Good evening readers and welcome to my world again! Today – as promised – I am going to discuss the way we dress for work. Or, perhaps more importantly, the problems we have when we dress for work. I do not promise the answers – I can only give you my experience of this thorny question.
I have been inspired by my love of glossy magazines lately. If you’re as much of a style & fashion dork as I am, you look forward to the March and September issues of Vogue and the bi-annual appearance of Elle Collections with barely disguised childish anticipation. It’s my equivalent of Christmas – and it comes twice a year. I’m a lucky girl, really – I’ve a birthday in June so it’s September issues, Christmas, March issues and birthday.
Anyway, those editions serve as the official declaration of what we will all be wearing. It’s easy to say you defy fashion but – trust me – if you study those issues then sit back and observe the output of the big high-street retailers, you’ll bow your heads and doff your caps at Anna Wintour, Alexandra Shulman and Lorraine Candy. Whilst feeling either a) very silly for even trying to break the mould or b) very depressed.
Personally, I’ve learned to live with it – in fact, I’ve even learned to love it. I tend to think that most of my friends and colleagues have too. In our own way, we all work with the trends. If even the supermarket lines are influenced by the big shows, we don’t have a choice. I also believe (and this is a cliché, I’m afraid) that women do find it easier to adapt to change – and accept that they sometimes have to work with what’s available – more easily.
What’s important is to find a way to work what could become a uniform look. After all, the one thing most of my friends would find least appealing about any job is a uniform. However, in the summer, many of us have difficulties finding suitable clothes for work. It’s hot and stripping off is a ‘no, no’. Even a ‘God, no’, in some cases! Loose clothes, linens, skirts, flats and lighter bags reign. Less make-up is practical too – who wants to melt during a meeting which isn’t blessed with air-conditioning? It makes me laugh that we need waterproof mascara when it’s dry.
The key – it seems – is to go ‘smasual’, as our office junior would say. With the emphasis on ‘sma’, remember. A couple of examples: a knitted cotton top where the tailoring (rather than the 3 ply lycra) gives shape is fine – but t-shirts will not suffice; chambray will cut it in the less formal working environment – denim won’t. Ever.
Which brings me back to the whole point of this post…..this A/W we may find that our mothers’ advice (that uniforms are good because we won’t have to worry about buying clothes) is more relevant than we ever imagined.
You see, this A/W you’ll want to wear the big trend. I guarantee it. I would stake my fashionista credentials on this statement. The biggest trend this coming season is – shock, horror – trousers. I don’t mean skinny trousers, I don’t mean unkind straight leg trousers, I don’t mean impractical cropped trousers. I mean leg-lengthening, properly-waisted, tummy-minimising, flared, bootcut or wide-leg beauties. In black, grey, navy or – how grown up! – camel.
These are the trouser equivalent of the lost ark – and the holy grail of workwear: flattering, practical and easily reproduced (accurately) on the high-street. All matched simply, and chicly, with smart blouses, knitwear and shell tops. Even the accessories rock – solidly heeled court shoes or high loafers and sensible handbags were the stars of the shows.
This is a look that we first saw (and loved) in A/W 1995 when the incomparable Tom Ford was designing for Gucci. Whilst we were busy thanking our stars for the boot-cut jean, he was already moving on.
Anyway, I don’t know about you but I’m feeling very optimistic about a season that wants to look back to the best of trends instead of trying to force us all to be little innovators. At a time like this, I want a style that I know works. And it’s one that works for all of us. I want to be that girl from the Charlie advert and (as my evidence shows) so did Stella McCartney and Frida Giannini at Gucci.
When those successful – and sexy – female designers walked down the runway for their show finales, we saw what fashion people really wear. And it’s not so different from the stuff we love. I’m all for Stella’s knitwear: versatile; accessorised easily and doesn’t require ironing. That’ll definitely appeal to my friend, Sam – whose workwear policy starts and ends with wash and dry. Frida’s suit looks super smart but cut for comfort – loose enough to move about in easily but crisp and very flattering.
So, whilst we’re living with the summer weather, we’ve at least got something to look forward to in the colder months. Knitwear and wide-leg pants. What’s more Coco Chanel than that?
In answer to my question, I can’t make up my mind….am I a Tom Ford devotee (I still have a – totally professional – crush on him), a Coco accolyte or a Lauren Hutton wannabe? Realistically, with my hair and teeth, I think it’s got to be the latter. Bang on trend. Oh yes!
Now I’m happy!