Fashionable from 9 to 5:
Don’t we all have that one old pair of black pants that, whether intentionally or not, is a mainstay in our work ensemble?
And why wouldn’t we? Classic black pants are both office-appropriate and flattering for any body type or shape. This wardrobe staple pairs easily with everything, from blazers and button-downs to velvet tops and silk blouses. In fact, it matches anything almost too easily that it’s easy to fill our drawers with pieces of similar styles.
We’re officially in a new era of workwear, and it’s looking chic. But if you’ve been stuck with your trusty black pants, for as long as you can remember, how and where do you even start upgrading your office fashion?
Whether you’re on duty or off, here are some fashion ideas that give you a commanding presence all the way around the (Bundy) clock:
Be in Bright Bottoms
Gray pencil cuts used to be the quintessential office girl go-to wear. Update your girl boss outfit by going for a patterned skirt or bright-colored pants. Blue, green, and a combination of both are popular options when it comes to colored bottoms.
If you want a smooth overall look, pick a top from the same color family. If you’re feeling more adventurous, choose a blouse in an equally bright hue.
Go Midi or Maxi
Here’s a secret: on days when I want to save my energy for other things, I dodge the cognitive load from overthinking the day’s outfit by throwing on a maxi dress. Maxi dresses are a godsend, believe me. They are not only ultra-comfortable, they also look effortlessly sophisticated.
If you’re not a fan of maxi skirts or train dresses, a midi number is your best bet. A midi dress or skirt, as its name suggests, go all the way down to the calf. You can take this piece from the workplace to a fancy dinner after work, without looking overdone.
Step out of your usual black-pants-and-white-button-downs. Add a fun twist to your office garb by going wild with colors. Pair a royal blue bodycon skirt with a cherry red Sabrina-cut blouse, for example.
If you want to a dash of color in your outfit without looking flashy, play with jewel tone pieces. Wear a dark, amethyst-colored jacket on top of a ruby-red dress or pair an emerald green top with a black silk skirt. Jewel tones almost always complement one another, so you’re unlikely to have a hard time mixing and matching pieces.
Choose a single, muted color, and stick to it. Going for a monochromatic theme keeps everything streamlined and at the same time creates an illusion of a leaner and taller silhouette. Don’t worry about boring onlookers. You can always mix up textures to make a monochromatic interesting.
Pair a tan cotton top with a corduroy skirt of the same color or wear a black, flowy button-down with a midi-length leather skirt. Complete your ensemble with thin stilettos to create a look that means business, literally.
Forget About Rhyme or Reason
When it comes to wearing prints, the rule of thumb has always been to pair a printed bottom with a solid-colored top. But this was in the past. With brands like Miu Miu debuting hodgepodge fashion on the runway, going print-on-print is now totally okay.
When layering prints, though, stick to preppier designs. Take a plaid skirt, for instance, and wear it with a top with horizontal pinstripes. Finish the look with a blazer in a muted color.
Flare it up
If you’ve lived in straight pants forever, it’s high time you move on to cullotes. Palazzo pants, gauchos, and cullotes are all characterized by their wide legs. Wide-leg pants instantly up any clothing ensemble, but they can get a bit tricky to style.
The trick is to choose the right top, then dress them up like you would any other pair of pants. You want a fitted shirt or one that you can tuck to balance out your pants’ wide silhouette. Go for a top that does not bunch at the waist, so it doesn’t add bulk to the outfit.
Size up or down if you need to. For days when you need to power dress, polish with pumps or stilettos. For more laidback workdays, go for sandals, slides, or even sneakers.
There are days when you simply want to be extra. On these days, a basic, pencil-cut mini simply won’t make the cut. Take avant-garde to work by tucking a crisp button-down shirt into a silk mermaid skirt (voluminous, ruffled skirts that flare at the hem). Wrap a fabric belt around the waist for a dynamic finish or throw on a statement neckpiece. You can also amp up your LBD with an oversize plaid or houndstooth jacket, and polish the look with a raw gold bangle. For an extra oomph, accessorize with oxfords and slip on a pair of retro sunnies.
If your workplace is less strict with what you wear, don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and fabrics, and to go for bold colors. From ankle-bearing cropped pants to Victorian-inspired high-neck pieces, you’ll never run out of ways to spice up an otherwise plain office ensemble.
A Few More Takeaways
I’m sure you remember a time when “office wardrobe” and “casual clothes” took two separate poles in the closet. Today, work/life balance has undeniably stopped becoming elusive, or at least in the realm of fashion. Your so-comfy weekend palazzo pants are now work-appropriate.
You now actually wear longline blazers on casual dinners, and blocky heels have become your new go-to footwear. In a world where lady bosses rarely go off-duty, it’s understandable why we don’t anymore have different clothes reserved for different situations.
While it’s totally okay in today’s diverse workplaces to dress up according to your mood and personal style, remember that workwear still has a distinct purpose. What you wear to work is still worth serious consideration, as it’s what you wear when you perform one of the biggest role of your life. It’s a means of communicating with bosses, clients, and coworkers. It also helps establish your position within your tribe — in this case, your office — and signals how seriously (or playfully) you take that role.