Saturday, 6 September 2014

How to make office wear look less boring

Before I begin I'd like to note that I was neither paid nor influenced to write this post. All opinions are my own!

This is me at work :) 
I've wanted to discuss this topic for a while but one thing always stopped me: none of the companies I've ever worked for have had a dress code. I consider myself lucky because during the 10+ years of my professional life I have never been confronted by anybody because of the way I dress. Depending on my mood, the weather or you name it, I wear a jeans/T-shirt combo, or a fancy dress or a quirky outfit: nobody cares how I look. The same goes for client meetings: I don't always dress smartly for those. Having said that, I do not envy people who work in an environment with a strict dress policy, such as some of my friends from the financial sector or other "serious" industries. When I lived in Japan, I was particularly shocked by the monotonous mass of people working in corporations (salaryman, as they are usually called) on public transport, dressed in super boring and similar-looking outfits, Seriously, they all looked like clones!

I decided to share my thoughts on the subject and hear what you have to say. If we are lucky, we can create our own wardrobe and add a lot of special elements which make us stand out more! In saying that, I am sure, many of you are confined by rigid company dress policies.

So if I worked for a company with a dress code I would...

Sew my office wear from more expensive fabrics. 

In Japan, my company was located in the same tower as Barclays Bank and Samsung Ericsson. Every day as I approached the elevators, I could clearly identify who works where. Although people from both companies wore suits, skirts and shirts, they quality of the fabric their clothes were made from was not the same. I am sure that investing a little bit more into a higher quality fabric would resolve two issues: a smarter garment look and its longevity.

 Add colour to the strict office look!

If I had to sew my office wear, I'd use a lot of structured fabrics, materials with contrasting threads or simply more colours in contract to a black and white office palette.

On a business trip to our office in India. I fell in love with their daily outfits!

Use modern patterns to create a classic look. 

In my personal opinions, Style Arc does it better than anybody else. I may be wrong but Chloe, the designer behind the brand, spots all the newest fashion trends and immediately translates them into dashing patterns! I also like the way she pairs her patterns, based on celebrities' styles, to create an accomplished look and to give outfit suggestions.


Bring an element of surprise!

Buttons, a little embroidery or a contrasting lining can please even the most conservative boss!

One of my favourite "surprise" garments out there is Marina's godet skirt! The little bit of colour she used for the lining puts a smile on my face. Speaking of which, last year, I also sewed a garment with burst of colour, a classic black French jacket.


Whenever I seek an idea for accessorising, I often turn my eye to Erika B., a sewing and fashion blogger from the US. While her style is not really the same as mine, this woman know how to dress up!

Now, I'd like to ask you, especially those of you who do have to follow the office rules: if you sew you office wear, do you have any tricks to share? What do you do in order to stand out and make your outfit look less office-like?


  1. I work in one of those "serious" industries now, and basically, standing out fashion-wise is frowned upon. (Even more so in Japan, as I observed in my very short experience there). Unfortunately, it's not feasible for me to sew a high-quality conservative suit, so I just buy the best I can afford and have it tailored by a professional. However, if I was working in another industry, I would definitely go the route suggested -- better fabrics and a pop of color.

  2. Interesting discussion! I've never had a dress code, and I've never worked in a corporate atmosphere, so I don't have a lot to offer here! But may I suggest checking out Diary of a Sewing Fanatic for inspiration? Carolyn works in a very conservative corporate office, but she's often able to interpret fun runway trends into looks appropriate for her strict work climate.

  3. I once went for a job interview where I was told that my outfit wasn't smart enough for the office (apparently a suit with an untucked (but smart) blouse underneath just wasn't good enough. When I was offered the job, I received a three page list of rules on dress code, which mentioned, amongst other things, that staff must wear underwear at all times.

    I'm happiest in roles which let me wear what I want, and I think I'm a bit like you and will wear what suits my mood each morning. If I'm confronted with a dress code, I'll stick to it, but I'll be colourful and try and have as much fun with it as I can. I don't feel comfortable if I'm dressed entirely in neutrals, and if I'm not comfortable, I don't do my best work - simple, really.

  4. I can wear whatever I want to rehearsals, but for concerts I have to dress in floor length black with long sleeves, to match the formality of the tails that the men wear. Of course I find this quite restrictive! It's especially difficult to find an outfit that conforms to the dress code while still looking and feeling attractive. It's also important to me to be comfortable on stage, as it's extremely hot under the lights and I need lots of ease in my clothing to play the bass. I've found that slim pants and a loose, drapey top work well for me, especially with dolman-style sleeves or a low armscye. This is exactly why I want to make the Dotty top, for the beautiful drapey quality, plus it fits in my dress code and will look glamorous in a washed silk. My dress code is very different to the corporate one that you have in mind, but it's still a challenge to find something unique to wear that ticks all the boxes. I'm so glad I can sew!

  5. Such an interesting topic! Teachers have quite a loose dress code, but it's got to be modest, so that's really a personal call. Honestly, younger teachers like me are usually more careful to cover up!
    In Japan I taught at a mid-level private school (so not catering to the super rich, but the quite wealthy) It was strange to try to figure out a teaching wardrobe that would be appropriate for seeing parents at the end of the day!

  6. Now, I like to wear more colours. When I first started working, everything was grey and navy. So now I do have separates that I can brighten up with contrasting tops.
    That's all I've been able to come up with so far:)

  7. There's no dress code at my work and most people wear jeans and a t-shirt. I can stand out simply by wearing a dress or skirt. If I worked somewhere more corporate I guess I'd look for interesting silhouettes like some of the Vogue Ralph Rucci patterns but keep the colours fairly drab. And good fabric is a must of course.

  8. I work from home, so .. yoga pants and a tshirt most days. :D The biggest concession I have to fashion over comfort is dying my hair crazy colors. Currently it is cotton candy pink & blue bangs. (lighter than my avatar)

  9. Thanks for sharing your experience! In fact, a friend who works in a "serious" company with a very strict dress code confessed that she feels good wearing a "uniform" so she does not have the eternal morning problem: What to wear.

  10. Thanks for suggesting Carolyn's blog!

  11. Oh man! Who can do their job well if they don't feel good in their skin? This reminds me that back in the days after I my graduation, I had a job interview with L'Oréal. While I was waiting for my interviewer to show up, I saw many company workers wearing mainly black, stiff and strict clothes. I, on the other hand, wore a neon green top and a maxi skirt with white and yellow flowers. And although I was offered a role, I rejected the offer because I could not imagine even for a second to be amongst these people, who would criticise my style or frown upon.

  12. Can't wait to see your Dotty blouse now! And when I am in your area, I'd like to check out one of your concerts :)

  13. hehe ;) Thanks for the comment! In fact, I discovered a bit more about teachers' dress code from one of your previous posts where you debated the length of a skirt. Looking at your crazy colourful outfits I'd say that you balance quite well school's rules and your personal preferences. Is there anything you are desperate to wear that you can't?

  14. I work in the museum sector so it's corporate with sass. I am a big fan of great cuts, good quality fabrics and crazy ass shoes and necklaces. Style Arc is so rad- I haven't been brave enough to sew with them yet....

  15. I have a strict dress code at work, but it's that you have you have both legs and arms covered, and not have fabric flopping about the place that might get caught in machinery/equipment. So it's practical rather than for status. But I've had to stop myself from giggling out loud when I walk into our head office - full of engineers - there's a sea of middle-aged men in dark blue/grey/black slacks, black dress shoes, and a stripped/solid buttonup shirt in some shade of blue. Just by going in there in a pink shirt, blue jeans and boots, I stand out like... well a woman in a room full of men. I'm actually trying to start sewing a bit of an office wardrobe - just a few staples that will 'lift' my office look for when I'm not on site, but be classy and good looking enough to rock it when I meet up with banks or clients. They're all coloured, of course. Preferably red to shock all those lemmings out of their senses! I love the photos of you with the Indians - so much gorgeous colour!!!! They really know how to use colour in their wardrobes.

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