Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making Office Attire Work Overtime

Zara Patch pocket blazer $129, trouser $79
One of the things I love about running my own biz is the flexible dress code. I pretty much wear what I want, when I want, so I don't shop for new pieces the way I used to. In the corporate days of my twenties, I'd have three shopping lists each season. One for work, one for play and one for 'anything in between'. 
Sure, there were some cross overs. A sparkly cami slipped under my suit jacket worn admittedly, a bit self-consciously. Obviously casual Friday let many of those in betweeners out in anticipation of the weekend. Other than those few occasions, I really felt like my work clothes were just for projecting a certain image at work and nothing more. I didn't dare add in too much of my more adventurous after-hours style.

In hindsight, I think I was totally misappropriating funds. I was scrimping on boring basics to buy yet another party frock (that I might only wear once) and choosing far too many sensible blazers with little personality. I was buying three times as much and wearing what I bought a third of a time. I didn't spend time in accounting, so you do the math!

Maje Jalouse leather mini, $395 (USD) 
If I had it all to do over again, I would focus on picking more items that can do double duty, especially during the fall and winter seasons when layering is a necessity. I'm not suggesting you break the rules and end up with a date at human resources. I'm just saying, cooler temperatures generally mean you're covered from head to toe anyway, so it's not as though a wardrobe malfunction should be feared.

Why not use this season as an opportunity to experiment a little more with colour, texture and silhouettes to make office wear more fun and to ensure you'll wear those items outside of the cubicle and really get your money's worth?

If you're not sure where to start, get hunting for just three simple purchases. A non-black suit or (matching separates), a leather skirt, and blouse with a fun print. These pieces easily update your wardrobe, can be worn for a few seasons, and transition easily from day to evening.

Wear the power suit for your big meeting, or with glittery underpinnings for an office party. Separate the pieces on the weekend wearing the blazer with denim or pair the trousers with a relaxed sweater.

MANGO Ethnic Print Blouse, $44.90
The leather skirt can be paired with opaque tights so don't worry if it's a little short but if you're worried, just search for a longer style. You can even opt for a fuller skirt if you're afraid of looking too sexy. Wear it to work with blouse or a fitted sweater and try a slouchier sweater when you want to make it less girly. If you're in a really formal environment it's okay to top with a blazer, just don't go for the full leather suit. Think about the visual...yikes!

Last but not least, find a blouse with a print and hue that's flattering. Pair it with jeans instead of the same old t-shirt for a more sophisticated look or make your business look less stuffy by wearing it with your slacks and skirts topped with a cardi instead of a blazer.
Above all, look for items that will make you feel confident no matter the time of day or where you're headed. Unless you wear a uniform there's no reason to sport a basic black suit from 9 to 5  or save your playful pieces for happy hour and weekends only. Think of the compliments you'll get at the water cooler.

-- Tamika Auwai is a fashion junkie, splurge-a-holic, and founder of Shop Socials.

Image credits: Zara, Net-A-Porter, Mango

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