Times have changed. Comfort is key but so too is staying chic and focusing on getting the job done. Workwear tips for the new decade.
FIRST OF ALL, I AM NOT A HUGE FAN OF BEING TOLD WHAT TO WEAR
I think I’ve said this on the blog before, but at my first ‘real’ job interview for my Uni side job, at the department store Myer, the female interviewer told me to “wear a skirt because they like to see that“. I’d most definitely worn suit pants for my interview. I got the job and later went on to mostly wearing black pants and a rotation of low heeled shoes. Actually, since the uniform was ‘black and white’ I spent two years wearing all black with a few black blouses or the occasional white fitted shirt. And always a heel. I remember the feeling of my calves aching as I got used to them in those first few weeks. I’d worn heels for years, but never every day, for weeks on end, standing for up to twelve hours a day.
But that was actually my choice and at the time probably had more to do with my feelings about my height and trying to establish myself among my peers who were in general (save a handful) much older Myer veterans. I also ended up working in the all-male Home Office department and felt short. For reference, I am 163cm tall and have always thought I’d like to be taller. Silly, but it’s just never something I’ve shaken entirely.
HOWEVER, SINCE TIMES HAVE CHANGED, I OFFER THESE WORKWEAR TIPS
Over the decades, workplaces and office workplaces specifically have changed. Roles, hours and how those roles are performed have changed. Emails don’t have a cut off time to be sent or answered. Desks don’t have to be something you are chained to in order to get work done. I am pretty sure most workplaces have seen cracks in their reasoning to have most workwear look a certain way. The rules have been bent so much they aren’t as relevant as they once were. Strict dress codes have been considered potentially discriminatory, particularly where things like hair colour, piercings and so on are concerned. So times have changed, and what to wear to work is probably even more confusing because of it. While I’m not laying down a bunch of rules, the following are just some practical tips from me to you on navigating that situation for yourself.
WORKWEAR TIPS FOR THE NEW DECADE
Repeat after me, “Be comfortable. Be practical. Be yourself.”
You were hired for you to perform a job, not someone else. So do that job to the best of your ability without being compromised with silly things like an uncomfortable outfit. No one has time for that nonsense.
HOW I WENT FROM WEARING HEELS TO FLAT SHOES
It’s beyond me how or why anyone can still afford to waste time trying to maneuver themselves across thick office carpet in high heels. How and why did I do it for years?? Thank goodness I grew out of that.
Years ago I enjoyed the chance to pair a heel with my pants and midi-length skirts in the office. I’d discovered mini-length workwear wasn’t an option, thanks to my boss staring at me one day in no uncertain terms making it glaringly obvious that the length of my skirt he deemed inappropriate. Midi-length it was to be and in general, I didn’t always love pairing a flat shoe with a potentially frumpy looking longer length hem. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. As times changed and I found myself the only female in an otherwise all-male office, gone were the days I could dress in heels at all. In fact, I was told specifically by the health and safety officer “You cannot wear heels to work anymore, we have decided it is a risk”. So, my heels were out. Flats it was to be.
YOU DON’T NEED ADDED HEIGHT TO PROVE YOURSELF
At the time, I didn’t mind dressing in a neutral look with oversized tops and shirts, man-style blazers, culottes, and brogues. I was comfortable and it made me feel more masculine, which actually helped with my job. Essentially, as a petite woman who was in a management role, I had to be the authority on a given shift, often needing to deal with irate patrons. Being called out into the public space to speak to angry patrons, it was easier to face if I didn’t appear to be stumbling around in heels and could clearly hold my own. Sounds silly, but there were occasions where angry men threatened me physically, or verbally (usually that they would wait around to attack me out in the car park after my shift). It never happened.
I was swiped at, though ducked being hit and on some occasions challenged to a point where (at least in my mind) I wasn’t sure how to save myself from the angry person yelling at me. Knowing we were in public and being filmed by security cameras helped with my confidence. So was the knowledge that I was responsible for the other staff and had to be able to step up. Dressing the part helped. I may have been short, but I knew what I was doing and could hold my own.
A TIP ON WEARING FLAT SHOES TO THE OFFICE
Back to the outfit at hand. The key to wearing flat shoes with a pant or suit look is that the hemline finishes a little higher, just above the ankle bone. Sneakers, might too casual, though should only ever be worn in spotless condition anyway. A pair of loafers, brogues or low heeled covered shoes work too. Look for flat shoes which subtly add a detail to keep things interesting – be it a v-detail, an understated embellishment or mix of prints. Wear hidden socks if need be too for comfort and breathability. And please make sure you have some arch support!
COMFORTABLE AND CHIC
To mix it up, I sometimes take the more casual approach of a clean t-shirt or camisole. Though I love a button-down shirt too, they don’t need to be fitted super tight, loose and breathable is good. After all, comfort is a huge key to getting work done. Tight-fitting workwear dresses, pants or skirts irk me. As long as it still looks chic, but ticks the comfort boxes, why try to squeeze into something that will make you uncomfortable?! You have to be able to sit, eat and breathe. High waisted pants with a looser fit blouse or soft thin knit tucked in is a chic choice. Of course, dress for your body shape, first and foremost.
And a blazer works wonders, though this is hardly newsworthy coming from me. They make anything chicer.
As we head into this new decade, times have also changed in relation to prints. Animal prints aren’t solely reminiscent of biker chicks and can be worn tastefully even to work. Though, I am more inclined to suggest to stick to traditional prints like checks, plaid, neutral animal prints, herringbone, polka dots etc. This is generally because I know they are more versatile and less based on passing trends. Personally I stick to a pretty neutral palette, but knowing your colours is important. Avoid trends and as always, invest in your wardrobe with consideration. Make sure the pieces will last, pair with multiple outfits and be repeat-wearable over and over.
SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY WITH FINER DETAILS
Finally, one thing I love is sharing my personality with subtle details like a signature scent or low-key jewellery. I wear the same rings and a rotation of layered necklaces, subtle earrings every day. I also have a bracelet stack but I tend to take these off when I am working at a desk. The clattering annoys me as I type. By adopting a few pieces that share your personality, be that through colour, charms, chains and so on, you can tastefully add a little extra ‘you’ to your workwear. Keep it practical of course- jewellery shouldn’t be causing disruptions from getting work done. I added to my collection bit-by-bit too, making things more special, marking time passing with memories. Those stories are things you can choose to keep to yourself or share. It’s kind of nice having something like a subtle secret in the workplace.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOUR OFFICE WEAR IS LIKE
I’ve been working freelance for a while now, so I’d love to hear about your office wear. Is it relaxed? Are there strict rules? Let me know in the comments below. Got any predictions of how office life will look over the next decade? I’d love to hear your theories below too!
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