The Most Commonly Asked Workwear Questions, Answered

September doesn’t just mark the start of a new fashion season – for many, it signals the inevitable return to the office. To help you strike the right balance between smart and stylish, we asked former Tatler Fashion Director Anna Bromilow and stylist Victoria Genevieve to answer some of the most asked workwear questions.

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Where can you buy a really great blazer and how much should you look to spend?

“If you can, invest in something good quality,” says SL contributor and former Tatler Fashion Director, Anna Bromilow. “A blazer isn’t something that will go out of fashion quickly, so going high end it totally worth it. Stella McCartney and Joseph are up there with some of the best blazer brands, in my opinion,” she adds. “Spending a little more on a blazer is worthwhile, as you’ll get so much wear out of it,” agrees personal stylist Victoria Genevieve. “I swear by Blazé Milano, while Anine Bing and Maje are all great, too. On the high street, you can always rely on Zara, Massimo Dutti, Jigsaw and Whistles for great cuts at more affordable prices.” 

It is possible to dress for a corporate environment without looking stuffy?

“Incorporating elements of your own style into a formal dress code is a great way to stop your outfits looking dull,” advises Anna. “Whether that’s with a statement lip, some jewellery or a quirky shoe, just because there’s an expectation, don’t be afraid give it a personal twist,” she adds. 

Adding additional layers and playing with proportions is something both women recommend for a more elevated look. “An oversized blazer with turned up cuffs will add some edge to a corporate outfit,” adds Victoria. “In fact, sizing up in most pieces will make everything feel a bit cooler.”  When it comes to layering, Anna recommends collars and knitwear. “As the weather gets colder, try a roll neck under a shirt or midi dress – it’ll add some character to a tailored look.”

As far as black trousers go – is there a particular style worth investing in?

“To a degree, the fit and length you choose depends on your height and shape, but in general, a straight, slightly cropped black trouser works on most people,” says Victoria. “Jigsaw’s ‘Paris’ trouser is one I recommend to many of my styling clients.” 

“A high waisted trouser, preferably with darts, is my office go-to,” adds Anna. “Whether they’re cropped or full length, I usually gravitate towards a slightly balloon-shaped leg, as they look more contemporary and are more forgiving when you’re sitting down for long periods of time. If you’re looking for something bespoke in London, try The Deck. Giuliva Heritage is pretty luxe, but their fabrics are such quality and Tibi does the Scandi look so well. On the high street, try Massimo Dutti.” 

What capsule pieces should every woman have in her office wardrobe?

When it comes to autumn/winter workwear, Victoria suggests the following: “A classic pair of trousers, which can be worn with ankle boots, ballet flats or loafers; an oversized blazer, some smart white trainers that can be worn with tailoring when the dress code is a little more relaxed; a good white shirt; a selection of cashmere jumpers (good quality knitwear will make you look and feel on top of your game); smart midi dresses that you can wear with long boots, plus a smart long coat.” 

Don’t neglect the finer details though, as they can make all the difference. “Invest in some chunky jewellery, too,” adds Anna. “Rings are particularly important, as is a good manicure – your hands are often what people notice at work, so neat nails and a bit of gold will prove you mean business.”

Which brands make a great white shirt?

While there’s no harm in investing a little more money, both Anna and Victoria say the high street is full of plenty of stylish and affordable oxford shirts. “I really love the quality of With Nothing Underneath, but my favourite shirt of all time is from Arket – I’ve worn it so much, it’s practically threadbare!” says Anna. 

Victoria agrees: “Arket, & Other Stories, COS and Zara also have great classic and more directional styles. The beauty of a shirt is it’s such a classic, so you can afford to experiment with interesting details, like an oversized cuff, and still stick to a dress code.”

What can I wear that’s smart yet comfortable enough for a video call? 

According to Anna, a more relaxed approach while working from home still allows opportunity for injecting some playful elements into your look – even if it is just from the waist up. “I’m still a big fan of an oversized collars and a bit of statement jewellery – my Timeless Pearly earrings and Brinker & Eliza necklace have enjoyed a lot of air time this year, and always brighten up an otherwise simple blouse.”

What does ‘smart casual’ really mean?

“There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to nailing ‘smart casual’, which is why it’s (frustratingly) open to interpretation,” laments Anna. “My advice is to lean towards the smarter end of the spectrum, as you’re much less likely to regret making too much of an effort, rather than the other way round. For me, shoes are the main signifier in any look, so work from the bottom up – trainers are a no-no, but towering stilettos aren’t quite right either. Something in between, like a loafer or mid heel with jeans and a blazer will work nicely.”

Is there such a thing as a chic, smart and comfortable alternative to heels?

“Loafers are a particularly relevant choice right now,” suggests Anna. “Prada or Gucci would be my go-tos, but If they’re a little too masculine for you, a classic Chanel ballet pump is hard to beat.” 

Victoria also extols the benefits of loafers and ballet flats. “They’ve long been a staple in any woman’s working wardrobe, but a slightly chunkier loafer and a high vamp when it comes to a ballet flat are two on-trend details to look for right now.” Later in the season, long boots will come in handy, too. “A knee-high boot with a block heel will allow you to get maximum wear out of your midi dresses – plus, they’re easier to walk in than you might think,” adds Anna. 

How does one work brighter colours into a professional wardrobe?

 “Brighter colours are often avoided in the workplace, but they’re very doable with some careful consideration,” says Victoria. “Black can sometimes look too harsh against bright colours, so try to pair them with softer tones, like brown, burgundy, grey and navy.” 

Anna agrees: “Camel is one of the smartest neutral shades out there, and it really comes to life when worn with blue, red and pink.” She also recommends colour blocking when it comes to styling brighter shades. “Try wearing the same colour in two places, like a blouse and shoes to bring your look together. Just don’t go too bright and always think about what suits you best.”

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