I’ve happily spent my last few years of carefree adolescence (AKA University) in too short shorts, cheap pleather jackets and my Dad’s jumpers. But the time has come to face down my office wear demons and find a way to dress appropriately for interviews without compromising a sense of autonomy, creativity, inspiration – or even, as Rihanna would say, swag.
Through countless hours spent in high street shops as well as browsing street style galleries (note, Glamour’s selection is good, they often catch people on their way to/from work) I have devised a cheat sheet for work wear that mercifully bypasses outfits that are basically your school uniform minus the tie. Here are a few tricks that lift business dress staples out of air-hostess territory.
1. Accessories are your friend.
Fellow commuters, workers, people of the world – if you invest in one thing, let it be good accessories. Chunky statement necklaces that reflect designer musings (Aztec, neon, 1920’s) keep the classic blouse and trousers combo on trend. Bold earrings rethink Eighties power dressing (I’m pioneering the reclamation of the hoop) and mismatched bracelets and cuffs give a feminine outfit a bit of ferocity. Why not whack a few rings on too – unless the job involves lots of typing.
2. Revisit the classics.
Although I’ve fought it, I concede that my mum is right – you do need to invest in a good pair of trousers. But that doesn’t mean they have to be frumpy or uninteresting, hells no. By playing with proportion, you can bring a safe, inoffensive outfit up-to-date. Try more unusual shapes like harem, peg or high waisted flares, with an oversized or men’s shirt tucked in for a slouchy, undone feel. Pair with some loafers, brogues or chunky Chelsea boots, and a tailored blazer with the collar up (a la Burberry 2012) to neaten it all up. Similarly, high-waisted pencil skirts can be worn with extra baggy cropped jumpers to keep it smart but with an asymmetric twist.
3. Update with colour.
If you’ve already got an established office wardrobe, an inexpensive way to perk it up is with colour and pattern. Imagine a pretty standard white shirt and grey trousers. Add an enormous yellow clutch bag and boom, street snap-worthy. If you’ve got a silhouette that suits you, mix it up with bright, summery coloured jackets in green, orange and blue, or pick up some trousers in red or purple. Keep it to one palette though, we’re not looking for the resurgence of Wham circa Club Tropicana.
There you have it – just a few simple ways to make sometimes dull office wear your sartorial interview canvas. And trust me, faced with crippling nerves whilst waiting for an interview last week, toting around my huge fuchsia clutch bag (see above) made me feel a whole lot better.