When women call me for style help, none of them are fashion nightmares. In fact, most of them could probably go the rest of their careers never changing anything about their work outfits. However, the reason why they call and hire me is because they’ve decided that the bare minimum, or a passable outfit, just isn’t working any longer. They want to raise the bar on their own wardrobe because they have identified that their outer image will make navigating through life and work easier, will make them feel better about themselves and will create a feeling of confidence they might feel like they are lacking.
Much of how we are perceived by others is based on our non-verbal communication, which includes our image. Despite the fact that we live in a shallow image obsessed world, this is not solely why clients call me for help, however. Yes, it is important to dress in a way that best personifies you, your life goals, your professional goals, and the message you want to communicate to others, but a powerful style is even more important because of the message it communicates to yourself.
Many of my clients reach life or professional milestones and goals after they work with me. While I am flattered that they are willing to lump my work with them into their hard work, smarts, dedication and skill sets, I know that their successes have less to do with the clothes than it does with how they perceive themselves after making these changes to their style. When you change the way you interact with the world the world changes around you and things happen. So, yes, the clothes have a lot to do with the successes of clients, but not for reasons one would immediately think.
Like my clients, most women can happily and successfully live on, never changing anything about their wardrobes and styles, and be just fine. But if you’ve been feeling bored or just like another face at work who looks like everyone else, and have no idea how to change it without investing in a whole new wardrobe, I am going to show you how you can evolve basic work outfits with little to no effort. What most women don’t realize is that it’s not the work clothing that is usually bad, it’s what they are wearing with these pieces that can use some sprucing up. For today’s wear to work post, here are three basic work outfits evolved into updated ones to show how you don’t have to trash your wardrobe and start over to be stylish at work. Before we get into it, I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of the original outfits I am starting with, it’s all a matter of taste and preference. However, if you’ve been feeling you want to elevate your work outfits or to just be able to get more with less these tips will help.
How to Evolve Basic Work Outfits
Outfit #1- The dress suit
My clients have been all over dress suits lately. It makes sense, as there is probably nothing easier and femininely professional than this look. Plus, pants can be tough for most women to fit and, unlike pantsuits or a skirt suits, you don’t have to think about what top to wear with a dress suits, you just zip them up, throw the jacket on and you’re out the door. Yet, this is where the problem starts; for the sake of ease, boredom can easily get created.
Taking this Boden dress and jacket, for example. It is a lovely dress suit that is totally work friendly and looks absolutely lovely and passable with a pair of black pumps, a black Ann Taylor handbag and gold drop earrings. However, after continuous times wearing this suit this way can get about as boring as watching bowling on TV. It is in these moments where a woman thinks she needs more clothes. But this isn’t the answer.
In the second look I made one subtle change (one that you may have already considered) and added a pop of color of this red handbag. Black and white can be treated like solid black and gives you unlimited possibilities in accessorizing. Next, I added a pair of nude pumps to infuse this look with some elegance and kept the accessories understated, but a bit more unique, with this Banana Republic necklace in grey. But the fun doesn’t stop there, my friends.
You can still evolve this look to something even more stylish and creative by adding even more color and style to this suited look. In the third outfit I added a colorful pair of earrings from Max & Chloe that create this fun road map of other colors that can be added. To finish it, I did just that. I styled with suit with a turquoise tote bag from Brahmin and a pair of pop pink heels from Chinese Laundry.
It’s important to point out that the steps and effort in each look is the same. I didn’t over complicate the second and third looks, I just changed the accessorizing components up to add some more interest.
Outfit #2- Navy blazer and pencil skirt
In an effort to change things up in your wardrobe, you may have purchased a pencil skirt in a color, like this coral one from J. Crew, other than black, grey or navy. Good for you. But now what? What do you do with it after you’ve exhausted the most basic way to wear it, like in the first look with a white sleeveless blouse from Vince Camuto and this navy Tory Burch blazer that has been styled with a navy handbag, navy pumps and a navy pendant? Again, there is nothing wrong with this look but there is also so much more you can do without changing the base of the outfit.
In the second look I made the outfit a bit more elegant with the same nude pumps from the last look, a coral and taupe necklace from Anthropologie and a tan handbag from Salvatore Ferragamo. Yes, this Ferragamo bag is ridiculously expensive. If it is out of your price range there are a gazillion well priced beige handbags out there to choose from. To finish the elegant styling, I wrapped a tan belt around the waist. The top does have a drawstring but you can either easily tuck it under a belt, if your belt is wide enough, tuck the drawstring inside the blouse or remove it if you don’t care for it. If you’re seeing a theme in creating elegant work outfits, you’re right. Beige, tan and nude accessories will work every time to soften professional outfits without losing their strong edges.
Lastly, for a more colorful and styled look using the same base and added a pop color. I changed the shoes for coral heeled sandals, added mint earrings from Bauble Bar and a colorful bag from Modcloth that pulls all the color in the outfit together. Remember the Base, Accent, Pop method to getting dressed. Sometimes that last accent color of small color, in this case mint green, can go a long way towards adding that big punch of style.
Outfit #3- A sweater and tailored pants
Sometimes blending is a good thing, there is nothing wrong with it and this first look of a pink v-neck sweater, tailored black pants, black flats, pink handbag and gold necklace, is a completely fine outfit to appropriately wear to the office if the dress code is business casual. Not all of us want to stand out nor do we feel it is our style to be overly done up.
Yet, if a look similar to the first one has started to feel a bit drab, there are ways to change up an outfit so simple. In the second outfit I played with grey, which looks beautiful with pink and black, to create an elegant and tonal look, with a pair of grey suede pumps, a grey handbag from Ivanka Trump, a pair of long grey earrings and gold bracelet.
Lastly, to style this outfit even further, I went for the color accent approach using this statement necklace from Anthropolgie as the base of the colors I combined. I added a cobalt blue handbag and tonal pink ballerina flats.
Basic work outfits do not have to be drab, nor do they have to be void of your personality and style. All it takes is a few changes to how you finish your looks to have them simple and stylish.
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I love the handbags but I don’t understand how they count as an accessory as part of a work outfit. When I get to work my bag goes straight into a drawer until the end of the day. I can’t imagine many women would be carrying a bag as part of their work day.
No, but you do need to carry something to and from work.
Thanks for the call out, both of you. I guess, in my mind, my thought was, even if you didn’t have the handbags the outfits would still be stylish. Take away the handbags in all the looks and each outfit is still more styled, no? The handbags are there just to finish the looks but, certainly, even without them, they still have some color and style infusion. Is there something you guys are seeing that I’m not? Thanks for the feedback!!
Oh, definitely they’re more styled even without the bags! I think a lot of the interesting color play you come up with is lost when the handbag is hidden in a desk drawer, though, and I’d love outfits that bring the additional color in without a handbag (or coat). To be honest, this is something I’ve noticed many places, not just on your site or in this one post.
I was thinking the exact same thing as Terri. Adding a pop of color to my outfits via a handbag really only benefits the other commuters on my bus – unless I’m running late my co-workers don’t get a chance to see it. And I don’t even look at my outfit with my bag before I leave the house, so I personally would never see the effect of that addition.
I’d like to see this type of post without the bags. I’m dressing primarily to please myself, but a large part of how I select my work wardrobe has to do with being seen as well, and so accessories like winter coats and handbags aren’t a part of that. I just pick something neutral and elegant that I like and don’t swap it out very often.
So the basic principle is: have a bit of fun with colour! I can get on board with that…
Haha, yes, have fun!