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Your Working Wardrobe

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 31 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Working Wardrobe Wardrobe Office

Once upon a time nothing but a three piece suit would do for the gentleman executive and a strand of pearls paired with a chic chignon for his female assistant. Thankfully these days are long gone but with new attitudes come new headaches, particularly when it comes to what to wear to the office. Hopefully by the time you’ve been hired by a company you will have had a chance to check out what your interviewers were wearing and what the general working environment is like. Most office environments boil down into one of three categories – traditional, relaxed or creative – and adjusting your look for any of these revolves around just a few key pieces. Building upon these pieces is up to you, so have fun with your style until you find something you’re happy with. Then wear it with pride!

The Traditional Office

Though it may pain you to admit it, we all know that the traditional office wardrobe is built around suits and ties. If you will be working in a traditional office (think City chic), you’ll want to base your working wardrobe on:
  • Two to three suits in neutral colours such as black, grey and brown. Pinstripes are usually acceptable, and women can build in a few extra options by purchasing a skirt suit that works well with trousers, too.
  • Five shirts to wear under your suit jacket. Here is your chance to experiment with colours and patterns, though remember that again neutrals will give you plenty of versatility and wear.
  • Five ties, more if you can afford it. Again, colour and pattern are up to you but anything too flamboyant may earn you a few stares.
  • Cuff links, if needed.
  • At least three pairs of good quality leather shoes or pumps. Revolving between the three pairs will lengthen the life of all of them.

  • Dark dress socks or nylons.
  • A good quality leather briefcase or messenger bag. Make sure that it is roomy enough to carry A4 files, a laptop if needed, lunch and an umbrella.
  • A neutral raincoat and a neutral overcoat in the best material you can afford.

The Relaxed Office

Many offices have relaxed their dress codes, but this does not mean that showing up looking like you’re going to pop out for a quick jog is acceptable. Err on the side of caution and assume that “relaxed” means business or smart casual. Make sure your relaxed working wardrobe includes:
  • At least four pairs of neutral trousers or skirts. Brown, black and grey are all acceptable, as are most conservative stripes and plaids.
  • Five tops to match your pants. Make sure tops shirts are appropriate for office wear by investing in dress shirts, collared shirts, polo necks or sweaters.
  • At least three pairs of good quality dress shoes, pumps, flats or loafers. Avoid stilettos, sandals or flip-flops.
  • Dress socks or nylons, preferably fairly conservative and avoiding shocking colours or patterns.
  • A good quality leather briefcase or messenger bag. Again, make sure that it is roomy enough to carry A4 files, a laptop if needed, lunch and an umbrella.
  • A neutral raincoat and a neutral overcoat in the best material you can afford.

The Creative Office

Many creative industries have embraced the idea that comfortable workers are productive workers. These environments can make shopping for a working wardrobe much easier, though it is always best to check if there is anything that you are forbidden to wear before you begin. General good taste also dictates that you stay away from:
  • Skirts above the knee.
  • See-through shirts (for either gender).
  • Wildly dyed hair.
  • Clothing that bears questionable phrases or rude words.
  • Wearing the same outfit more than once per week.

General Working Wardrobe Dictates

No matter what type of office environment you find yourself in, or what type of working wardrobe you invest in, certain dictates remain the same. If you will be wearing it to the office, remember that your clothing:
  • Needs to be comfortable. You will need to be able to walk briskly, bend and stretch and most of all breathe properly.
  • Must be tailored. No raggy edges, dropping hemlines or frayed cuffs allowed.
  • Can be easy to maintain. Invest in pieces that do not require dry cleaning or hand washing, and pounce if you see anything that doesn’t need ironing. Hanging clothes to dry (if not expressly barred in the washing instructions) will also help them dry with fewer wrinkles.
  • Should be the best you can afford. Investing in quality pieces and caring for them properly will require fewer shopping trips in the long run.
Your working wardrobe should fit both your working environment and your personal style. Most working wardrobes require several seasons to build up correctly, but in a year or two you should have your look locked up. Enjoy!

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