Work clothes are changing – here’s how to dress for the modern office

When Nikki Ogunnike dressed on her first day at the office, she described it as putting on her training wheels. Digital Director Harpers Bazaar spent the pandemic, like many, working from her couch. But once her workspace reopened, she had to dress up again—with many things she hadn’t touched in two years. “Everything from the shoes I wear to work, to the bag I carry my laptop in on the train and back, to the coat I wear…it was all so alien.”

Ogunnaike is not alone. After extended periods of working from home, changes in company structure and larger cultural shifts, the return to the office has caused many women to reevaluate what they want to wear to work and what parts of their old wardrobe they will keep (along with what they are willing to give up). ).

“I really think that in the post-pandemic world there is more emphasis on fun and expressing individuality in your work wardrobe,” said Sali Christeson, founder and CEO Argent, a label focused on modernizing women’s workwear. She explains that the brand has responded to the change by taking classic silhouettes and offering them in hues such as lime green, buttery yellow and purple. While women in formal offices may still feel that expectations of traditional tailored workwear haven’t changed, color is one way to embrace newfound playfulness in clothing.

AT Everlane, global creative director Shu Hung echoes the style change, highlighting the desired hybrid of traditional office wear and sportswear that many have become accustomed to during the pandemic. “Customers still come to us for workwear staples like button-down shirts and trousers, but are excited to see our new takes on classic styles,” she explains. “Our Dream pants has the look of sweatpants with a personalized look that our clients love for long days at the office. The same pants turn into the perfect pair of pants for a day out or dinner in the afternoon. We believe that customers are really looking for a balance between luxury and comfort and do not want to compromise.”

The key to adopting an updated work wardrobe is to pair the formal pieces you already have with pieces that feel more casual. Ogunaikke notes that she is re-experimenting with old pieces from her collection, such as blazers from Chanel, Altuzarra and Ralph Lauren. “Invest in your custom-made pieces, but don’t feel like you have to wear them all together,” explains TheoryChief Sales Officer and Creative Director Jeffrey Kalinske. “You need to have perfectly tailored trousers that you can pair with a T-shirt and a great blazer that you can wear over a dress – don’t be afraid to mix it all up.”

Even as shoppers move closer to weaving everyday pieces into the modern workwear rotation — say, a slouchy T-shirt or casual sneakers — Kalinske and Christeson stress the continued importance of investing in a few basic formal pieces, like a blazer and trousers. “These are fine pieces that can be worn up or down,” Christeson explains. While you might want to experiment with looser silhouettes and softer materials when it comes to these classic pieces, having them on hand can help turn the process of dressing to work into a simpler uniform, taking some of the guess work out of your morning routine. .

Below you’ll find five key categories for putting together your return-to-work wardrobe.

Trousers

When it comes to pants, don’t be afraid to experiment with something a little more flamboyant than what you may have considered in the past. Also, don’t forget about comfort when choosing a new pair. Aim for a loose, comfortable silhouette, or if you’re opting for something more form-fitting, pay close attention to the material. Made with a soft, sweat-like material, the zipless design will look less like work pants and more like what you wear when you’re cozy at home.

Work jeans

As denim trends have changed, over the past few years, many trendsetters have swapped out their skinny jeans for baggier silhouettes. While you may be concerned that relaxed denim looks too casual, landing on a relaxed yet structured silhouette can make denim more work-appropriate.

Isabel Marant Lemony flared jeans

$580, Buy Now

Isabel MarantIsabel Marant

Isabelle Marant via SSENSE

Madewell Baggy Straight Jeans in Westmont Wash

$98, Buy Now

MadewellMadewell

Madwell

New work dress

It’s time to ditch the standard loose dress in favor of something that’s not only more comfortable, but more personal. Opt for playful colors in silk styles that you might wear after work but still work for the office. While different offices will have their own specific dress codes, it never hurts to add a little flair while staying within the appropriate attire.

Rixo Aspen crepe midi dress with floral print

$405, Buy Now

Rixo via Net-a-Porter

Modern blazer

“I am rediscovering my signature outfits, which made me feel put together very quickly,” Ogunnaike explains. Her favorite blazers have become a key part of her outfit. If you’re investing in something new, swap out your ultra-skinny blazer for something looser. Oversized styles in unexpected materials like linen or vegan leather can help make traditional workwear fresh again.

Single-breasted linen blazer Agni Origami

$490, Buy Now

St. AgniSt. Agni

Holy Agni via Browns

Vegan leather blazer with belt Nanushka Mariko

$1,025, Buy Now

NanushkaNanushka

Nanushka via Net-a-Porter

New work shoes

“The hardest thing in terms of style when it comes to going back to the office is the shoe puzzle,” explains Ogunnaike. “This is something that New Yorkers or people who live in cities with public transportation have to deal with.” She adds that with the need to organize her commute, office, and gym shoes, not only was she overwhelmed with planning, but she constantly carried around a heavy bag full of options. “I lean towards comfy loafers that I can wear on my way to the train, sneakers that are polished enough to wear to the office, and sort of resigned myself to the fact that I will never wear high heels. my trip again.”

Adidas Originals Edition Japan Trainers in Beige by Wales Bonner

$230, Buy Now

AdidasAdidas

Adidas via SSENSE

Crochet loafers in leather and cotton, Gabriela Hearst Hays

$990, Buy Now

Gabriela HearstGabriela Hearst

Gabriela Hirst via Net-a-Porter