This season’s corporate catwalks couldn’t be further removed from the aggressive power-dressing of old, as softer silhouettes replace the ubiquitous sharp shoulder.
The secretary in all her femme fatale glory is workwear’s new muse, with tweed skirt suits, pussy bow blouses and platform loafers stealing the show.
With this look in mind, follow these new rules for instant boardroom style success:
- Invest in a seasonal capsule wardrobe, which you can rotate on a weekly basis. It should include at least:
- one suit jacket/blazer;
- two skirts (preferably pencil or skater);
- one shift dress; one pair of wide-leg trousers (the strides du jour);
- a pair of tailored shorts (they look sleek with opaques); and
- three to four interchangeable blouses.
- Experiment with textures and colours. A cropped bouclÃ© or tweed jacket will jazz up a cheap pair of black trousers, while a burnt-orange blouse will brighten up a navy skirt suit.
- Accessorise sparingly. There’s no place for multiple rings and heavy gold chains in the office. Opt for one statement ring, dual-purpose gems – like a bracelet watch – and a pair of fuss-free stud earrings to be taken seriously.
- Spend time putting a look together the night before. A well thought-out ensemble reveals a lot about the individual. Not only does it say you take pride in your appearance, but it’s also transferable to your work ethic. And it’ll ensure you clock in on time too!
- Splurge on bags. Designers have taken a vested interest in boardroom accessories. Louis Vuitton’s iPad cases offer the epitome of corporate chic while Mulberry’s plush patent Daria MacBook sleeve doubles up as a cute clutch to take you seamlessly from desk to drinks.
- Make time for grooming. A daily blow-dry may be beyond your budget, but washed hair and clean, buffed nails are a must.
- Wear stained shirts, laddered tights, scuffed shoes or chipped nail polish. Your first impression should look like you mean business.
- Confuse off-duty attire with workwear. Low-cut tops, miniskirts and 8-inch heels should be reserved for play and should never see the strip lighting of your workplace.
- Compromise on style. The office is the perfect arena to hone your style. Take a look at the runway collections and translate them into your working wardrobe. Remember, select your trends wisely. Give aviator jackets and heeled hiker boots a miss but snap up ’40s-inspired mid-length shifts and matchy-matchy gloves, shoes and bags.
- Become complacent. Fit flops and ballet pumps make essential commuting footwear, but resist the temptation to wear them all day. Keep a pair of heels in your bottom drawer at all times so you’re not caught out by a last-minute pitch.
- Overdo your makeup. Heavy eyeliner and glitter shadow will kill the corporate shark illusion and make you the laughingstock of the office. Instead, aim for polished skin, defined eyes and add a slick of matte red lipstick if you’re feeling brave.
- Rock up to work in the same clothes as the day before. Leave the telltale walk of shame to the weekends if you really must.
Lara Myall has more than seven years’ experience in the fashion industry, and has contributed to a variety of publications for such companies as Conde Nast and Express Newspapers and Magazines.