I’ve had a few messages of late from readers asking for a ‘sort-of smart for work’ post so I am, of course, obliging. I say ‘sort-of smart’ as I think the pandemic has changed the way we dress for the office. After months and months of sweatpants and maybe a shirt on top to give the illusion of effort, the days of work dress rules are probably, if not gone, then definitely relaxed somewhat.
As mentioned before, I’ve never really worked anywhere that had a dress code. Unless you count the Hammersmith Odeon in the 90s where a blue Labatts Beer polo shirt and black trousers were the order of the day. They actually made us PAY for that nylon polo shirt. But on the flip side, it was all the pump Coke you could drink and, as the bar closed after the interval, I got to see the second half of all the comedy shows. So basically only the punchline, not the actual joke. Thanks to that job, I also know how to sell ice cream out of a tray hung around one’s neck. Not as easy as you might think, dishing out spoons, pots and change at the same time.
I think the most bizarre job I ever had was at a place that sold swimming pools and swimming pool equipment. Me and and my friend Steph worked there every weekend one summer. Looking back, why on earth the owners of such a place put two 16-year-old girls in charge of it is beyond me. We would just sunbathe and swim. Barely anyone came in, but I did once demonstrate the wave-machine function to Bonnie Langford and her parents and we sold eight litres of chlorine to Stedman from 5 Star…
Since then, all my jobs have been casual (although not quite bikini-level casual) in the dress sense, but I do appreciate a good blazer and a well-cut pair of trousers…
THE OVERSIZED WHITE SHIRT
I know it’s an obvious choice, but I wasn’t really an advocate of the white shirt until fairly recently. I thought they were so boring, which they are to a certain extent, but very useful. Personally, I’m a fan of the oversized variety, as I like being given the option of having the hem hang out under my jumper. I also don’t really like anything too fitted. You know my feelings on anything ‘ladyfit’, especially those cap-sleeved band T‑shirts aimed at us women at merch stalls at gigs. I’ll take the men’s version, thanks.
Talking of oversized, I have this blazer in a paler colour from a few years ago and it’s excellent for this time of year. Never sure how the sizing works at & Other Stories but I have it in size 38 and I’m a 12 and it’s perfect, loose but not too big.
THE ALL DAY MIDI/MAXI DRESS
Shout out to ME + EM for making some of the best ‘smart-but-also-can-be-worn-on-a-night-out’ dresses around. I’ve always loved this brand; their clothes just work so well and I know when I order something in my size it will actually FIT. There’s not that gamble you have with places like H&M and Zara. It is more expensive though, but I have things I still wear from there that I bought 6–7 years ago, so I figure they get a great cost per wear. Talking of costs, I’ve got a discount for ME + EM, use code KATE15, which gives a 15% discount on your first purchase. It’s valid until 24/02/22 and is available on full priced products only.
THE NOT QUITE A SUIT SUIT
I’m NOT talking about a Theresa May/Nicola Sturgeon-style ‘power suit’ here: unless you’re a politician, you can leave the skirt-suit and high heels alone. To be frank, so should they, but each to their own. I’m not attempting to run a country any time soon so maybe a skirt-suit helps, who knows? Navy is a great option, and it doesn’t have to be bought as a suit – you can mix up your tones and fabrics and still look super smart. That’s the power of a good blazer. For good blazers, I like Jigsaw, Anine Bing and Mango.
1. Jigsaw Paris Brook shortline blazer
2. Ralph Lauren medium Bellport red leather tote
3. Rixo mid denim Misha large collar blouse
4. Arket cropped suit trousers
5. Fioriblu Papavero Suede Belt — Red
THE TRENCH COAT
A good trench can last you for years and years. It’s a classic item that never goes out of fashion. Burberry is obviously the don for this but I’m yet to justify that in my life when the high street does some great versions. I still love my M&S x Alexa Chung green one; it’s perfectly oversized. Personally, I prefer a trench to be oversized. The fitted ones feed into my ‘ladyfit’ aversion again, I’m afraid. I can see a theme emerging here. If in doubt, size up or look for ones that are made to be bigger. Like this one from Everlane.
A note on Everlane. They deliver via the US but there are no scary import fees (or there weren’t when I bought a coat from there last month). Delivery took about 10 days though, so take that into consideration if you order from them.
THE ELEVATED JOGGERS
I did try really hard not to include trainers, but surely they are now appropriate for a lot of work places. Stick with a simple, clean-white pair – the eternally stylish Adidas Stan Smith trainers will always work. And if you are not quite ready to give up your loungewear, then look for a more structured style of jogger, maybe with a side stripe, and pair them with a blazer and a shirt up top. It can really work for the office and still gives you the comfort levels you’ve come to expect at home.
IF IN DOUBT, WEAR BLACK
Really this is just an excuse to tell you how much I like this Anine Bing blazer again. I’m looking forward to wearing it more often now that I’m out and about, and the days are getting slightly warmer. Less puffer jacket and wellies and more blazer and nice boots. Unlike her sweatshirts, the Anine Bing blazers are a true to size fit, so take your regular size if you fancy this one. Wear it to lift your all-black outfit up a level.
I hope this has given you a bit of inspiration for back to work style and if you’re heading back into the office soon, good luck.