Wardrobe Minefield: How to Dress For Success

Individuality is great – but when dressing for work, it can’t come at the cost of ‘appropriate’. The trick is to find subtle tweaks that don’t dilute the overall look but add an element so distinctly you that your style mark is made without having to shout it out.

Life, for me, is currently complicated. My morning meeting could be with a super-creative, wacky branding professional in Shoreditch and in the afternoon, I could be hosting conservative clients in Whitehall. Often, they are interspersed with press meetings dotted around London reflecting a range of sectors. More often than not the day ends with a glam society party in Mayfair. To add further layers of complexity, different parts of London have different style tribes – an outfit that receives admiring glances in Knightsbridge will be sniffed at by the creatives in Dalston, and vice versa! I’m sure that’s true of cities around the world, so I’m not alone in this particular challenge.

Arriving at the perfect look, therefore, is not just happy happenstance. Here are a few tips I use to help me through the maze of work wear that I hope you may find useful too:

1. It’s all in the planning. The night before, I skim through my diary engagements for the next day and figure out the most appropriate outfit. This way I can ensure I won’t wake up bleary-eyed and sleepwalk into a sartorial disaster! Do plan your work outfit the night before after looking at your diary engagements as well as the weather forecast.

2. Capsule wardrobe to go. Leave a pair of classic flats and heels and some accessories and makeup in your office, your car and at home to ensure you can confidently say ‘yes’ to last-minute invitations.

3. Collect the Classics: Build a work wardrobe of classic pieces that work well together, from dresses, shoes, bags, coats etc so you save time on having to ‘figure out’ how to weave an outfit together. My work wardrobe is full of dresses as they are the easiest to wear – I don’t have to think about which shirt will go well with which skirt, and scramble every evening figuring separates out.

4. When in doubt, accessorise. Use accents such as jewellery, belts and shoes to express yourself if you work in a formal environment. For example, Wolford do a very cool range of tights that are ‘expressive’ to say the least. Bursts of colour through your accessories, or a sneaky purple lining on the interior of your work blazer add sartorial wit to your look.

5. Grooming matters: Clean, styled hair and nails give a sense of polish. Add to this a healthy dollop of confidence. After all, the best weapon in a woman’s arsenal is not her pair of Louboutins but her confidence.

Take time out to think, plan and play with your work wardrobe. We do spend most of our days working, so looking anything less than our best is a complete no-no. Style is not something you switch on and off – which means whether at work or play, it should be simply woven into your day.

Published at Estylista on June 5th, 2013.