What to wear to work, wherever your office

 Return to work
Karen Dacre

Whether you’re returning to the office, working from home or combining the best of them both, the 9-5 wardrobe has a new look

Remember when workwear just meant blazers and pencil skirts? Those days are long gone. The world has evolved. The expectation that women have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously at work is as outmoded as inflexible working. And the pandemic has only accelerated matters, with trainers and tracksuits now up there alongside sharp-shouldered jackets and stilettos in the league of power-dressing attire.

Now, with the working day taking place at home, in the office, in a local café and everywhere in between, our workwear wardrobes need to be versatile and comfortable. We should also feature clothes that make us feel like the best versions of ourselves. So, whether you’re going back to the boardroom or continuing at the kitchen table, here's a guide to the way we’re dressing for work now.

 Workwear, now

What to wear to go back to the office

The prospect of getting back to the office, with its perfectly tempered air-con and absence of household chores, is a thrill for some. But have we forgotten how to dress for the occasion? Undoubtedly, the world has transformed over the last two years, so picking up where you left off isn't  necessarily the only way to go. Use this opportunity to carve out a new smart-casual category for your wardrobe.

Clothes that combine style with practicality and, crucially, comfort should be top of your list. Side-skimming shift dresses give way to well-cut slacks, while heels can stay off the agenda for as long as you want them to. Capsule buys, such as a well-made white T-shirt and a blazer, to suit all occasions are also savvy investments.

What to wear if you’re still WFH (or your local café)

As flexible working patterns continue and more of us adapt to a work life that revolves around our kitchen table, the WFH wardrobe is going nowhere. But there’s more to it than tracksuits. In this brave new world, a working day could take you anywhere from meeting to school run to  midday yoga class, so easy-to-wear outfits remain essential – but many of us still want to feel polished and ‘put together’, too.

A loose and easy dress or a jumpsuit is an excellent WFH fix, particularly as spring is just around the corner. And a slip-on shoe, such as a dainty ballet pump, is perfect if you spend your days popping in and out to run errands. A video call-friendly piece of jewellery – try a statement gold necklace – is also a great idea: love it or loathe it, Zoom is here to stay.

After-work drinks uniform

What to wear from desk to dusk

After-work drinks are back! Cue early finishes, rapidly consumed bottles of Sauvignon and menacing Friday-morning hangovers. They also mean it’s time to reacquaint yourself with the art of dawn-to-dusk dressing. For a day that begins with meetings and ends with dinner out, experiment with skirt and blazer combos. Smart enough for the office and elegant enough to pair with mid-height heels, the skirt is all about versatility. 

What to wear if you can’t part with your track pants

There’s no question that the discovery of the tracksuit as everyday fashion attire (for how many days straight did you wear yours?) was one of the few joys of last year. So it’s little wonder we’re having a hard time saying goodbye to them. The good news is that trousers so easy-to-wear you’ll want to sleep in them are sticking around. For the ultimate in back-to-work comfort, look for drawstring waistbands with plenty of room to manoeuvre. Team with a box-fresh sweatshirt in a bold colour for an everyday look that’s perfect for wherever your work-day takes you.

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