Are you struggling to put together a workwear wardrobe? How about creating 23 office chic work outfits with only nine key pieces?
As someone who used to work in an office many years ago, I know all too well how difficult it can be to dress for the office. Many places of work have a much more relaxed dress code these days, so unless you’re in a strictly corporate environment there’s less call to wear a skirt/trouser suit. Four years ago I wrote a post that addressed what to wear to the office for a corporate dress code and it’s always remained one of my most popular posts. I thought it was long overdue to write the same type of post that covered a more relaxed dress code – and one that could also give you ideas if you work in a creative office as well.
I’ve started with exactly the same format as last time and picked nine key pieces. I thought I’d skip skirts altogether and just choose trousers as I know when I was in an office I always felt smarter but also a little more restricted when in a skirt or dress… trousers are just generally more comfortable, I guess. So that’s three tops (shirts), three toppers (blazers/coatigans) and three bottoms (trousers). The nine pieces can all be worn in any combination of topper/top/bottoms; if you look at the “grid” picture above you can see that they work across, down and a combination of both.
What colours to choose
Colour palette: if you’re buying a work wardrobe from scratch I’d recommend choosing a cohesive colour palette. I steered away from black and chose navy and camel as the dark neutral colours. Navy is softer and more forgiving than black (especially to older or pale skin) and has a warmer feel to it, as has camel of course. The bolder colours I chose were yellow and burgundy with a splash of white for good measure.
However, YOU can choose the colours that make your heart sing. Choosing just nine pieces means an almost endless number of combinations – even more so once accessories (shoes, bags, jewellery, scarves, etc.) are added. Accessories have the power to transform a basic look, so don’t underestimate how much you can change the feel of an outfit… it can go from “suitable for a meeting” to “dress down Friday” when heels are swapped for trainers and sleeves are rolled up (stylishly of course!), for example.
Now I’ve said there are 23 combinations here… please don’t quote me on that, or pull me up on my maths(!). I started to work out what the SPECIFIC total number of combination was and to be honest it made my brain hurt. (It might be 27? I’m so confused as to how to work it out.) I stuck with the same number as I quoted in the last post which turned out to be very popular – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, as they say!
This time around I’ve put together some outfit combinations for you so you can see how the pieces can be styled to create some very different looks, adding in those accessories I mentioned.
And finally: I went with just one retailer – Marks & Spencer – because they do a great range of office-suitable separates, fashion pieces and accessories, all at very affordable prices and very good quality. Not a sponsored post, I’m just a fan.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF STARTING AFRESH WITH JUST 9 KEY PIECES FOR A WORKWEAR WARDROBE? COMMENT BELOW…!
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1. A smart – not boring – navy suit
Let’s start with the suit separates: the navy blazer and coordinating trousers. Although “a navy suit” sounds pretty dull, this one has beautiful burgundy piping and lining to tie it in with the the other burgundy pieces. Rather than pairing the suit with just white (and =yawn= black shoes), add punches of colour in abundance. The burgundy heels and belt pick out the detailing in the suit, and that gorgeous yellow print of the blouse will stop any boring-ness (my word) creeping into this outfit. Smart enough for meetings, edgy enough for a creative environment.
2. Classic neutrals for every day
Navy, camel and white is a classic combination you simply can’t go wrong with. The soft tan colour of the bag is a piece that goes with countless outfits, as are the shoes and the soft, collarless white shirt. It’s a preppy combination that has flair.
3. Bold and creative
Take the navy trousers and pair it with the yellow patterned shirt. Add more yellow in the form of mustard loafers AND sunshine yellow blazer, and you’ve got yourself the brightest of chic, smart, office-ready looks. The yellow gets ‘toned down’ by the classic crossbody bag (in navy) and the bold, ethnic-inspired jewellery. The ultimate look for a creative environment – made partly from a [corporate] navy trouser suit.
4. Winter warm for the commute
If you have to wrap up warm for your commute in the colder seasons, or if you have to work in a cold office (like I used to), a coatigan is your friend. Warmer than a blazer, it’ll cover you up (providing warmth to your bum and legs!) but won’t look as sloppy as a cardigan. The burgundy (print) blouse with burgundy trousers will, being one colour, elongate the body. Wearing smart ankle boots means you can wear two pairs of socks and, for extra warmth, layer a roll neck under the blouse. Merino wool is good because it’s thin but warm – this merino roll neck comes in blue, black, red and grey marl and does wonders for keeping you warm at your desk in winter.
5. Dress down Friday
Finally: what would a post about office workwear be without a Dress Down Friday outfit? Swapping heels or loafers for box-fresh trainers keep it casual without looking scruffy. The crossbody bag is less formal-looking than a tote. The earrings add just enough sparkle to prevent it looking too boyish, and all the yellow items are this wardrobe’s “fun” pieces, so a big splash of sunshine from the blazer is a prerequisite.
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I hope you liked how many different types of looks you can create from just a few key pieces – what are your thoughts? Can it be done with just nine key pieces…?