Workwear wardrobe

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Workwear wardrobe

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Cocktail corporate

Unless you work for Qantas and wear outfits designed by Paris-based designer Martin Grant, uniforms leave a lot to be desired.

But while they might not be the most stylish outfits, they do offer a freedom first thing in the morning; you don’t have to think about what to wear five days a week.

And that can only be a good thing.

Putting together a work wardrobe requires a fair amount of thought, especially for a corporate environment which has very specific rules about what is and isn’t appropriate.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Stylist Caitlin Stewart says the key to professional, and fashionable, workwear is understanding the basic rules and then giving them slight twist.

“There are a few age-old rules about what does and doesn’t work in the corporate office,” Stewart says.

“Skirts should be to the knee or no shorter than mid-thigh, for pants a straight, tapered leg is best rather than tight, skinny styles.

“Tops should have a little sleeve, sleeveless styles are a bit unprofessional. A lot of corporate dress do require it. Arms are an area a lot of people feel uncomfortable baring and you can come across as less tailored or professional.

“Conservative necklines are important, absolutely no cleavage. It’s distracting and slightly inappropriate.”

Once you get the silhouette right you can play with cuts and fabrics to express personality.

“Instead of a structured collared shirt, wear a silk blouse. It’s just as professional but a bit more feminine,” Stewart says.

“Team a corporate, structured dress with a cropped jacket and contrasting belt in a different colour or printed leather.

“In a more relaxed office, if you don’t have to wear a matching suit, choose separates in different colours and prints.”

Stewart is a fan of pastels, which is one of this season’s biggest trends.

“They can look clean and sharp for suiting and used in a subtle accessory like a scarf, it’s timeless and classic,” she says.

“Black and white is also big this season and works for the office because it’s very classic. You can add a pop of colour with accessories.”

When it comes to shoes, Stewart recommends avoiding open-toe styles.

“A close toe shoe is a bit more professional. It’s quite old fashioned, but in the more corporate offices women are required to wear pantyhose or stockings, and you can’t team wear them with open-toe shoes,” she says.

While the rules about what is and isn’t suitable corporate attire may seem archaic, Stewart believes they serve a purpose.

“It’s a mark of respect and also shows that you want to be there,” she says.

“If you want to succeed, image is important. We are judged on our appearance before we say a word, so if we want to be taken seriously in our career we need to look the part.

“And if we look good, we feel great and we perform exceptionally well.”


This story was first published in Shop Smart, The Sunday Telegraph, on October 5, 2014

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