The world of work has irrevocably changed, as has the way we dress in professional settings. Work attire now tends to fit in the ‘smart casual’ box – a misnomer that few of us really understand. As a result, it can be stressful working out how to ‘show up’ in the professional world in 2022.
Case in point: prior to the pandemic I worked in a conservative, government role. My go-to corporate ‘uniform’ was a dress, blazer and tights – five days a week. Following two years of working nearly exclusively in activewear and a subsequent career pivot into the startup space, my once tried and true ensemble now makes me feel like a young child playing in my Mum’s dress up box. It felt foreign, inauthentic, and downright uncomfortable.
So, how can we dress for success in the new world order? There’s a lot to be said for building out a small collection of core pieces that you then dress up or down, or add your own twist to. Note: I did not say capsule wardrobe, because the idea of limiting myself to a set number of items brings me out in a cold sweat!
This isn’t about taking a Marie Kondo-esque attitude to your closet, but instead injecting it with a few classic, sophisticated pieces that you can then add your personal touch to – be it with a fantastic, vintage scarf you found in a Paris flea market, or a limited edition pair of Jordan kicks. Even better: these classic pieces are not only timeless but genderless: whether you’re male, female, or a non-binary babe, these pieces have you covered!
Staple 1 – a cozy sweater
Think wool, silk or cashmere. There is nothing worse than the itchy, sweaty experience of acrylic! Or even worse, the premature pilling. A neutral hue, such as beige, grey, or a winter white, will make this the perfect wardrobe chameleon. Worried about looking basic? Look for thoughtful, minimalistic details, such as zips, a turtleneck or a notched hem.
I am currently lusting after this piece from Commonry, and also recommend checking out Uniqlo for high-quality knits at reasonable prices. While their sizing can run small, they have recently released extended sizing online.
Staple 2 – classic, white kicks
If you’re anything like me, your wardrobe is home to many pairs of sneakers. But while I love a bright, bold look, it can be hard to let other statement pieces shine in comparison. This is why I always ensure I balance my bright sneakers with some more understated pairs – usually a simple white leather (had much better longevity and cleans up easier than canvas).
Staple 3 – the perfect jeans
As a millennial, I am not ready to admit that the death knell has been sounded for skinny jeans, but I am here for the understated (and arguably more comfortable) aesthetic of the straight leg.
Look for no rips and minimal bleaching, just a classic cut that can truly take you from desk to drinks. Bonus points for shopping sustainable brands: denim production can have the greatest environmental impact of all fashion (click here for more).
Staple 4 – a seaworthy, striped top
This is a hill I’m willing to die on: breton stripe tops are the perfect striped top and suit absolutely everyone. They’re the original for a reason and come with some interesting facts that you can delight your friends with after a couple of vinos: in 1858 breton stripe tops became the seafaring uniform for sailors in northern France, and they feature exactly 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories.
Trivia aside, the navy and white hues mean you can easily pair it with any conceivable colour in your wardrobe. Dress it up with a blazer for the office, with a pair of chinos for the weekend, or drape it casually around your shoulders.
Staple 5 – the classic trench
With the ground still muddy along much of the eastern seaboard, we have recently been reminded of the importance of warm, water-resistant attire. Enter the classic trench. No, you don’t need to drop a month’s rent on the Burberry version, but if that floats your boat, who am I to stop you?
A canvas, wool, or even polyester will serve you well for years to come. Case in point: my Calvin Klein trench, bought in New York nearly a decade ago, has seen me through rain, sleet and snow and is still going strong!
Happy shopping and remember: fashion should first and foremost be fun!