For the past 16 months, getting dressed in the morning has simply meant choosing which somewhat-professional top to wear with your yoga pants or leggings. And the few times you did actually go shopping for clothes, you probably just found yourself reaching for more sweats and sneakers.
Now that we’re starting to head back into the office, what should we be wearing? What items should be on your work wardrobe shopping list? We turned to some personal style coaches and a business etiquette expert to find out the five building blocks of your new work wardrobe.
‘Chic Comfort’ is the New Black
Even before COVID, the office dress code for many industries was trending toward business casual. But the past year has proved that workers – especially women – need a look that they can take from desk to dinner, says Delia Folk of The Style That Binds Us, a blog, online community, and personal styling business that Folk runs with her mother Alison Bruhn.
“Chic comfort” is how Folk would describe the new work wardrobe.
“Our clients are hoping to have a hybrid work model, so they want to create a wardrobe that’ll work for both home and office,” she says. “It’s all about a blending of style and practicality.”
Megan LaRussa Chenoweth, a style coach and founder of Style Yourself Chic, agrees.
“Versatility is key when considering what to purchase these days,” Chenoweth says. “Comfortable fabrics in tailored silhouettes are the greatest work clothes as they are both functional and polished.”
But will your boss be okay with your chic comfort style? Business etiquette expert Elaine Swann thinks so.
“For certain industries there’s not going to be too much wiggle room,” she says. “But in most office settings the attire will be a bit more relaxed as we start to come back to work. People can have a bit more flexibility.”
So, while the financial and legal industries may continue to adhere to strict business professional dress codes, less traditional fields will welcome more laidback attire.
Shopping for Your New Work Wardrobe
Before you head to your favorite boutique or fire up your laptop for some online shopping, check your closet to see if you really need to buy new stuff. Maybe you just need to get some of the pieces you already own altered.
“Your tailor is your best friend,” Folk says.
Or you could liven up old pieces with a new bag, new shoes or a fabulous pair of earrings, Bruhn recommends in her blog post, “Have We Forgotten How to Dress?” which gives tips on how to get your wardrobe ready for summer.
When you do go shopping, Folk says, “Be thoughtful with what you choose to put into your closet. Make sure you can wear the pieces in both dressy and casual ways.”
Here are some basics to get your started:
Knit third pieces.
Chenoweth says this could be a structured yet stretchy blazer or other type of jacket.
Folk and Bruhn offer these picks:
- The Long One-Button Blazer in Bi-Stretch ($179, Ann Taylor)
- Relaxed Roll Sleeve Blazer ($159, Ann Taylor)
- If you’re looking to splurge, check out this Veronica Beard Core Scuba Jacket ($600, Saks Fifth Avenue)
- Folk and Bruhn also suggest adding an all-weather trench coat to your lineup. The Banana Republic Essential Trench Coat and Everlane’s Drape Trench are two of their favorites.
Chenoweth recommends shopping for blouses or knit tops that feature a print, color or detail that allows you to wear it solo and still look and feel polished. Ann Taylor has a variety of blouses that can take you from work to play.
“Remember that leggings are not pants,” Chenoweth says. But some Ponte knit pants can be just as comfortable. Check out this pair by DKNY.
If you’re ready for something a bit more chic, Folk and Bruhn offer these picks:
- Alice + Olivia Dylan High-Waist Wide-Leg Pants ($295, Saks Fifth Avenue)
- The Side-Zip Ankle Pant in Bi-Stretch ($109, Ann Taylor)
Swann says you could even pull off a pair of structured drawstring pants if you complete the look with a blazer, nice blouse, and the right accessories.
This includes closed-toe flats (Chenoweth says an oval or pointed toe is the most flattering and professional) or block heels, such as mules, sandals or pumps – depending on your work environment.
Here are some of Folk’s and Bruhn’s favorites:
- Julia Pointed Flats ($120, Boden)
- The Adelle Ballet Mule in Leather ($69.99, Madewell)
- Yasmine Suede High Heel Sandals ($138, Ann Taylor)
- If you’re looking to splurge check out these Staud Frankie Ruched Leather Mules ($325, Saks Fifth Avenue)
You can easily change up your look with accessories, Folk and Bruhn say. You could add a sterling silver pendant necklace or a Jules Smith gold chain necklace. Or maybe gold hoops or drop earrings. And buy a bag that’s the best quality you can afford, Folk says.
No matter your budget or office dress code, the key is to be intentional about what you wear.
“We hope people realize and utilize the power they have by how they present themselves to the world,” Folk says. “What you wear speaks volumes to those around you and to yourself.”
If you need more help getting ready to head back to the office, check out The New Work Wardrobe by The Style That Binds Us.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- Back to the Office: What The Dress Code Will Really Look Like
- 4 Black Investment Pieces Every Future CEO Should Own (and cheap fast fashion items to pair them with)
- How to Dress When You Don’t Work at a Traditional Office
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