We spoke to Nicola Lynch, creative director at Style Elements Consulting, who gave us five tips on getting a work-ready (and stress-free) wardrobe together.
Research your office dress code
If it’s your first time back into the workplace, do your research and find out what the dress code in your office environment will be. Corporate style has eased off in formality unless you’re in a particular industry like law or medicine – and that in itself can present problems.
How casual is too casual? Will I be overdressed? Don’t be afraid to email your new manager and ask what the office dress code is so you can prepare your workwear wardrobe accordingly. Alternatively, make sure you look smart and relatively formal on your first day and then work it out from there.
Having an organised set of work outfits means you will look and feel on top of your game every day and it will save you time in the mornings. Once you’ve established the dress code, it’s time to open the closet for a wardrobe edit. You can hire a personal stylist for this or you can simply do it yourself.
First, make a space for your work pieces. This means it will be organised but it will also be easy for you to see what you’re missing and need to add to the basics you already have.
Identify which tops, skirts, pants, jackets and dresses fit the criteria and hang them together in each category. If you want to go one step further, Nicola recommends you group them into colours too.
Next is the fun part. Try all of your outfits on in different combinations and photograph them on your phone or with a polaroid camera. Is this kind of an excuse to purchase a polaroid camera? Absolutely! You now have an easy reference look book and you can also organise these in apps like Stylebook.
Once your wardrobe is organised and beautiful, grab some paper and a pen and write down any gaps you can see.
When looking for your key investment pieces, get online to research what you need and do some price comparisons. To save on time and potentially money, try to shop in-store but have your ‘wish list’ done from your online research.
Once you’ve got your list, identify your budget, what you can afford AND what you want to spend.
If you’re on a strict budget, Nicola says take a look at low-cost stores that are fashion-forward and offer classic and basic work wear essentials. You can also check out online fashion outlets which often have sales – you might be able to get some more expensive pieces but at a bargain price.
Building your work ‘capsule’
Don’t worry – if you’ve read the above, you might be a bit overwhelmed but you definitely don’t need to buy an entire work wardrobe all at once. When you’ve established your dress code and researched your investment pieces, create a list of basics or essentials you need as your foundation pieces.
If you splash out on an investment piece then save money by buying less expensive basics and essentials. This is the splurge and save method. Nicola recommends doing this once a season.
Splurge pieces include pieces like a great blazer or jacket. You can then add ‘flow’ to it by softening the structure with a printed shirt, a scarf or flowing top. And don’t forget about accessories. Accessories like a statement shoe or bright ‘costume’ jewellery can define an outfit – especially if you have to stick to block colours like black or grey.
When you shop for shoes, consider your work environment, your daily tasks like your commute and purchase shoes that will last the distance. A good stacked heel or a low-heeled pump will do well in a more corporate environment or if you have a ‘dress for your day’ dress code, look for a stylish sneaker.
To finish off your work wardrobe, find a structured bag (or two). You know what you’ll need to carry every day (lunch, gym stuff, documents, laptop?) so purchase a bag that will fit it all in and be comfortable to carry each day.
Dry cleaning is best saved for your investment pieces but Nicola recommends not doing it too often. Dry cleaning is harsh on your clothing. Remember to read your care labels and follow the instructions.
If you need to return a garment because it was destroyed in the wash process, the retailer may ask how you washed it and if you followed the instructions so make sure you know what they are.
If you look after your clothing during the wash process, you’ll increase the life of your workwear and your initial investment won’t need to be replicated each year.
For more tips and tricks, find Nicola here.
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GENERAL ADVICE ONLY. READERS SHOULD SEEK A TRUSTED PROFESSIONAL’S ADVICE ON FINANCIAL MATTERS.