Next week I step back into heeled shoes and corporate clothes (read more about why here). After a couple of years working for myself, it’s a huge sartorial change.
At the beginning of the year I culled my wardrobe. It’s a new year tradition. This year I focussed on figuring out my office wardrobe, how it would play with my existing casual threads and identifying any clothes I would need. Happily, I discovered I have a lot of clothing that translates into office wear. Unhappily, many of the pants and dresses I wore years ago no longer fit.
I really thought I’d relish rebuilding a corporate wardrobe. And for the most part I did. But there was a darker element when the clothes from years back no longer looked the way I remembered them. Or zipped up. Pregnancy has shifted things around. So has age. Christmas might be slightly to blame. My taste and style has also evolved.
If you’re returning to the corporate space after a period away, you’ll no doubt go through a similar exercise. Trying to integrate your current wardrobe into a different work situation and breath new life into your old corporate clothes.
Here’s what I did and my tips for anyone heading back to corporate style.
Stocktake what you have
Get out all the clothing that you think might work for work. The things you have put away and the things on the dressier side of casual. Be creative and think outside the box. You probably have plenty of tops in your casual wardrobe that can work within a corporate environment when paired with a pencil skirt or tailored pants. You might have some printed skirts or pants that can be made office appropriate with a button-down shirt.
Try it ALL on
Steel yourself. Wine might be a reasonable idea. Try things on and try not to cry when older clothes don’t look quite as amazing as you remember. If you know it won’t fit, pop it away immediately. No need for masochism. This is also a good time to set aside things that might need to be dry-cleaned or repaired. Set a date to get that done.
Don’t forget the corporate accessories – belts and shoes
Check your belts and shoes and try those on as well when determining what goes with what. Belts are such a great way to “corporatise” more casual clothing.
Find the combinations
Try on a few combinations of things. I’m a bit crazy organised about these things but I noted each separate and then made a list of what went well with what. You can use the style book app to do this too. I also noted what shapes and silhouettes work best with my current body shape – it’s changed.
I think separates are a great way to approach a corporate wardrobe. Tops can be worn back with your more casual gear and you can use a basic pant/skirt as the building block for so many outfits. I love dresses for ease, but separates are versatile and expand your options.
Mind the Gaps
The gaps in your corporate wardrobe will become apparent as you go through the above exercise. I made a list and budget.
Check your corporate jewellery wardrobe
Check though your accessories (jewellery and scarves) to make sure you have a few office appropriate pieces to update basic outfits. After a few years at home, my jewellery tends to be all statement earrings and long beads. I will be wearing shorter necklaces and more restrained earrings in the office.
This is key. Find the emergency outfit. This is the no-iron outfit that can be substituted in if the original plan goes awry. You know – it ends up adorned with vomit/cereal/tooth-paste/dog hair/other unidentified kid-related stain. This is the bench player that’s really the star of the team (okay, I know nothing about sports so that analogy may not even make sense). For me, it’s a simple black wrap dress in a jersey that drapes beautifully.
Wait it Out
It’s tempting to go out and splurge, but I think it’s best to keep things to a basic minimum at this point. Wait until you understand the unwritten office dress code and then buy a few more pieces if you need them.
I have ended up with a good selection of office-ready outfits and I feel prepared to meet the challenges ahead, looking good and feeling confident.
If you are heading back to work or just needing a little inspiration in the corporate style stakes, please join in with #corporatemumstyle on instagram. There are so many great ideas already.