Workmain2_large

Maybe you’re just heading off to your first “grown up” job, recently made a career change or perhaps you’ve been in the working world for longer than you care to recall – but sometimes a surprisingly stressful part of the job is just figuring out what to wear. I’ve had the privilege of working in creative environments where I was encouraged to show my personality through my clothing choices and even though some of my employers had “guidelines” in place, they usually left lots of room for interpretation.

Not everyone is so lucky and even more people work in places that promote that horribly grey area of “casual” (because one person’s idea of casual can be vastly different from someone else’s….) while others work in offices with very strict dress codes – even going so far as to specify which brand of hosiery women should buy.

How you dress for the workplace is often dependent on what field you’re in, what kind of people you’re dealing with on a daily basis and your position within the company. It’s not very often that you see high-powered CEOs in the boardroom wearing tattered jeans and a pair of Chucks (unless we’re talking Silicon Valley) and it’s rare that the intern shows up in custom cut Armani suits. In the same vein you wouldn’t see a District Attorney argue a case in a graphic Mary Katrantzou dress nor would you probably see a magazine editor or stylist in a drab suit and “sensible” shoes (not to say that lawyers dress bad).

Whether you work for a large corporations, a small creative start-up or for yourself, I pulled together a few outfit and pattern ideas to help you dress your best while on the job.

Corporate Power Player:
These work environments are usually uber-conservative and call for you to be chic, understated and classic in your clothing choices. Loud prints, chunky accessories and otherwise edgy pieces are typically frowned upon, but that doesn’t mean you have to look completely boring. Opt for timeless pieces that are well-tailored – fit is key when you are working with very basic silhouettes. Unless otherwise specified, keep your shoes on the neutral side too – but definitely play with texture (embossed leathers, suede, etc) and style – however I would once again stay away from anything “fashion-y” like chunky wedges, super strapy heels or things that look too trendy.

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Jacket – See by Chloe, dress – Joseph, heels – 3.1 Phillip Lim, wrap – Forzieri, bag – Fendi.

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Sweater – DAY Birger et Mikkelsen, blouse – Joseph, bag – Miss Selfridge, skirt – ADAM, shoes – Kate Spade.

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Patterns from left: Shift Dress, Spring Blazer, Wrap Blouse, Wide Leg Trousers, Tie Front Blouse, Pencil Skirt.

Artsy/Creative:
I’m not going to lie, creative types have it the best when it comes to office dress because they often work in environments where their fashion and style whims are encouraged. The downside is that you feel like you need to be “on” all the time – constantly creative, thoughtful and progressive with your outfits . Sometimes I think it would be easier if I opened my closet and all I had to choose from was a row of black suits and smart shoes – having a uniform would certainly make getting dressed in the morning easier. However, I dress to suit my mood and I know that if I walk out of the house in something that isn’t me, it changes the entire tone of the day. If you work in a creative field, play around with your look but still keep it professional – unfortunately life isn’t a runway show and intricate couture looks aren’t always appropriate for lunch meetings or project pitches unless you’re Daphne Guinness.

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Bag – Cambridge Saddle Company, blazer – See by Chloe, shoes – Rupert Sanderson, pants – Theory, top – Barneys CO-OP, bangles – Dorothy Perkins and Kendra Scott, necklace – Jules B.

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Leather jacket – Vince, blouse – T by Alexander Wang, shoes – Thakoon, bag – Miu Miu, necklace – Gemma Redux, skirt – Etro.

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Patterns from left: Collared Dress, Peplum Jacket, Draped Vest, Military Pants, Wrap Trousers.

Freelance/Work From Home:
Working from home may seem like a dream, but ask anyone who has been doing it for longer than a few months and you hear complaints about how it progressively gets harder to separate work from play. One way of keeping the two from crossing over is to have a designated workspace that is separate from where you hang out (not so easy in New York where it often happens that you hang out, eat and sleep all in the same place). Another way to define “work” from “home” is to dress the part. It might seem ok to roll out of bed, crack open your laptop and get to work – but as it turns out that’s actually detrimental to your work ethic. Even if you work from home you should get up and get dressed as if you’re leaving the house for a job because you never know when you might have to run an errand, meet with a potential client or head up an impromptu video chat. But on the other hand don’t feel as if you have to wear a suit and tie to stay in your living room, casual pieces are fine just remember to have a least one element (nice pants, a chic flat) of your outfit that is still dressy enough for the office.

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Jeans – Nobody Denim, tee – Splendid, bag – Bosca, vest – Alexander Wang, flats – Stuart Weitzman.

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iPad cases by Bag Bliss, dress – Topshop, scarf – J Crew, sandals – United Bamboo, bracelet – Proenza Schouler, watch – Fossil, jacket – H&M.

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Patterns from left: Cropped Jacket, Cropped Trousers, Slouchy Blouse, Straight Leg Pants, Pleated Skirt, Jersey Dress.

Anyone have any tips for what to wear to work? Any embarrassing stories of fashion gone wrong in the workplace?

28 Comments

  • Ca2za12d_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 04.47 PMby najwa1

    thank you burda for all the great ideas your given

  • Blossom-1_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 11.11 AMby annecasey

    I can’t stand the articles in fashion magazines describing what to wear in an office environment – written by women who have gone from uni straight to a fashion magazine!

    They usually show sleeveless garments – which in all the offices I’ve worked in over the last 30 years are only acceptable in the height of summer when the airconditioning has broken down. In the office, wear a thin cardigan over anything sleevless – you can take it off when you go outside at lunchtime or on the way home.

    They also show hems which are too short. it’s really easy to figure out how short you can go – sit down in the skirt or dress, and look at where the hem ends up. You do a lot of sitting in an office, and you can’t keep your legs under the desk all the time. Anything shorter than barely above the knee will ride up so far you’ll be tugging it down all day.

    .

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 07.08 AMby loulourosa

    Here in Europe I think the rules about what to wear for work are not so strict. Women wear whatever they like. Offcourse not in an extreme sense, but you can allways wear your style.

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 07.07 AMby loulourosa

    Here in Europe I think the rules about what to wear for work are not so strict. Women wear whatever they like. Offcourse not in an extreme sense, but you can allways wear your style.

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 07.07 AMby loulourosa

    Here in Europe I think the rules about what to wear for work are not so strict. Women wear whatever they like. Offcourse not in an extreme sense, but you can allways wear your style.

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 07.07 AMby loulourosa

    Here in Europe I think the rules about what to wear for work are not so strict. Women wear whatever they like. Offcourse not in an extreme sense, but you can allways wear your style.

  • Missing

    Jun 22, 2011, 01.24 AMby adavishouston

    I’m loving this post. I am currently working to add more fun pieces to my work-from-home wardrobe. I don’t really have much of a problem accept for being too dressed up. I sew and teach sewing, so made-by-me is almost important to my business. I love dresses now. When I was in corporate up to 2003, I wore suits most of the time.

  • Img_3462_large

    Jun 21, 2011, 07.51 AMby ladyshape

    I really like the creative and casual looks here. They are appropriate but still edgy. Way beyond my budget but the style ideas are great.

  • 4b0baf013b18d4c34c8f097033869a5329edfb8b_large

    Jun 21, 2011, 06.41 AMby corinneski

    I retired from corporate land about 2 years ago and for me it was the dress, jacket, suit, sensible (not too high) shoes, etc. I used to dress it up with scarves and belts to make it more my style.

    My younger daughter works in food manufacturing and when she worked for an airline her outfit was (especially if she had to go out to an aircraft) hard-hat, hair net, high visibility vest, white dust coat, overalls and safety boots. Not what you’d call a glam look. I still laugh about this when I see her being her fashionista best and think “how could she bring herself to wear all that work stuff”.

  • Missing

    Jun 20, 2011, 05.05 PMby Ashkeyana

    If I was in business I wouldn’t need this style guide, there would be other women in the office to use as inspiration. Any suggestions for technical fields? I’d like something that I can wear for site visits (or shop floor, or field work, or etc) that’s still somewhat feminine without having to dress excessively casually.

    1 Reply
    • Blossom-1_large

      Jun 22, 2011, 11.16 AMby annecasey

      My suggestion? Wear things that fit well – don’t wear baggy t-shirts, loose cargo pants, or anything too man-style like a business shirt and pants.

      I work in IT (and often work in engineering areas). I have a collection of fitted cardigans in interesting colours. They’re comfortable, practical, they can dress up more casual items like denim skirts, and I don’t look like a man.

  • Missing

    Jun 20, 2011, 01.51 PMby fuzzyg

    On the topic of cleavage, you might want to avoid Burda patterns :-). Or at least bring a neckline up by 2" before you consider what it looks like, or you’ll be wasting a lot of fabric. European standards of coverage are radically different from US ones, reflecting women’s much lower status in the workplace.

    But I am boggled that anyone would consider ‘couture underlinings’ to be a desirable part of making a work blouse. Clearly not really working full-time yet :-). How about learning to buy appropriate fabrics right off, so they don’t have to be corrected by an underliing kludge? Or maybe just avoiding neon polka-dot bras under white blouses?

    2 Replies
    • Missing

      Jun 20, 2011, 03.11 PMby anndk

      What do you mean by ‘reflecting women’s much lower status in the workplace’? Are you talking the US or Europe?

    • Missing

      Jul 5, 2011, 03.27 PMby fuzzyg

      women’s lower status in Europe of course, since that’s what we were talking about, cleavage in Europe. If you’re there for eye candy only, you’ve got to put out on that front.

  • Poe_large

    Jun 19, 2011, 03.52 PMby ladykatza

    I work in the IT field. I typically avoid cleavage but still do v-necks or boat necks since I’m tall but also ‘large’. (I live in ‘inbetween land’ as a burda size 44 + FBA all the time) So I can mix loud colors and prints with smart lines.

  • Art_deco_lady_-_blue_large

    Jun 19, 2011, 01.00 PMby jen2blu4u

    thanks! great ideas since I’m thinking of going back to work.

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Jun 19, 2011, 12.43 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I’m a writer so most days I wear at least one that I’ve sewn – usually a jersey top and a pair of Gap jeans. Dress up days right now means as wrap dress and leggings both made by me and a pair of mary janes (not made by me.) I need more Made by Me stuff in my wardrobe!

  • Profile_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 07.12 PMby amaydak

    I love wearing my made by me fashions to work! As one of two in-house designers for a very large corporation, I’m fortunate to have the freedom of mixing corporate and creative as well. I used to wish I could wear jeans everyday, but now that I sew I’m thankful to have the opportunity to dress up and express myself at work. Great post!

  • Self_portrait_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 10.37 AMby Sabrina Wharton-Brown

    For professionalism it’s best to avoid low cleavage (the rule is that your neckline should be no lower than your underarm) and short skirts. I should think the dress code of Ascot is a good one to follow, except for the hats! Opaque blouses (another great reason to sew your own – you can give them a couture underlining), and stylish shoes you can walk in (black patent leather court shoes always look good – especially with a handbag or briefcase to match, like the one in the top photo).

    If one were to follow the 80s power dressing idea, a suit would be thought to work everywhere, but I think that you have to dress to suit the job and status. I shouldn’t think it would help one’s chances of promotion if the boss thought one was after their job!

    I think the 1940s and 1950s styles are good for work, as long as they’re done subtly. Subtly glamour – that’s the way. : )

  • Orp_1769_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 06.41 AMby loyl8

    man i wish i could wear anyone of these to work…I’m a floor nurse and have to wear scrubs, but I do make my own and think they are quite fabulous

    2 Replies
    • Meg_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 05.25 PMby madebymeg

      I always appreciate it when nurses are wearing a cool or funny print!

    • Missing

      Jun 20, 2011, 03.19 PMby anndk

      Here we (nurses and all other staff at the hospitals) get our scrubs handed out by the hopsital. So we have no options when it comes to work clothing. If we change our scrubs we get called to laundry and get yelled at… if we continue to alter scrubs the they’ll take the cost of re-alter the scrubs back to original out of our wage….

  • Gres_headress_1957_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 05.57 AMby tasallison

    i work in an industrial factory, aow dammit no patterns to suit my job! i have to wear big work boots and it drves me mental trying to find something that looks even a little bit decent and ok looking that go with them!

    2 Replies
    • 20596winter_20fairy_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 08.45 AMby sewingfan1

      They’d look really great with a stylish jumpsuit?

    • Fase_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 05.58 PMby themisslinds

      I was just thinking the same thing

  • Gres_headress_1957_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 05.57 AMby tasallison

    i work in an industrial factory, aow dammit no patterns to suit my job! i have to wear big work boots and it drves me mental trying to find something that looks even a little bit decent and ok looking that go with them!

  • Pic_large

    Jun 17, 2011, 11.32 PMby Nessa *

    I am lucky – I teach Law at university so can be much more creative, compared to when I was practising. I wear a fun creative/corporate mash-up; Shift-dresses in bright prints, jeans with chunky wedges and pussy-bow blouses etc. Best of both worlds!

  • Dodo_large

    Jun 17, 2011, 09.14 PMby lila-1

    My first office job was with a multinational giant that ran its operation 7 days a week. I was advised that the dresscode was fairly formal and strict (no exposed shoulders!), so I turned up to my first day of work on the Saturday wearing a suit with a nice shirt and smart heels. Everybody else was in jeans and sneakers – they had forgotten to tell me that weekends were casual. ouch!

    • This is a question
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