Working Wardrobe

Spring is here and it’s time to spruce up your professional image by donning this season’s colours, lengths and styles.Make sure your ensemble says “unflappable, reliable, professional”. Do you want to be “the one to watch” because of your obvious promotion potential or the pure entertainment value of your try hard outfits?

“How you dress reflects how you do your work,” says Anne Stevens of travel industry specialist Hanna Recruitment. “Your outfit must say that you are neat, tidy, on time and that you pay attention to detail.”

Even on casual Fridays, “see through” fabric, bare flesh and shoes that make you teeter or wobble through the office rather than stride with confidence are out, out, out.

Emily Furmage, general manager of PKL Personnel, an office support specialist, has a number of “golden rules” when it comes to dressing to impress at work.

“No midriffs, no bra or cleavage showing, no strappy sandals and no stockings with toeless shoes,” Emily says. “I can’t believe I have to say that but I remember meeting with a perfectly dressed woman who then went to a job interview at a chartered accounting firm wearing low slung jeans and a midriff.”

The mini skirt was also not favored as a career tool by the two fashion experts we consulted for our story – Holly Lloyd-McDonald, a Melbourne-based fashion writer with the Herald Sun newspaper and Carol Provan, a magazine stylist and a fashion consultant based in Sydney.

Carol took us on a tour of stores in Sydney Central Plaza to demonstrate just how many alternatives to the mini there are this season. These include the knee length A line skirt, the calf length tube skirt, the classic straight skirt that stops just above the knee and “the flowing long skirt in jersey fabric”.

Shirts are back in a big way and Carol pointed out an array of styles featuring ruffles, brocade, scrunches and ruching on the shirtfront and or cuffs. The sheer gypsy-style and off-the-shoulder look is everywhere too but Carol says that these styles are definite “no nos” for the office.Holly favors the tailored shirts that are also in. “Pastels and white are good. Sleeveless or capped sleeves are not out of the question. Three quarter sleeves are still in – even those with a slit are fine. They are practical and easy to wear and convey that ‘rolled up sleeve, ready to work’ look. Shirts that just sit at your elbow are fine too.”

Pants are straight legged with flat front panels so they sit well with jackets, which are either tuxedo style or classic cropped “Chanel” style.

As for shoes, everyone agrees that strappy sandals are best kept only as evening or weekend wear.

“The black court shoe or pump with nice square heels and toes came in three years ago and they are still in,” says Holly. “Pointy toed black mules are also in but in strong ‘don’t mess with me’ colours like strong pink, scarlet and red. Any extra detail like stitching is also in.”

Carol advocates “low heels”, traditional mules and sling backs with closed toes.

As for colours Holly says “white is HUGE but the jury is still out for me as far as wearing all white to the office is concerned. It’s not practical.”

The colour “sand” is everywhere and has taken over from camel. Reds are still around as well as beige, some pastels, chocolate, mocha and off-white.

“The classic black suit is still in, especially in three pieces – jacket, skirt and pants, but black can look silly in summer so break it up with a cool green or cream shirt,” Holly says. “The standard navy is also fine.”

All our expects recommend keeping jewellery simple and to a minimum, like make up, and while “big hair” is back, they say that for the office neat and worn out or neat and worn in works best.

Finally, a word for the blokes. Anne Stevens says “no funny ties” while Emily Furmage pleads with men to iron their shirts.

Holly says suits in Prince of Wales checks are in. “They should wear their hair short and spiky on top – although long hair is everywhere on the catwalk.”

Duke Ocansey of Morrisey in Sydney Central Plaza says shirts and ties should be worn in strong colours or colours that contrast.

By Kate Southam, Editor

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