STYLE THAT WORKS

Dress to mean business and still make a state­ment. By Lisa Arm­strong.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - THE STYLE -

Ev­ery job, from buyer to banker, has its own ver­sion of the Too Cor­po­rate Look. And ev­ery rookie has a story about the time she wore it. Mine in­volves an in­ter­view at the BBC in London. I was an English un­der­grad­u­ate, and for rea­sons best known to my ca­reer ad­viser (who clearly wasn’t an ex­pert on sar­to­rial mat­ters), I wore a suit. That was bad enough. The

shoul­ders could have poked your eye out. The skirt reached Toronto. We didn’t get the job. The buzz-phrase back then was “power dress­ing” – con­ser­va­tive, no-non­sense, au­thor­i­ta­tive. Now, though, dress­ing for work is about soft power – the abil­ity to co-opt rather than co­erce – which trans­lates more or less into the (far more tempt­ing) as­sort­ment of work clothes that are avail­able. Stella McCart­ney, Dior, Joseph, and Alexan­der McQueen are al­ways good start­ing points. Gen­tle con­trasts such as grey and cream, navy and olive, and choco­late and khaki can look more strik­ing (and cre­ative) than a pre­dictable head-to-toe ap­proach. Suits are much cooler th­ese days, es­pe­cially those pat­terned or colour-blocked shirts and tu­nics and their co­or­di­nat­ing skirts or trousers – which have been a hit on and off the run­way for the past few sea­sons. The new­est of­fer­ings fea­ture slouchy, wide-legged trousers, but if you look bet­ter in cig­a­rette pants,

then cig­a­rette pants you shall have. And don’t as­sume that the con­stituent el­e­ments all need to match. Pair your (soft) power suit with the new, of­fice-ap­pro­pri­ate (but still leg-slim­ming) three-inch stacked midi heel. If that sounds a lit­tle staid, try a gold one – from Marni or Dries Van Noten. But re­mem­ber, there’s noth­ing pow­er­ful about a woman who can’t walk or who looks trussed up. Some­times it’s okay to evoke the spirit of a suit with­out ac­tu­ally wear­ing one. Mi­uc­cia Prada almost al­ways wears dresses – full-skirted shirt-wais­ters – but some­how they act as her un­of­fi­cial power suit. A softer, girlier woman might look more po­tent in trousers and heels, or a jump­suit. To­day, suc­cess­ful work­wear isn’t about fol­low­ing a set of pre­scrip­tive rules as much as it is a man­i­fest self-aware­ness – and find­ing your own soft-power sig­na­ture. It could be as sim­ple as Mi­uc­cia’s fab­u­lous an­tique drop ear­rings or CNN chief in­ter­na­tional cor­re­spon­dent Chris­tiane Aman­pour’s crisp white shirts ac­ces­sorised with bold neck pieces. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton – whose wardrobe is a tes­ta­ment to the progress that women’s work clothes have made in four decades – does a slash of vi­brant lip­stick,

and al­ways, al­ways, a smart jacket.

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