How to dress in the office to always be appropriate to the role and situation, maybe even with that extra touch?
In today’s post I would like to answer the question of a reader, Raffaella, who asks:
“How to dress in the office, to always be appropriate and elegant, but also to stand out a little? I work in a semi-formal environment, which sometimes requires more elegant outfits (for example at conferences, trade fairs, meetings with potential customers… I am a salesperson) and in my office I literally see everything. I’m 44 years old and I wear a size 36. Thank you!”
It’s not an easy question to ask about the best office wear, because when it comes to dressing well in the office, opinions, tastes and even “philosophies” on the subject are often a bit divided and the thresholds of tolerance vary. In addition, there are extremely rigid working environments in this regard (for example, immediately after graduation I worked a few years in the financial sector of a bank, in contact with a certain type of customers, and the first day of work I was given a booklet, containing a series of very strict guidelines, such as the use of stockings for women 12 months a year, the absolute veto of wearing open shoes even in August and much more).
In any case, the question about the best office wear, at 40 years of age and more generally at any age, is anything but a frivolous question. This is also demonstrated by some sayings on the subject, from the classic “Dress for success”, which translates in something like “dress for the role you would like to play, not for your current job” and so on. And a background of truth, at least in my experience, is really there, in these sayings.
In any case, in this post I would like to give some hopefully useful suggestions on how to dress in the office, in full respect of the corporate dress code, of our own role and of what we aspire to, but also taking into account our personal tastes and our personality.
1 – STUDY THE DRESS CODE OF YOUR COMPANY
In my opinion, the first thing to do is always to start from a careful analysis of the “climate” in your office, but also in your extended work environment.
Because each workplace has its own dress code, which can vary a lot from one company to another. In some cases a more formal style reigns, while in others a more casual style has emerged over time.
It is also a good idea to ask the human resources department, on the first day of work or at the last interview before starting a new job, about the prevailing dress code in this company.
If you are in doubt, it is better to stay a little longer on the formal side, without exaggerating. It will certainly be possible to adjust a little later, but on the first day it is always better not to take risks and give the impression that you really care about your new job.
Obviously, in this post we are talking about the best office wear tips; it is clear that other types of professions and industries that do not necessarily require an office job have a completely different kind of dress code. Again, a little observation and analysis of what surrounds us is the best advice you can follow!
2 – THE IDEAL OFFICE OUTFIT STARTS WITH SELF-CARE
It goes without saying, but a killer look for the office starts with something that does not necessarily concern clothing and accessories: personal care.
Good hair and a light natural and enhancing makeup make even a slightly too casual look seem more appropriate and “formal” one in relation to the work environment. Just look around: in every office there are people who, wearing jeans and without wearing a blazer, heels, etc. , seem to be more in place and dressed more appropriately for the situation than frumpy people strung in an “office” suit.
Personally, at least as far as business environments are concerned, I would also avoid things like extremely long nails with sophisticated nail art, heavy make-up, but, vice versa, also hairstyles and outfits with a somewhat stereotypical “sexy secretary” or “bossy manager” vibe. This is not so much (but also) because of my personal preferences, but because having worked in predominantly male environments, when I was still an employee, I remember well certain jokes and comments that, if I had been the direct interested, I would have preferred to avoid. Obviously it also applies to men, but here we are talking about women’s office wear.
3 – YES TO BASICS (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)
Especially at the beginning of your career – but also when you start working again after a period at home – you should invest in good quality basic garments (which are also found in low cost chains, which often have special lines with good value for money).
- try to have trousers, skirts and maybe blazers in at least two neutral colours, maybe one light and one dark and chosen according to your personal color palette.
- As you create your own work capsule, add similar pieces in a more vivid color that looks particularly good on you. Colors are now considered absolutely office friendly, especially if combined with simple and elegant lines.
- Break up any suits: yes to the blazer on the dress or to the classic trousers with the frilly blouse, for example.
- On the other hand, the women’s suit is back in fashion this year, but it looks a little different from the ones we used to wear during the 80’s and 90’s. How? Read here.
- To avoid boring outfits made only of basic garments in neutral colors (and I love a good basic and also neutral colors!), invest in some interesting garments and accessories that create a pleasant contrast with your basic. Examples: blouses with geometric patterns or flowers (in a revised version, however), decorated pumps, animal print details, coats with a rigorous line, but in strong colors or particular patterns, statement jewelry (that looks particularly good on women over 40) etc..
4 – AVOID SHOWING TOO MUCH SKIN IN THE OFFICE
Dress up sexy outside the office if you like, but at work it’s better to avoid excessive necklines, completely uncovered arms, skirts and dresses that are too short, “naked” sandals and so on. This is especially true if you work in rather formal industries, such as banking and finance for example. For the other types of companies, point 1 applies. Set yourself according to what you see around you.
It is not a matter of modesty or of being too modest, but simply a matter of common sense.
Of feminine and even sexy things that cover your skin enough to make them suitable for the office, there are many anyway.
5 – BEST OFFICE WEAR TIP: CHOOSE SARTORIAL AND RIGOROUS GARMENTS, BUT IN A FEMININE WAY
A beautiful blazer that dresses you like a glove is a real wild card when it comes to deciding how to dress for the office. But avoid, like the plague, garments that look too much like male suits, maybe even oversized and with wide shoulders, preferring instead fitted garments, which emphasize your physicality.
The capsule wardrobe ideal for your office wear, in fact, does not necessarily have to be super trendy; or rather, it easily becomes so with some targeted additions, but when it comes to basics it is better to stay on a “modern classic” style, cut to measure for us, even if oversized is in fashion that year.
Well cut and fitted garments, among other things, hold up much better a long day of work, preserving all their elegance. Moreover, many women are so happy with these pieces that they often use them for their free time too: for example wearing the Chanel jacket over slightly destroyed jeans or matching cropped tweed trousers with combat boots.
6 – CHOOSE COMFORTABLE (AS WELL AS BEAUTIFUL AND QUALITY) SHOES AND BAGS
Wear comfortable shoes, but also sufficiently formal and elegant, to go to and from work. If you need to, at least keep a pair of more elegant (and uncomfortable) pumps in the office. They will be useful in case of events, business lunches or professional meetings and dinners that continue in the evening.
Also opt for an elegant bag, but sufficiently structured and capacious. Working days are sometimes really long. The ideal bag, for me, also has a shoulder strap, so you can leave your hands free if you have to carry other things (for example, your laptop, but also shopping bags on the way back from the office).
A large bag will also serve as a container for your personal belongings if the space at your workplace is small.
A few great online shops for your work wardrobe:
For your basic quality garments: see HERE . You’ll find lots of great quality items at affordable prices.
Designer garments and accessories at highly discounted prices: HERE
Great basic garments at a great price: HERE
7 – NEVER WITHOUT YOUR EMERGENCY KIT
Over the years I’ve gotten used to keeping in the office some definitely useful things to have at hand. This has allowed me to avoid carrying them back and forth from home and to have them always available in case of need.
They are useful objects of this kind:
- a blazer in a very versatile color, to elevate even a non-formal outfit in case of need
- a little beauty bag with your essential makeup products
- elegant shoes with a higher heel (see point 6)
- your personal water bottle and/or thermos
- small snacks if you get hungry during the day (I always have a can of almonds in my desk drawer)
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- possibly a spare pair of tights
8 – FINALLY, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: YOUR PERSONAL TOUCH!
But the most important thing to remember is this, in my opinion. As important as it is to be dressed according to the company’s dress code and your role (and also the one you aspire to!), it is even more important to remember that we are first of all individuals and unique women.
For this reason, we should use our “capsule wardrobe” made of basic garments perfectly suited to the job as a kind of raw canvas. You can use the other elements of our outfit to fully express our personality, our style and our true essence. It will help us remember who we are and how much we are worth – also, but not only, professionally!
Speaking of the best office wear we can choose, there are many elements of our look that we can play with to personalize our outfit:
- a nice lipstick in a bold color, if it suits us
- comfortable and capacious bag, but particular for leather, color, shape
- a pair of shoes or an accessory in leopard print
- a vivid nail color (but keeping a normal nail length and no tacky decorations, unless you work in a very artistic or creative environment)
- fancy blouse, which contrasts perfectly with the men’s suit or the tailor cut trousers
- a slightly fluttering and romantic dress (but not transparent or too short) to match the professional looking blazer or coat
- if you like it, a discreet scent (it should be light and fresh though as in every office there are sometimes very sensitive “noses”!)
- a statement jewelry piece
And what is your favorite or best office wear?
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