Wednesday 20 February 2019

How to wear.. modern workwear

Leave the staid suits and shift dresses behind in 2018 and hit refresh on your office wardrobe with these contemporary pieces, writes Meadhbh McGrath

Victoria Beckham attends Kent & Curwen at Temple Place during LFWM January 2019 on January 06, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Mockford/GC Images)
Victoria Beckham attends Kent & Curwen at Temple Place during LFWM January 2019 on January 06, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Mockford/GC Images)
Victoria's dusky pink blouse elevates a grey trouser suit, relieving any bland corporate connotations
Leather trousers, €279 from M&S
Blouse, €79.99 from Selected Femme at Arnotts
Skirt, €220 from Reiss
Blazer, €1,350 from Prada at Brown Thomas
Tie dress, €89 from COS
Jumper, €65 from M&S
Print dress, €99.95 from Massimo Dutti

Meadhbh McGrath

A new year is as good an excuse as any for a workwear refresh.

Your own wardrobe is probably segregated into the fun, breezy off-duty pieces and the dull weekday uniform of suits, tights and courts. But the definition of 'office-appropriate' has gradually stretched over the years, and now, depending on your workplace, may include everything from sweatshirts to sandals. While that doesn't give you an excuse to throw all caution to the wind and go Lycra-casual, it does mean our 9-5 options have grown far more varied and exciting.

The new vision of workwear was largely shaped by Phoebe Philo's 10-year tenure at Celine, and since her departure last year, designers like Victoria Beckham, Gabriela Hearst, Dries Van Noten and Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino have picked up the mantle, offering understated chic and clean lines that spell self-assured, grown-up style.

At the same time, this kind of restrained elegance has become a celebrity favourite, too. Many of the most stylish stars, such as Meghan Markle, Victoria Beckham and Amal Clooney, embody a professional polish that working women strive to emulate.

Aside from the odd red carpet, evening event or royal wedding, we tend to see these women in luxurious yet minimalist tailoring, knitwear and outerwear, typically in neutral or earthy tones and complemented with considered details and sharp accessories.

For mere mortals, assembling a modern work wardrobe can seem like a challenge: you want to look fresh and contemporary, yet avoid trends that will quickly look dated. Without splurging on a whole new collection, there are some key pieces you can integrate into your existing looks that are guaranteed to make an impact.

Leather trousers, €279 from M&S
Leather trousers, €279 from M&S
Blouse, €79.99 from Selected Femme at Arnotts
Skirt, €220 from Reiss
Blazer, €1,350 from Prada at Brown Thomas
Tie dress, €89 from COS
Jumper, €65 from M&S
Print dress, €99.95 from Massimo Dutti

At a conference last month, Amal Clooney made the case for office-appropriate leather in an asymmetric Givenchy midi skirt and mock neck top. Leather skirts and trousers make for a great alternative to A-line styles or basic black slacks. Follow Amal's lead and pare back the rest of your look with solid colours and fuss-free accessories.

Whatever the weather, a pleated midi skirt will see you through the work day and beyond. You'll find one in just about every shade, but we like the unexpected ombre effect of Reiss' version. And don't be afraid of colour - just because you need to be taken seriously doesn't mean you can't wear interesting prints or vivid hues.

If you're looking to inject some boldness, stick to classic colours and prints like polka dots or florals. Flashy patterns and on-trend tones like millennial pink have a shorter shelf life, and you'll likely grow bored of them within a couple of seasons.

If you're going for a statement print like this season's snakeskin, the safest way to pull it off without having to dodge curious glances from straight-laced coworkers is to streamline the rest of your outfit: basic black accessories will let the print sing, without vying for attention.

Boots, €129 from Massimo Dutti
Boots, €129 from Massimo Dutti
Earrings, €12.99 from Mango
Coat, €114 from River Island
Bag, €395 from Rebecca Minkoff at Arnotts
Slingbacks, €40 from Next

Both Amal and Victoria Beckham are firm fans of a high neckline, which offers a modern alternative to staid blouses and stiff white shirts. Victoria's dusky pink blouse elevates a grey trouser suit, relieving any bland corporate connotations.

You don't need to go full pie-crust, though. We like Selected Femme's slinky white blouse with high cuffs and collar, which will instantly update simple suits and skirts.

Wide-leg trouser suits like Victoria's are big news this year. Just make sure the cut is flawless: a suit may be a workwear staple, but it's the neatly tailored fit ensures it makes a strong impression.

If it fits you well, it doesn't matter whether it's from Prada or Penneys: it will look expensive. Find a local tailor to perfect the cut and narrow in on your waist - crucial if you're going for an oversized silhouette.

And while VB may opt for a platform heel, the days of skyscraper stilettos at the offer are over.

The high street boasts an excellent selection of comfortable, practical and stylish footwear, so when you're going to be on your feet all day, stick to block heels.

Irish Independent

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