HOW-TO: FASHIONABLE OFFICE STYLE THAT DOESN'T BREAK THE BANK
Ok guys, so I know it's Friday and no one wants to talk about the office on Friday... BUT, I've been getting lots of questions about fashionable office style lately! And since I like doing an outfit post on Fridays, well... I figured it was about time I answered your Q's.
So most of the questions I get about workwear are basically a few variations of "How do I dress stylish but still appropriate for the office, without spending a fortune?". I was a little surprised to get that many questions about office life at first, because it's not really a topic I talk about on THB.
But before I was a full-time content creator/blogger/model, I worked at a Tax Law firm. Yes, that's a big change, I know. And before then, I was also a VP - Marketing and had my own business, too. So I guess it's not that far out after all, since I do know a thing or two about dressing for the office.
Just to be clear about what we're getting into here, I want to tackle the "business casual" dress code. First, because I feel like it's kind of ambiguous and I know how confusing that term can be. But also because if your office has a really casual dress code, you can most likely wear whatever you want, so you don't really need my help. And, at the other end of the spectrum, if your office is super dressed-up and formal, well, you should most likely wear a suit and call it a day.
But for everyone in between, stick with me, I'll hook you up. Ha! Wither further delay, here are my tips to rock the business casual dress code... Without spending a fortune.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: DITCH THE JEANS
OK, so this may not be a popular opinion, but I stand by it. I know the term "business casual" has the word casual in it... But guess what? It also has the word business. If you're going based on the (great) principle that you should dress for the job you WANT and not the job you HAVE, kiss your jeans goodbye. At least from Monday to Friday... Or Thursday, if your office has a casual Friday policy.
Not only will that make you look more "serious", it will also instantly elevate your look. And when you start thinking about it, there are tons of options that do an amazing job at replacing jeans. Pleather, suede and corduroy, for example (although I'm personally not a fan of that last one).
You can also wear suit separates that don't look too formal, and some work appropriate leggings. Yes, I said leggings. Not yoga pants, leggings. Believe it or not, we've come a long way since the horrible tights-like see-through black leggings circa 2001. Some brands (Zara being a very good example) have "leggings" that look like full-on suit pants, except they're a thousand times more flattering... And comfortable. See what I'm talking about right here - and thank me later!
The only exception to that rule (IMO) would be well-fitted black skinny jeans, paired with a blazer or any other more formal top. AND NO RIPPED DENIM!
Here are a few examples of my fave alternatives to jeans:
FIND QUALITY BRANDS THAT FIT YOU WELL - & WATCH OUT FOR SALES
I get it, fast-fashion stores are great for trendy pieces that you want to wear for a season or two. I myself love to score a super affordable piece from Forever 21, H&M, Zara and all the other ones out there! But unless you're planning on retiring next month, I tend to see office-wear as a long-term investment. That being said, that doesn't mean you have to go bankrupt to have a fashionable office style game!
When I worked in corporate, I discovered that there's a huge difference between a skirt coming from Forever 21 and one coming from a high(er)-end retailer. Most of it is, you'll wear your cute flouncy skirt for brunch here and there on the weekend, but your work separates? Every day, 5 days a week. Truth is, we spend most of our waking hours working, so obviously it's our office clothes that we wear the most.
So when I just got my job at the law firm, I went to BCBG Maxazria when they were having a sale... And came out of there with 5 pieces and a pair of shoes for about $300. Not only is that an incredibly good deal, but that was more than 2 years ago, and they all look almost as good as new, despite the fact that I've worn them SO, SO much. The black and white top on these pictures is from that "haul" (there's also a matching skirt), as well as this top.
Note that I chose BCBG because their clothes fit me really well. They're one of the only brands out there to carry size XXS... And it's obvious that I'm skinny, but what most people don't realize is that it's super hard for me to find clothes that actually fit me. I usually get away with more casual pieces from Zara and Forever 21 kids' department (...yes!) that have surprisingly stylish options. They're also way cheaper, and fit me better. Gosh I feel like that short guy Samantha dated for 2 minutes in SATC, ha! BUT, you might have guessed it, finding office-appropriate clothes in the kids' department is almost impossible.
On that note, I recommend doing a bit of research and finding a brand that you LOVE and that fits you well. Once you have that settled, it will be way easier to build up your fashionable office style around these few staple pieces.
If I had to do it all over again (a girl can dream), here's what I would get from BCBG:
BUY PIECES THAT YOU CAN DRESS UP OR DOWN ON THE WEEKEND (OR FOR HAPPY HOUR)
This tip rings especially true if you just got a new corporate job and need to start building your work wardrobe. Chances are, you probably don't have the luxury of having an entire closet for work, and then one for the weekend. Personally, even if I had the money, that't not something I would do. If you're going for a fun, fashionable office style, the goal is to not have boring basics anyway.
If we take the BCBG top I'm wearing on these pictures, for example, I wore it on tons of occasions... Occasions that had nothing to do with work. I wore it with a strappy sandal and a black ripped denim for dinners... I've worn it with a black sequin skirt at a bar... It's super versatile.
So first, go through your closet and look at everything you have. How many pieces are appropriate for work? I'm gonna guess quite a few. Actually, I'm gonna say probably almost every sweater you have could be worn at work... with a slim-fitting pant or a pencil skirt. Same goes for button-down shirts and long-sleeved tees (excepts for the graphic ones). As far as skirts go, I'd say everything that's not a mini works. Even if it's not a slim-fitting pencil skirt. I've worn this midi skirt countless times to the office, and always got compliments on it. Yet, it has nothing to do with the traditional pencil skirt, AND it's still super appropriate.
Little black dresses (not too short obviously) are also a great staple for the office. And they're also great transition pieces that will take you from the 9-to-5 to the 5-to-9. As a good example, I've worn this black dress to the office many times (with a blazer)... And also on a date! and it was a hit for both occasions. Same goes for this skirt, that I bought to go on a champagne cruise, and also wore a lot at the office, in the summer. Note that it's riding very high up on the picture, but in reality, it hits just a little above the knee.
Here are a few pieces that are perfect for the office... But could also be worn for brunch or a night out:
STICK TO A CAPSULE WARDROBE IN THE SAME COLOUR SCHEME (+ SOME FUN EXTRAS)
This tip could be true for your entire closet, just because it makes things easier. But personally, I love wearing a lot of pink or frilly feminine stuff on the weekends... And that's not necessarily appropriate for the office.
I feel like black, white, grey and neutrals are a great way to start your work wardrobe. Then, as you build it up over time, I like adding a suit or blazer in pastel colours. Baby blue is my fave. I feel like red is also a great power colour to wear to work.
But one thing is for sure: The more colours you have, the harder it's gonna be to match everything. And while leopard print, purple and green might be a cool outfit for fashion week, it's a little much for the office.
One thing I remember from working in corporate was waking up in the morning and being super rushed. I had less than an hour to properly wake-up, make and have breakfast, get dressed and do my makeup... And the last thing I wanted was spending 15 minutes in my closet trying to put together an outfit.
So for that reason, most of the time I would wear a dress, which is the EASIEST thing ever. If I wore separates, I only had black, white and grey options, but not boring ones (see next tip). And no matter what, accessories really made the outfit. Think jewelry, shoes, bag and outerwear. I recently wrote a post on quality jewelry at a good price, which you can read right here.
Here's a great example of a capsule wardrobe in neutral colours, to which you can add more colourful pieces here and there from your "non-work" clothes:
DON'T BE AFRAID OF FUN PATTERNS & DETAILS
This is one of my favourite fashion tips, office or not. Actually, I just recently wrote a post about black sweaters with fun elements taking them from boring basics to fun pieces. Wether I'm dressing for work or for brunch, I always try to privilege elevated pieces with an eye-catching detail or print. It can be a pencil skirt, but in a gingham print instead of a basic black. A LBD is a classic, but one with fun cutouts can be an edgy and fun piece. If the peplum top on these pictures had been all black, it would have still been beautiful. But I find that it's the print that really makes it stand out.
I love a super plain black tank with ripped denim and a cool leather jacket. But it's a bit boring with a simple black skirt and a blazer, you know?
So for that reason, when I shopped for office clothes, I always tried to find pieces with a unique detail. Some of my favourite things to look for are staples in a fun (neutral) print, frills, uneven hems and fun stitching (like the leather skirt on these pictures).
Here are a few extra examples of elevated office basics:
Phew, guys, that was a long one! I feel like there's so much that can be said about office style... After all, it's such a big part of most people's lives. I hope you enjoyed my tips and picks. If you did, please let me know which one was your favourite... And obviously share if you have additional tips I did not mention to look fashionable at work. Just because I don't go to an office every morning doesn't mean I don't like to look polished here and there... Plus, I feel like just because a style would be appropriate for the office doesn't mean it's not something I wouldn't wear a the weekend.
I hope you guys had an amazing week, and I'm wishing all of you an even more amazing weekend!
Love, Jenny xx