What’s your work uniform?

Over at Women’s Agenda, I recently wrote an article on how to streamline your work wardrobe to make dressing for work a cinch. The piece was inspired by an Entrepreneur article which looked at the 35 habits of productive people and included an infographic and a quote from San Francisco-based, Anna Vital, co-founder of Funders and Founders recommending that productivity-seekers, “define your fashion uniform and wear it daily” plus “eliminate trivial decisions, like what to wear.” Entrepreneur goes onto list successful people who they claim wear the same thing, every day, to save time otherwise spent on trying on different outfits- Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg.

Well, I’ll be. My instant reaction was, “that goes against everything I believe in!” Namely that we should get to express our personalities through what we wear to work. However I agreed that there was some merit in Vital’s argument – dressing for work should be an efficient process that shouldn’t be a distraction to one’s work. What we do at work is far more important than what we’re wearing. So how do we go about creating outfits that are practical, functional and professional enough for the workplace while also showing some personal flair but without taking up too much time and brain power?

It was timely that I came across Hayley when I had to zip back to Bar Nacional at Docklands where I’d left my wallet behind the night before! I was surprised to learn that Hayley’s suit was actually a uniform issued to her by her workplace – I like how she’s been able to personalise it with her top and accessories:

Business Chic Work Uniform Hayley

Office fashion pearl lace top

Business Chic Hello Kitty iPhone cover

Office fashion bag
Business Chic Tattoo

Business Chic Concierge Hayley


Hayley wears: Glasses – Collette Dinnigan for SpecSavers |Top -from boohoo | Jacket and Skirt – NNT Corporate Wear | Ring – Thomas Sabo | Bag – Vera May | Phone Case – from Ebay

While Hayley is wearing a uniform, I appreciate how she has made it BusiChic with a high ponytail, stylish glasses and polished high-heels. Upon closer inspection, her top which is a safe colour for most workplaces, is made of a lace that has been embellished with pearls – a nice touch that further feminises Hayley’s office style as does the kawaii Hello Kitty phone cover!

Hayley reminded me that I actually used to have to wear a uniform to work! While the lack of opportunity to showcase any personality (accessories had to be kept to a minimum) made me feel very sad, I must admit that it did make getting dressed for work a lot faster in the morning. Having been through that experience, here are my tips on creating your own work wear uniform with personality!

1. Know your basics.

Do you know what your basic wardrobe pieces are? Do you have a jacket, pants, skirt and dress that you:

a. fit into?
b. can style for work with other items already in your wardrobe?
c. enjoy wearing?

If the answer to all of the above is “yes”, then make sure that you store them properly in your wardrobe so that you can see them and so  they don’t crease and are ready to be worn whenever you need them. If the answer to any of the above is “no”, then make a list of what foundation pieces you would like to try, say a new style of pants or different fabric to suit the season- I love getting different jackets to match with my existing trusty cropped work pants, skirts and dresses.

Remember, if you have good quality clothes that you are no longer wearing, consider donating to a not-for-profit like Dressed for Success who help long term unemployed or disadvantaged women get the “business” style they need to look the part for job interviews.

2. Dress for your work day.

What “events” do you have in your work day? Have an important meeting? What items in your wardrobe would go into your “important meeting” outfit? Will you be working from home, in the office or out of your client’s premises? How can you tweak your “important meeting” outfit so that it’s comfortable enough to get some work done in – will losing the blazer and rolling up your sleeves be enough?

I recommend using your smart phone to take photos of your favourite outfits – you can even store them in folders so that you have a repository of your favourite work outfit combinations!

 3. Have fun.

While defaulting to black and white is the easiest thing to, working out what colours work best for you will help you personalise your look. In fact if you have already invested in lots of black jackets and pants etc, tops and accessories in complementary colours are a cost-effective way of updating your office style. Do like Hayley’s done above and get a neutral colour top with interesting detail. Similarly I have a pair of classic stud earrings in a seafoam green that I feel add the perfect amount of colour to every office ensemble.

If you want to try work out what your colours are, here’s one colour self-analysis tool I found via the Google.

Btw if you want any help with any of the above – remember that I offer a personal styling service. Just email me cheryl@businesschic.com.au and we can discuss how I can help you streamline your wardrobe to make getting dressed for your work a cinch!

How long does it take for you to get dressed for work? What are your must-have pieces in your line of work? How do you add personality to your outfit?

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