Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting your wardrobe ready for work

By Nikki Parkinson,

Getting dressed for work used to be easy. If you weren’t issued with a uniform then most offices seemed to have an unwritten “uniform” of tailored pants or skirt with a shirt.

Such a “uniform” made getting dressed each day less stressful but it was boring. With a capital B.

The only problem with taking the boring out of corporate is that it becomes a bit of a fashion minefield. One that’s a bit trickier to navigate.
Key corporate wardrobe tips:
1. If starting from scratch, you need to form a basic capsule work wardrobe: tailored pants, tailored skirt, two tops, tailored dress, jacket, shoes.
2. Gone are the days when a two-piece suit has to match. A lighter jacket with a feminine top and dark pants is a more interesting work look.
3. Embrace the dress – I love the combination of a patterned dress with tailored jacket.
4. Add at least one accessory to give the outfit a lift

If you thought getting dressed for a corporate office took a degree in fashion merchandising, then spare a thought for the work-from-homes.

I now fall into this next “generation” of working mums: women who previously dressed for the office but who now run a business or work freelance from a home office. Or in my case, a corner of the lounge room.

Now, while staying in your pyjamas might seem like an easy solution for this one, your pyjamas (no matter how fancy) will not cut it for a client meeting.

You need to find that fine balance between comfort and style so that you’re prepared for a diverse day that could involve everything from school drop-offs to a coffee shop meeting or networking function.

Key work-from-home wardrobe tips:

1. Build your capsule wardrobe from key “lifestyle” basics. By lifestyle, I mean garments that don’t require ironing or drycleaning but look amazing every time you pull them out of the cupboard. Think garments in jersey, viscose or modal.
2. In winter, make your “uniform” a smart casual slim pant or dress jean, worn with ballet flats, tee, blazer and scarf.
3. In summer, embrace the dress. It’s one garment and all you need to add to it each time you pull it from the wardrobe is at least one accessory. A statement necklace is easiest. For shoes, wear wedges or dressy flats.
4. Have at least one go-to black frock that can be pulled out time and time again to wear to a networking event, either on its own or with a jacket. You can change your look each time with different accessories.

Key tips for all working mums

1. Only buy garments that are easy care and wear – getting out the door in the morning for work is battle enough; let alone if something’s not ironed and ready.
2. To speed up the morning rush, have your clothes hanging and ready to go the night before.

Author’s note: I couldn’t do this blog post without mentioning the wonderful work that charity organisation, Dress for Success, does for women returning to the workforce around the world. In Australia, there are offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. You can help by donating new and good condition workwear to this organisation. They are always on the lookout for black work shoes and black handbags but check with your nearest location for what they might need right now.

Nikki has long spent a disproportionate amount of her income on clothes and beauty products. She blames her politically correct mother who never let her have a Barbie doll as a child. The former journalist “stumbled” into blogging in 2008 as a way to keep up her writing skills and market new styling business. Styling You offers fashion and beauty advice for busy women and this year was judged Best Australian Blog by the Sydney Writers'.

For more great tips for working mums and updates on the Career Mums book, join the Career Mums Facebook page


Norlin said...

Great tips there and thanks for the heads up on the "Dress for Success" organisation. I've got a few suits that I know I won't be able to fit in anymore, that way I know someone would have good use of them. :)

Ms Styling You said...

Oh, they will welcome them with open arms, Norlin. This group makes such a difference to women returning to the workforce.

BusiChic said...

Great post, Nikki!

Contemporary Business Wear is certainly.more the go in more workplaces now rather than the more traditional Corporate style.

I take photos of what stylish women and men ear to work to keep the rest of us inspired. The mums I've photographed in the cooler climate of Melbourne also favour trenchcoats which they find adds easy chic to their work (i.e. Refer to Nikki's points above) and play (i.e. Over jeans and a tee) ensembles, here is one such example I photographed in June of this year:

Ms Styling You said...

Thanks Cheryl! I actually get jealous that you have the cooler days - so much easier to look stylish for work!

Jacki James said...

I live by the no ironing rule!

PlanningQueen said...

Sound advice as always Nikki!

Trudy said...

Inspired Capsule has great ideas for styling the core elements of a capsule wardrobe. There are heaps of ideas for mixing and matching with pieces like a blazer, straight skirt, A-line skirt, wide leg pants, a little black dress and other essentials. Enjoy!