One of the most popular questions I’m asked is about what I wear to work, and where to find workwear – as well as how I feel comfortable to ‘wear what I want’ to work.
Truth is, despite always making sure my personality shines through with what I wear, I’ve never been totally free to ‘wear what I want’. There’s always been some sort of dress code; but I feel I’ve mostly struck a great balance between being smart enough and still being happy, comfortable, and totally me. Because let’s be honest; women have a tough enough time as it is to be taken seriously at work, you don’t want what you’re wearing to be used against you too (however wrong this is).
I’ve worked in both corporate and start-up environments with smarter and more casual dress codes; and in all honesty, I don’t think one is easier than the other. The benefits of working with a more corporate dress code is that less thought has to go into what you’re wearing (in my opinion); you can wear the same smart outfits on repeat. The disadvantage is, of course, not being able to show your personality as easily – but as I’ll show you in this post, there’s definitely ways you can be smart without boring, and still feel like yourself at work. With more casual dress codes, sometimes it’s harder to tell where the ‘line’ is – what is inappropriate for the office? But at least it can be easier to let your style shine. I do think it’s important to be able to be yourself at work – and I think you can often do this without compromising your workplace’s dress code (aside from places with uniforms, I’m sorry!). So, I’ve put together some staples which I find super useful for work, which I then style with other bits from my wardrobe to create a great work outfit! These are a great base if you’re just starting out at work, too.
So, here goes…
I find a good pair of trousers super, super useful for work as you can dress them up easily with a blouse and some heels or smarter shoes, and down with a plain tee and white trainers. I’ve had some from a few different places in the past, but my favourite ones I’ve found are actually from H&M and are a total bargain at £18. I’ve got these in a few different patterns now (including these leopard ones which are now in the sale!), but the black ones are a work saviour. They don’t need ironing, either, so great if you travel for work like I do occasionally. I also love my paper bag ones from H&M – nice for a different shape or if you’re feeling a bit bloated – again these can be dressed up and down easily.
I do think that shoes can really make a difference in your work wardrobe. Firstly, I’d recommend investing in comfortable shoes, especially in a job where you’re on your feet a lot (or legging it to meetings like me!). I also think that if you get a classic style, it’s worth spending a little more to get a pair which will last (which is better for the environment, too!).
The shoes I’ve found most useful to have for work are: a pair of brogues or loafers; a pair of heeled black ankle boots; a pair of low, comfortable heels; and some smart white trainers. I really think that these four pairs could cover you for all eventualities (in a more formal environment you might drop the white trainers, unless you have dress down Fridays etc; and in more casual you might swap the heels for flat boots). Here are some which I think are great:
There are a few tops that have been super useful for me to work and surprisingly, they’re not fancy blouses! Firstly, the humble white tee – I like to get a good thick one for work which is definitely not see through – I’ve found the Uniqlo, Cos and John Lewis own brand ones to be fab for this. I know you can get cheaper white t-shirts, but these ones last and tbh, it’s worth the investment so that Steve from Accounts can’t see your bra, eh?
Secondly, the trusty black polo neck. I wear this M&S one regularly as it’s not too thick so I don’t overheat in the office (why is office temperature always too hot or too cold!?).
4. A (big) black midi dress
An item which has unexpectedly become a staple of my work wardrobe is a black dress. I know! So unlike me. But I find it’s great to jazz up with a big necklace, and smarten with a blazer and heeled boots – really versatile. I also love if it’s big and baggy so it’s super comfy too. I have had one from Zara which I’ve been wearing for years, but have also recently bought this knitted one from &OtherStories in the sale as my Zara one is getting worn out.
5. Blazers save lives
Ok maybe they don’t, but they smarten up skinny jeans and a tee no problem. I have a couple in my wardrobe which are super useful: a plain black one from H&M, and a stripy one which is a bit more jazzy for the summer. I love block colour blazers to brighten any work outfit, too!
6. If you're commuting, get a decent backpack
I lug a laptop round with me a lot, and so investing in a decent backpack was a gamechanger for me. I got this black Knomo one three years ago – at the time it seemed really expensive but it’s still going really strong and looks nearly new. It’s not mega fashionable but is totally inoffensive, looks smart, and there’s a pocket for everything and more!
I also have a pink Herschel one for weekends or when I’m feeling a bit more colourful for work – again, it’s great for carrying my laptop without hurting my back and is good quality – I just wouldn’t lug a pale colour on the tube every day, it’d look grim in no time…
That’s all my staples! I’d love to know what you think in the comments, or slide into my DM’s on Instagram. Liv xx
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