Are Your Clothes Standing in the Way of a Promotion?

What to wear to work... a question that results in a wailing-ranting session in front of the wardrobe each day as you. Here’s help.

Whether you’re corporate or casual, we bet what to wear to work is a biggie each morning. There’s two key challenges to work dressing these days and they’re polar opposites. If you’re in the more structured ‘corporate’ world, chances are you’re bored stiff at having to kill your personal style to dress ‘proper’. If, on the other hand, you’re in the loosely defined creative world (read: anyplace that doesn’t have a dress code!), you’re never quite sure how far is too far: can you be terribly on-trend without being out-of-place? The answer is: It’s difficult but possible. There are some ground rules of a work wardrobe—no matter how flexible your workplace seems to be— because somewhere down the line, whether anyone accepts it or not, what you’re wearing contributes to how you’re perceived. Fortunately this season, designers and brands across the world have trained their sights on the working girl and created looks that are totally trendy. Here’s your 2009 workwear guide, complete with classic pieces you’ll be able to wear forever.

The Trouser Suit

Pant suits just got more interesting— finally, there is more to the trouser! From front pleats to the Moroccan style or even the cut-off variety, choose pants to go with your mood. For the vertically gifted, there’s nothing like the fabulous wide legged trend, while those who aren’t should pick up the cigarette slim variety. The blazer this minute is all about taking a trip down memory lane—it’s the 80s once more! Think Melanie Griffith in Working Girl—minus the hair, it goes without saying! Think shoulder pads for broad shoulders, aka Balmain. 

The Shapes

The 80’s recap has also brought back the pleat, and we couldn’t be happier. Pleats can add edge, structure and detail to even the most blah silhouette. Dresses and skirts have a new dimension. Pair a navy shirt with Tommy Hilfiger’s knife pleated skirt and we can guarantee work chic that will kill every deal! Shift dresses in solid colours and floral prints have made their way from the runway to store racks— add a few accessories and you’re good for cocktail hour! High street brands like Mango, Esprit and Promod have on-trend pieces this minute that we're loving. 

The White Shirt

It’s called a classic for a reason—you can’t do power dressing without a killer white shirt, or few. Wear with trousers, a pencil skirt or just cinched with a wide belt. Look to create contrast when you wear a white shirt, though. Look for ruffles, bows and pin tucks, that make your white shirt quirkier and more stylish, yet utterly proper. Other details to look for—a detailed collar, interesting sleeves, or unusual fabrics. If you’re travelling, find an Anne Fontaine store—this genius woman does only white shirts, and they are mind blowing. Closer home, Rajesh Pratap Singh has some amazing cuts and fits; pleated textures, cuffs and collars along with kurta shirts in sheer fabrics are on the shelves currently.

The Skirt Suit

Skirt suits are back (and we couldn’t be grateful enough) with a vengeance, but they’re so not the prissy version you’ve been cringing at. Whether it’s Louis Vuitton’s Japanese inspired look or Park Avenue’s tartan prints, the versions we’re spotting now have flashes of spirit that make them both younger and more individual. Pick a pencil skirt if you’ve got a waist to kill for or the A-line version if you’re more human and haven’t been anywhere near the gym recently. Pay big bucks for a versatile suit—you can team the blazer with different pants, or even jeans for casual days; there’s no question you’ll get your money’s worth.

The Accessories

Footwear isn’t the easiest to get right given that comfort and style often have such conflicting demands. The solution: Stash black pumps and a killer pair of stilettos in your work desk; switch to the former for a meeting, the latter when heading out for post-work drinks.

Bags are more structured right now; sassy colours let you add spark to your outfit, and there’s nothing ‘inappropriate’ about them, whatever your workplace.

The Colours

Sorbet colours are very this-minute, but don’t ditch your navy and black suits yet. Lemon yellow, fresh peach, lime green and a burst of orange should be paired with subtler separates to add spice without being OTT. Definitely stay away from layering—pick light fabrics like linen for trousers, and for jackets, stick to single breasted styles.