This has been a much-requested post as I know a lot of you are starting to return to the office environment, whatever that looks like now. A socially distant, rota-controlled place where you can no longer use the communal mugs? Somewhere you might like to wear something other than sweatshirts and joggers? I’m pretty sure even the corporate uniform will have changed now though. Hopefully for those of you who work in that environment it’ll be more ‘sort of smart for work’ rather than trussed up to the nines in ill-fitting suits and uncomfortable shoes.
And then there’s the rest of us who don’t have much of an office these days. Still (and for the foreseeable) at the kitchen table on a rather uncomfortable stool with a cricked neck from not getting enough use out of that laptop stand and bluetooth keyboard you panic bought on Amazon and claimed would change your life. Use this as some inspiration for when you need to go somewhere a bit smarter. Like Waitrose instead of Lidl. Like Selfridges instead of Primark. Like Carluccio’s instead of Nando’s. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find a Carluccio’s these days. Sad times. When the one near my old office closed a couple of years ago there were very nearly actual tears shed. Where would we get our fix of courgette pasta and deep-fried spinach balls now? Richmond, apparently. I just checked. I feel a special bike ride coming on…
Trench coats really are the perfect trans-seasonal coats. Warm, but not too warm, smart, but not too smart, and showerproof! What’s not to like? Plus, if you buy the traditional classic style, it should last you for years and never go out of fashion. I got my favourite trench from the Alexa Chung range at M&S a few years ago. Unfortunately no longer sold, but this one is very similar. My one is green. I’m often also tempted to go for a classic beige à la Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffanys. I’d probably feel like Audrey Hepburn in my head but, in real life, I’m sure I’d resemble a crumpled Peter Faulk as Columbo…
1. Bella Freud oversized 1970 wool jumper
2. Coach Willow camera bag
3. M&S Collection cotton stormwear trench coat (size DOWN this cones up big)
4. Cos straight fit chinos
5. Office chunky sole leather loafers
EARLY AUTUMN DRESS
This is a very easy option for work. It’s just one item of clothing you need to think about of a morning, and everyone looks smart in a dress. I always veer towards the midi length. Ideally mid-shin. I get quite cross when a dress arrives and it doesn’t match up to my length expectations. Usually I like to wear my dresses with chunky boots as I feel too dressed-up with a heel, plus I just can’t walk in them very well. But if you can, then these beauties from Whistles are simple and effective. The dress above is one I have from last year by Justine Tabak and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it again soon. And I can’t wait for all the new collections from my favourite small brands. We’re probably a couple of weeks off most launches but I will do a round-up once they are available. In the meantime, this Monsoon number is a great high street option.
THE NON SUIT-SUIT
As you all should know by now, the easiest way to immediately look put together is to throw on a blazer. Most of us won’t need to go the full ‘suited and booted’ anymore. I think even the most corporate working environment is going to see a slight relaxation on the rules moving forward. A blazer and a reasonably co-ordinated pair of trousers or even, dare I say, jeans will suffice. For smarter trousers, my favourite places to shop are Toast, Cos and Arket. All make well-designed, good quality slacks that will last and not date.
SKIRTING THE ISSUE
Skirts. I find skirts can be tricky sometimes. You have to get the fit right so they don’t cut you in half. Also, those circular, full-style skirts won’t work if, like me, you don’t have a discernible waist anymore post-children and, peri-menopausal, the fun never starts, let me tell you. I know I say it all the time but I really should think about doing some exercise. I caught a glimpse of my backside in the changing room at H&M the other day. Gave me a terrible fright. I know the lighting is universally unflattering in there, but Jesus, it wasn’t pretty.
My favourite of all the autumnal fabrics. I can’t even tell you for why. There’s just something about those little ridges that brings me comfort. It doesn’t have to be all heavy and stiff, these days there are some wonderful soft cord items that have made their way into my wardrobe. If you work in a drafty school then I’d say a touch of corduroy is mandatory. If you teach geography then it’s the actual law, surely?
1. Boden Victoria navy corduroy blazer
2. Longchamp La Pliage original tote bag
3. M&S Per Una frill detail sweatshirt
4. M&S Per Una Corduroy tapered ankle grazer trousers
5. Gucci Jordaan horsebit leather loafers
SWEATER DRESS FOREVER
The simple sweater dress. Wear loose or with a belt to give a bit more shape. Personally, I’ve never quite mastered the art of a belted dress. Again, due to lack of waist and inconsequential boobs, but if you’re the curvier sort then this works to give you more definition where it’s needed. I suppose Gok Wan did have a point when he was brandishing a large buckle elasticated belt at ladies wishing to be made over. But I’d say go for a good slim leather belt to add a more stylish detail.
Good luck to anyone who is heading back into the office/workplace soon.