have a selection of jackets in my wardrobe along side a few skirts and pairs of trousers. Suits can be a little bit 'bank uniform' don't you think? Pencil skirts and fitted blazers in matching fabrics. Boooooring! Well it is if that's all you wear day in, day out.

3. Work out your body shape

Look, we've all got different figures haven't we so why would we all wear the same suit? That's another reason for not buying them. Far better to work out what shape you are and dress accordingly. Take a look at a very old blog post here for dress advice. I think I need to do a general update on body shapes. You might find the more recent 'putting the X-factor into your wardrobe' post useful as this helps you to identify a blueprint wardrobe for the future. 

4. Comfort is key

Let's face it, you're going to be spending hours and hours in work wear so it's important that you feel comfy. This is of particular importance to Natural style personalities as comfort is right up there at the top of the wish list. Ponte is a brilliant fabric as it stretches with you as you move.  Case in point: Boden's Emilia Blazer is amazing. I wear this casually which suits my lifestyle but it's a great little office number too. 

Emilia Ponte Blazer - BodenBoden
Stripe Jumper - ASOS (similar)(similar)
Blue Lift & Shape Slim Leg Jeans - M&CoM&Co
Burgundy Boots - Local Boutique (similar)(similar)

Honestly, I can wear this all day and forget it's a blazer. Good quality Ponte will love you forever. Look for it in skirts, trousers and dresses as well. It holds you in, an added bonus.

The Winser London Miracle dress range is fantastic. For ladies who need a bit of power dressing, I'd recommend these every time. Lots of stretch but having the added bonus of clever paneling to hold in the wobbly bits. They look pretty sharp don't they? But honestly, they are still totally comfortable. 

Miracle Dress (also available in black, Winser blue, midnight navy and moonlight - Winser London

Miracle Fitted Dress in Rich Burgundy (also available in black and moonlight) - Winser London

Throw on a jacket and you're ready to face the Monday morning board meeting, chuck on a cardi for a slightly less formal look. Let's talk about cardis shall we because they're a great alternatives to the more formal jacket. I favoured Chanel style cardis in the colder months because they're warmer and easier to layer under a coat. You'd be hard pressed to find one at the moment as they're not deemed 'on trend' but the shorter style can be really rather smart. Take this one...

House Of Fraser Stripe Cardigan Was £79 Now £39)

Teamed with a black dress such as this one, you've got yourself a pretty easy wear outfit.

Dress - Marks & Spencer
Cardigan - House of Fraser
Bag - John Lewis
Shoes - Top Shop

This is the nearest I can find to a Chanel style cardigan.

Boden Cara Trim Detail Cardigan £80

And a very comfortable outfit, no one can say this isn't smart!

Cardigan - Boden
Trousers - Marks & Spencer
Shirt - Me&Em
Shoes - Top Shop
Bag - Mango

You could swap the pussy bow shirt for something a little more simple if this is too fancy. Although it's a lovely soft fabric. Check out those Ponte trousers from M&S at just £15.

Elasticated waist bands aren't just for pregnant women and those over the age of 75. They're comfortable and often very flattering. I'm thinking more of the pull up trousers and tube skirts variety rather than full on ruching around the belly. They tend to lie flat against your figure so don't add unnecessary bulk in areas that most of us don't want to 'bulk' out. The Milano wool skirts from Winser London are fantastic. Available in other colours too (this is the blush).

Frill Blouse - Local Boutique (similar)
Blush Milano Pure Wool Skirt - Winser London
Shoes - ASOS (similar)
Bag - Marks & Spencer (similar)
This might be worth a spin.

Marks & Spencer Pull On Bodycon Skirt £17.50

Adore this little peplum skirt from Next. Get me an office job quick!!!!!

Next Black Peplum Skirt £28

These trousers are fabulous. Yes to day-to-evening styling, the belt is removable so perfect to wear with a jacket and shirt during the day. They're soft, stretchy and actually described as a sophisticated track pant. That'll be a yes then?

Me&Em Day To Evening Tux Trouser £135

Don't be put off with the M&S styling (I've chosen the flat image for obvious reasons) but I think these could do the job. I'd go shorter so if you're a long, try a regular length.

Marks & Spencer Ponte Straight Leg Trousers £19.50

5. Be practical 

a) Choose easy care fabrics

Let's face it, the last thing any working woman needs is a whole bunch of hand wash or dry clean items. I'd love to wear silk shirts every day but that is never going to happen because I throw everything into the washing machine. I know a lot of people don't like polyester for it's inherent spontaneous combustion properties but you can't beat it for minimal laundry care. No poncey wash cycle required, hang on a coat hanger to dry and you'll probably get away without ironing. This is one of my very easy care polyester tops which is probably why I wear it lots! Old from good old Dorothy Perkins.

Another reason to buy Ponte - it's great for the working woman - most of it is machine washable including jackets.

b) Ponchos are super useful!

Great for popping over your blazer and a much more practical option than trying to shoe horn your body plus jacket into an overcoat.

This one is from Kettlewell Colours and has been so useful. Chuck it in your bag if the weather looks a bit iffy (90% of the time).

Kettlewell Colours City Poncho Currently £48.30

And even better, the cashmere blend wraps from Mimi & Thomas. You can unbutton one side to create all sorts of different looks.

Mimi & Thomas Cashmere Wrap With Buttons £80

So, if it gets a bit chilly in the office, you can fashion it into a cardi style (now that's clever!). I'm wearing it as a wrap here but button up the front and voila, it's a stripy cardigan.

Lots of colour choices too (here) so you can either choose an understated neutral such as navy or add a statement colour to an outfit (love the cornflower blue).

c) Culottes rule ✌

Back in the day it was always ME that the photocopier packed up on or the fax machine decided not to play ball with. Oh yes a very regular occurrence indeed. Which necessitated clambering over several desks and reaching down to unplug the darn things. Not easy in an already over the knee pencil skirt I can tell you. Culottes would have saved many a blush.

I bought these tailored pinstripe pair back in November and completely forgot about them until today. They would be a perfect addition to a working wardrobe.  Ok, lose the biker and white boots! They're sold out online now but I noticed quite a few pairs in different colourways on Oxford Street last week (in the sale as well). They're the pull up ones if you happen to be near a Zara soon.

For a polished office look stick to suiting or heavier fabrics.

Zara Culottes £29.99

Maybe not such a versatile colour but regardless, they're lush...

Next Burgundy Wide Crop Trousers £42

Pleats anyone?

Warehouse at John Lewis Pleated Culottes £45

Something for the depths of winter, Milano wool. The drape is beautiful.

Jaegar at John Lewis Wool Milano Knit Culottes Currently £60

6. And a few other bits to finish off this topic because it's turning into a mega post

*mega as in long, not mega as in fantastic

a) Update your look with shoes

Let's face it, kitting out your working wardrobe can cost an arm and a leg so it's not practical to start again at the beginning of every season. But, a pair of shoes can really update your look. Top Shop are brilliant at producing shoes inspired by the couture catwalks. Next are also a very affordable option. And, I have a big soft spot for Boden's footwear, there's always a statement shoe lurking in every collection.

b) But not all shoes work with all trousers

I'm thinking wide leg trousers here. Look, if you buy wide legs that are only just long enough, it's going to be flats all the way. And, conversely if you buy them overly long, it will always be heels. Worth bearing in mind because they ain't going to work with both flats and heels are they?

c) Statement tops will take an outfit up a few notches

Work wear doesn't have to be boring. A pussy bow blouse will sharpen up any old suit. Pleated cuffs peeping out from a jacket provide a bit of interest. I love a good cuff so this season, let's just say I'm like a pig in mud!

Get yourselves some cuff goals ladies...

c) Column of colour 

Yes that old chestnut again. Sorry. But it works. So to recap, dressing in one solid colour top to toe will give you a streamlined look. You can add any colour jacket over this.

Navy/Black Mix Jacket - old (similar and an absolute bargain!)
Black Top - Me&Em (reduced)  
Black coated pull up leggings - Next (maybe not suitable for office wear!)
Shark Pippa Grab Bag - Modalu (currently reduced)
Black Boots - Boden (reduced)

d) Coatigans are useful little things

I mean you won't look a pillock sat in the sub-zero office in one. Unlike your anorak. This is mine which I love (doing the column of colour thingy too).

Cashmere Blend Chunky Coat - Winser London (now reduced)
Black Button Down Back Crepe Top - Ichi (similar here - great wardrobe staples)

Black Pull On Coated Leggings - Next
Black Ankle Boots - Marks & Spencer (old)
Metallic Bronze Clutch - Mimi & Thomas

I could go on and on and on but I won't torture you anymore. I'll do a summer office wear post when we've stopped wearing our thermals (that'll be July then). Next time, I'm going to talk about the psychology of colour and what it says about you. You can apply this to your workwear wardrobe too. 

Well, I hope you've found this just a little bit useful. I do understand that there's a varying degree of what's acceptable dress from one office to another so you may need to adapt this to suit your own environment. Me? I'd be in full on power dressing mode every day because I love a good pinstripe. But life is very different these days and just to prove it, I'll leave you with a faux fur selfie from last weekend in London (I seem to have kopped for the Big Bird one). Yep, things are very different 😌

12 comments on "What To Wear To The Office"
  1. What a brilliant and informative post! I now work freelance from home and the one (and possibly only!) thing that I miss about office life is the opportunity to dress up. I just love me a blazer, a pussy bow and a pinstripe ;)

  2. What great outfits you've created Donna. I almost wish I worked in an office. I did many years ago but never looked that stylish. But I think most of these ideas would work for any smart occasion. Love the photo of you all in the multicoloured coats!

    1. Yes I agree, they're quite classic aren't they Elaine (I have to reign in my classic tendencies now and again though). Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, your support of the blog is very much appreciated x

    2. It's my pleasure. Thank you for giving us such fantastic lessons in dressing and accessorizing. No, never ever too classic, just a perfect balance of creativity and timeless elegance. You make it look easy!

  3. I read a lot of fashion blogs and yours is by far the best and most useful. What I particularly like is that you cater for all heights, and shapes and don't just post outfits that suit yourself only.

    1. What a lovely thing to say, thank you so much x

  4. Where is the gold knot bangle from, Donna?

    1. Answered via Facebook (thanks for making Mr B laugh) x

  5. I love these outfits! I have to go for the longer shorts so you will see me in those with my trusty celebrity sunglasses to hide my tired eyes :-) Also, can we put a mojito in there somewhere? Yay summer! Howmate.com Crazyask.com

  6. Almost all of these tips are just so amazing to live up to summer season. Loved the thin layer idea….this one is absolutely I wold love to adhere to.
    Thanks for sharing. UpdateLand

  7. Wow, nice outfits. Recently I have ordered some of new latest collection of office outfit with sterling silver pearl studs earrings. Really these office wear looking awesome.