Flexible working patterns and lifestyles mean a fluid approach to dressing. Stephanie Smith picks out quick and easy updates.
Dressing for the office is not what it was. Thankfully, what is now considered “office appropriate” attire covers a much wider range of outfits than it did back in the day, when cheap tailoring and polyester shirts ruled the workplace.
Computers and the internet revolutionised work and the working environment, making it first possible – and then, inevitably, essential – to be able to do business, to sell and buy, to collaborate, inform, create and react constantly, 24 hours a day, across the world, at your desk, on the move or at home.
Inevitably, this has brought with it disadvantages. The 9-5, five-days-a week routine is a distant memory for many of us, while new recruits have entered a workplace that requires flexibility with time and attitude. We have to mix work with home and play, or we miss out, but it can feel as if we now have no set time or place to call our own, separate from work.
On the plus side, sensible employers see that they too have to grant their workers flexibility to enable them to juggle home, family, health and social life successfully.
We lead fluid lives, and we need fluid clothing. So, office workers are no longer expected to wear traditional executive-style clothing, at least not all the time. When you’re dashing from your desk to dinner, or from a business briefing to the gym, you have to mix it up a bit and choose clothes and accessories that are as flexible as you are. As long as you are smart, polished and look as if you know what you are talking about, it’s all good.
Not that this necessarily makes it any easier to dress for work. It’s a bit like your school suddenly deciding to do away with uniforms. At first, it’s liberating, but then comes the daily wardrobe ponder as you wonder what you can pull together quickly to see you through the day in suitable style.
Autumn/winter 2017 fashion trends reflect this breaking down of boundaries. The big knits and midi skirt combination, for example, is back and chunkier than ever, ideal for the workplace, a nod to boho-chic and undeniably comfy. This season, team with slouchy knee-high boots for an update.
Ironically, tailoring is also back. It seems that, now we don’t have to wear it, we have decided that we rather like it. There are lots of tweeds and checks, but the red suit is the way to go to make a standout statement, and will give oodles of wardrobe options with jacket and trousers worn as separates, too.
Keep red also in mind for accessories, especially shoes, boots and roomy bags – bucket bags are on-trend and perfect for laptops, notes and all your paraphernalia.
The printed shirt or blouse is another quick and easy switch that will bring your working wardrobe bang up to date, so look for silk swirly floral patterns and paisley PJ-style tops.
Invest in a great pair of trousers, tailored but fluid, perhaps with peg pleats or a paper bag style, in a pinstripe or check, to team with those silk printed blouses and also with a range of knits, from chunky and oversized to high neck and fine knit or ribbed, in yellow, burgundy, forest green, grey and black (or red).
An easy, throw-on tunic or shift dress – in a thick jersey, a knit or even cotton sweat fabric – is a must-have, to wear with trainers on relaxed days, but then style up quickly with boots or shoes and a jacket for a smarter edge.
In terms of footwear, seek out Seventies-style, mid-heel pumps for an elegant look, while chunky black zip-front ankle boots will take you anywhere you want to go.