By Nam Jayasinghe
Personal and Editorial Stylist at N Style Dreams
We’re still at the beginning of a New Year and if you haven’t had time to plan your work wardrobe yet, because you just got thrown into the deep end of 2019; two things – you’re not too late and I can help you.
The great thing about a work wardrobe is that you only need 5 different outfits in a week. You could technically repeat the same 5 outfits every week but who wants to do that, really? Instead, if you are clever about which individual pieces are making up those 5 outfits, you should be able to mix-and-match those pieces to create 15 different outfits (or more!) from those same foundation pieces.
I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the 7 key wardrobe pieces or “staples” that you need, to create many different outfit combinations for work, for the rest of the season!
1. The Power Suit
The power suit first came into fashion in the late 80s / early 90s but now it’s back with a vengeance! The new power suit is basically a coordinated suit jacket and pants, in a slightly looser fit (i.e. not form-fitting) and in a non-standard colour or print. Pastel colours are the go-to, however you can also go for a more conservative colour (e.g. grey), in a popular plaid print. Once you have a killer power suit in your wardrobe, not only are you ready for the more formal work events that have the potential to advance your career (think presentations, job interviews or meetings with the CEO); but you also have two separate pieces that can be mixed and matched with others in your wardrobe, to create N number of super-smart outfit combinations.
2. The Crisp White Shirt
The crisp white shirt is the blank canvas of styling and it is so versatile that it can be styled for casual, work and formal events. This will be your go-to top, when you want to make the other parts of your outfit shine. You can pair it with your favourite statement accessories or a statement jacket, pants or skirt. For monochrome styling, simply wear it with other outfit components that are all in the one colour; or use it to break up a colour-blocked outfit, so that the colours are not overpowering in the work environment. Look for interesting details like ribbing on the collar, invisible buttons and statement sleeves, when purchasing a crisp white shirt and don’t be afraid to have more than one, in different styles.
3. The “It” Skirt
A skirt is a great alternative to your standard office pants and it can be a feminine yet powerful piece to have in your work wardrobe. The pencil skirt is a classic; and brings a sense of elegance and sophistication to your outfit. It is usually form fitting, high waisted and calf or knee length. Paired with some heels, it has the ability to elongate your figure and you can choose a softer fabric that gives you movement, while wearing it with a structured top or jacket. If you feel the shape or length of a pencil skirt is not quite right for you, try the ubiquitous pleated skirt – which is a trend that has been going strong for the last 2 years, without an end in sight. Its A-line shape and “midi” (calf) length are universally-form flattering and can be styled up or down, depending on your work environment.
4. The All New Work Pants
Basic black pants have been a wardrobe staple for many a working woman across Australia, for years. It’s time to think outside of this standard “uniform” and make your pants a point of difference in your wardrobe, rather than conformance. Consider versatile colours other than basic black; such as nude, white or pastel blue / pink. Make a statement with prints like checks and stripes or consider a different texture, like pleats. You can also have a play with fit and length e.g. wide leg pants can be comfortable for a long work day or if you already have a loose-fitting suit, maybe add a tapered-leg pant that showcases your ankles. You can still have a pair of classic black pants in the mix but look for stand-out details like a side stripe, a high tie-waist, or asymmetrical hemlines.
5. Soft Blouses
The eye looks for symmetry and balance, when evaluating an outfit. Some silk, satin or chiffon tops can add a softer “flow” to the structure brought by your suits, pants or skirts. Some ideas to consider when looking for soft blouses could be – camisoles or tanks (great for wearing under a suit or layering), sheers (still on trend in 2019), floral or animal prints, high necks and statement sleeves. This is a space where you want to pick colours and prints that really reflect your personality and remember; just because they are soft, doesn’t mean that they have to be overly feminine, if that doesn’t reflect your unique sense of style. A loose fitting, soft blouse with minimal detailing is very much on-trend without being overwhelmingly feminine and you can always opt for a silk shirt instead of a blouse and still achieve “structure and flow”.
6. Statement Jacket
Invest in a statement jacket that will work with any outfit in your wardrobe and it will establish you as a power player with your business clients. Go for a colour that really brings out the pinks in your cheeks or a classic style that you can wear year in and out. This is one area where you have my full permission to ignore the trends and instead go for something that will suit you today and always. A classic trench will never go out of style and camel is a great lighter colour that will stand out and still look very professional. Go for very minimal details to achieve maximum versatility and instead rely on a cut that flatters your figure, no matter what outfit you wear it with.
7. Killer Shoes
It’s a common styling mistake to coordinate your garments to perfection and forget to consider your shoes. Try to think head-to-toe when planning your outfits and invest in a few pairs of “killer” shoes that will elevate any look. You will need to have at least 3 pairs of shoes to get the most out of your work wardrobe. You can choose a mix of heels and flats based on your own comfort level but 1 nude pair and 1 black pair are a must. The next pair(s) can be your statement shoes – and colour is a great way to get noticed! Pick your favourite contrasting block colour or if you haven’t already tried it, try a two-toned (e.g. black and white) or animal print (e.g. leopard, zebra or snakeskin) shoe that goes with everything.
With the above 7 wardrobe staples, you are ready to start mixing-and-matching to create as many different head-to-toe “looks” as you like. Remember that although these key pieces will form the basic building blocks of your work wardrobe; you can inject your own personality and trends in there – through the use of statement accessories (e.g. bags, necklaces, earrings, scarves) – and style them in unique ways, to make them your own.
Happy styling and I wish you every success for the rest of the working year!
Related: If you’re wondering why it’s so important to prioritise your style, check out Nam’s previous article Top 5 Reasons To Prioritise Your Style.
Special Event: Register for Nam’s FREE webinar on “The Power of Presence” on March 10th, 2019
Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/540880946422945/
Event Description: Learn how to unleash the full power of your presence – working from the inside out – by taking your Body Intelligence (BQ) and your Personal Style to the next level!
Cover image courtesy Forever New: https://www.forevernew.com.au/blog/how-to-dress-for-work
Photo of Nam Jayasinghe by Maja Derbogosijan: https://www.relicphotography.com.au
Nam Jayasinghe is a professional fashion stylist based in Melbourne, Australia. She specializes in personal, editorial and special event styling. Nam has had the privilege of styling runway events, hosting styling suites and styling VIPs for red carpet events. She has also had the absolute pleasure of styling many a private client for their work and social commitments. You can find out more about Nam, including her personal styling packages and styling masterclasses at www.nstyledreams.com.au