My idea of nightmare attire is probably a stiff, close fitting, traditional grey work dress. Apologies, grey work dresses, or wearers of grey work dresses; I’m sure nice dresses that are grey that you could wear for work exist, but in this instance I see the grey work dress as a symbol of all the stuffiness and lack of personality that comes with some of the more dated ideas of what workplace culture should be.
I say at work on a regular basis that what someone is wearing bears no relation to their ability to do their job well except in relation to how it makes them personally feel. I know, I know, I sound like an utter joy to work with, preaching my little heart out every damn day. And yet as nice of an idea as this is, and as much as I genuinely believe it, I’m not naïve enough to think that that means it would be cool for me to rock up dressed like Christina Aguilera in the Dirrty video and say “This is really just what makes me feel like I can smash the marketing today guys (Ring the alarm)”.
I do, however, want to inject a little personality into my work attire, and I don’t mean to brag, but I was recently named the marketing department’s ‘Office Fashionista’, so if that’s not an accolade to be jealous of I don’t know what is.
Side note: I think the people who voted for that might have been on something, because as much as I’m talking as though I’m a workplace dressing guru, the reality is that I do sometimes turn up seemingly dressed as either a small boy or a very grand and extravagant old lady.
Anyway, since I spend five days out of seven at my actual job rather than loitering in the streets making my boyfriend take photos of me, it’s probably about time I talked office outfits. The lovelies at Pretty Little Thing recently asked if I’d like to style up a couple of outfits from their workwear section, so I thought it would be a good chance to show you the sort of things I look for to keep things office-appropriate but fun.
I should say here that I work in Marketing at a publishing company; it’s not super casual, but it’s not super formal and business dress is not necessary, so I appreciate that these particular outfits won’t be suitable for any workplace. Some of the items in them probably are though, as are my suggestions for adding personality to your workwear, which can be adapted to suit the formality of the environment. Here’s what helps me do the whole workwear, but make it fun thing:
What I’m Wearing:
Blazer – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Top – New Look | Bag – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Jeans – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Boots – C/O Pretty Little Thing
POP OF COLOUR
I absolutely love wearing colour; there’s something so confidence-boosting about adding a pop of bright hue to your office ootd (or ‘oot’, as my boss calls it) and on a dreary Monday morning it helps to perk me up. Both of the PLT outfits I chose include a pop of bright colour and I think it’s the making of them, to be honest; I’m now a proper convert to green, and got 3 compliments on the shade of this blazer on the first day I wore it to work.
For those who prefer monochrome or neutrals, textures are such a nice way to incorporate some fun and interest into an office outfit. I love how playful this faux fur bag is and with satin in the top and the studs and faux suede in these glorious boots there’s lots going on without having to awkwardly respond to Sandra from accounts when she tells you how ‘zany’ your outfit is.
LEVELS OF ‘DRESSED UP’
If there’s one thing I love, its pairing casual and smart things together. Mom jeans and stiletto boots, midi skirts and trainers, something relaxed and something dressy; it’s my favourite way to put a look together and for work I take the same approach. One of my particular favourites is straight leg or mom jeans with a blazer – it’s such a good way to level out your smart/casual vibe and if you work in a more formal environment then hey, just switch the jeans for cigarette trousers and you’re away.
MIX AND MATCH WITH STAPLES
Okay, so it sounds like I’m going back to boring now, but playful pieces are easy to pair with staples and classics – hence the faded black mom jeans, which are going to work with all manner of tops and shoes. I can’t wait to wear them with mules and a white blazer in the summer.
What I’m Wearing:
Jumper – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Skirt – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Tights – Primark | Boots – C/O Pretty Little Thing | Coat – Primark | Bag – C/O Pretty Little Thing
SHAPES AND VOLUME
I am all about a bit of volume in clothes (hence my culottes obsession) and adding interesting shapes to your work wardrobe is, in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to take officewear from dull to delightful. The balloon sleeves on this jumper and the frills on the skirt from my second PLT outfit were too cute to pass up.
It’s pretty easy to bring trends into the workplace with you and as someone who genuinely enjoys experimenting with different trends as they appear and disappear (I am absolutely not too cool to jump on a bandwagon), I do like to try to take that to work with me too. The big sleeves of this jumper are a great example of this, as is this amazing large corduroy bag which brings the cord trend into the office in a really practical, look-i-can-fit-a-laptop-in-here way.
Office layering is my favourite. A shirt under a jumper, a pretty blouse or slogan tee under a blazer, sheer tights under a skirt, or whatever else, layering is one of my favourite things to incorporate into my office dressing. Also helpful when you would in a building that is either boiling or freezing with no in between.
KEEP IT COMFORTABLE
Something I really dislike when I see it in action is the weird idea that for work a woman needs to be wearing heels or a skirt and probably something sexy but not overtly sexy because that would be inappropriate. Bore off plz, gal got work to do and she probably doesn’t need you to tell her what to wear while she’s doing it. If you’re wearing something that just doesn’t feel ‘you’ then you probably aren’t going to feel very comfortable; I don’t wear pencil skirts, for example, but you might love them, and while I love a pleated midi for work, perhaps you can’t think of anything worse.
What are your workwear staples, or tips for keeping work outfits interesting? We spend a lot of time at our jobs, so I’m always after new ideas for work attire!
Photography: Rob Poor