Do I have to wear a suit?
Intimidated by the big bad world of workwear? Here are some pointers
By Grainne Morrison
April 20, 2015
If you’re lucky enough to have bagged a summer internship or, better yet, a graduate job, you’ll have no undoubtedly started wondering whether your beloved jumper-and-leggings combo will work in the office. Most likely the answer is no. The days of comfortable and clashing outfits are over–it’s time to get serious. Sadly, it is very easy to lose one’s sense of style in the midst of spreadsheet reports and coffee runs, but how you present yourself can affect the direction of your future career. If you dress well now, you’ll be able to afford to dress well forever. Focus on these following pointers and soon enough, Best Dressed status will be in your grasp. Perhaps even along with paid work.
I’ll start with the shoes, because so many of you don’t”¦
Bette Midler famously said: “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Hyperbolic and patronising, but unfortunately true. Wear the wrong shoes and you may live to regret it. A popular interview technique used by major employers is to look at a candidate’s shoes: scuffed, dirty, impractical, and ill-fitting shoes can be interpreted as lazy, disorganised and unreliable. Yes it’s harsh but hello, welcome to adult life. As tempting as it is to go for the sophistication afforded by stilettos, it’s not worth the pain you’ll inevitably succumb to shortly after lunchtime. While you’re focusing on your aching soles, the more sensibly clobbered will have more time to impress your superiors. Oh, and please don’t be fooled by cheaper shoes; it’s much better to buy a well-made pair that you won’t have to replace in a month. Try brands like G.H. Bass, Kurt Geiger, Dr. Martens, Russell & Bromley, and London Rebel. Brogues and loafers are the saviour of the modern woman–chic yet comfortable. Give a girl a pair of CÃ©line loafers and she really can conquer the world.
All too often overlooked, a good shirt can make an outfit. Why not make a statement with a printed number? If your placement has a more conservative dress code, keep it classic with a crisp white blouse; you can still have fun with neutral toned shirts–nude, navy and grey are all great colours to work with. The Kooples and Zara are frontrunners in the shirt industries, catering for simplistic tastes and the more daring dressers out there, and vintage shirts are often much better quality than high street-made ones. Attention to detail with a shirt is everything. Don’t assume no-one will realise that you skipped out on ironing, because someone will notice.
Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise
The simplistic nature of workwear can drive more flamboyant dressers to resignation (OK, maybe not). While your friends are posting pictures of post-uni travels around South America, you’re confined a colourless office in a colourless outfit. Fear not, accessories are the perfect way to add originality to that white shirt, navy trousers combo you’ve rocked 100 times already. Whether it’s with jewellery, a watch, a belt or even a manicure, making a fashion statement is never off the table. Use the same sharp eye to detail you used on your CV, and you’ll not go wrong.
All about the fit
The choice between trousers and skirts is entirely your prerogative; wear whichever you feel most comfortable in. You’ll find contradicting research saying one is better than the other but don’t overthink it. Whichever you choose, the number 1 rule is to never be complacent about length or fit. Heed my words; half an inch on a hemline can make a major difference. For the more petite of us, a high waist works wonders. With hemlines, those under 5’3”³ should aim for just above or on the knee–any longer may look frumpy and ill-fitted. Those blessed with taller frames have the choice of both the high waist and the more androgynous, YSL-esque low cut trousers. A midi hemline on skirts is perfect for longer legs. It’s often necessary to have clothes tailored slightly to get the fit just right and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
However daunting the world of work may seem at first, hold on to your personal sense of style and you can’t go wrong. Focus on classic styles and buy investment pieces instead of seasonal fashion fads. Dress smart, think smart and someone will notice.