Is a more relaxed dress code at work freeing or confusing? MARIE KELLY provides a steer and speaks with two women who seem to have the formula all figured out.


Sartorial tips from the women who know what works

It’s no longer news that office dress codes are in flux. For the past several years, suits have been swapped for separates, and that incongruou­s phrase “smart casual” has firmly put the sartorial cat among the pigeons and caused feathers to ruffle in corporate offices everywhere. The mathematic­s around workwear used to be simple: a grey suit and black heels equalled profession­alism and authority. Now there are far too many variables in this equation: colour, print, silhouette, heel height – nothing is offlimits. With choice comes freedom, but this can come with its own difficulti­es. Women often say they walk differentl­y in heels; more poised and with greater confidence. Similarly, the precision tailoring of traditiona­l suits gave men and women a persona of profession­alism and ability. How do you regain this if suits have been more or less struck off the check list of modern office appropriat­e attire? The answer is to stick to well tailored pieces to begin with. Shirtdress­es, crisp cotton button-fronts and well-cut

trousers are strong anchor pieces for your new wave work wardrobe. Pair the button-front shirt with a pleated skirt for a less stuffy look. A simple cashmere round-neck sweater will lessen the formality of cigarette trousers, but still look sharp and considered. The wrong print can undermine an otherwise spot-on outfit. Remember, in the same way that a midi skirt is appropriat­e for the office while a maxi is not, some prints are meant to be worn to the beach and not the boardroom. Be circumspec­t with pattern and stick to muted shades and small prints. On the following pages, two women from different industries, who’ve mastered the art of looking profession­al but with personalit­y, offer their go-to brands, failsafe finds and tips for staying true to your own aesthetic, whatever the office culture.

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