How to create a stress-free working wardrobe

This is an edited version of my article in March 2015’s Platinum Business Magazine.

All a woman needs to be chic is a raincoat, two suits, a pair of trousers and a cashmere sweater.’ So said the great Hubert de Givenchy, who clearly had his muse Audrey Hepburn in mind. Audrey obviously didn’t face the same daily wardrobe dilemmas we mere mortals do, particularly when it comes to dressing for work.

With more options than ever before, dressing for work can strike panic into the heart of even the most organised woman. We’ve all been there – stressing on a Monday morning, despairing that we ‘have nothing to wear’ while the pile of discarded outfits grows ever larger on the bed….

Building a coherent yet versatile working wardrobe requires taking a ‘strategic’ approach: gathering pieces that suit you and building on them to create a personal ‘uniform’.  Stella Gibson in ‘The Fall’, played by Gillian Anderson, is a great example. She wore silk blouses in pale colours with neutral skirts or trousers, heels and very little jewellery – a look that was instantly recognisable as ‘hers’.

First, understand your existing clothing and identify the items you repeatedly turn to. Are these suits, trousers, skirts or dresses? Do they have a dominant colour and shape? What basics can you add to create outfits? Once you’ve got outfits pulled together, add accessories to inject colour, texture and character.

The following are essential to any stylish woman’s working wardrobe. Embrace (or disregard) them, depending on your circumstances, to create your ‘uniform’:

  • A suit: the definition of a ‘suit’ has changed dramatically. It can be worn classically or as separates to create multiple outfits
  • A white shirt: the quintessential classic. For wearing alone or layering
  • Dresses (shift, sheath or shirt): the ultimate easy and versatile option – one piece and you’re done !
  • A pencil skirt: another classic that emerges each season in different textures. It can be part of a ‘suit’ if worn with a jacket or cardigan, and is best worn with heels
  • Trousers: choose carefully, as trousers date quickly. Stick to slim cuts and neutral tones
  • A good tailored jacket: preferably in navy, black or grey (depending on your palette) that go with the pieces listed above. This can be part of your suit, of course
  • Fine knit / cashmere jumpers or cardigans: in colours that complement your key pieces and shapes that suit you
  • A structured leather bag: for hauling all your essentials while still looking tidy. Do buy the best you can afford.

Wardrobe success means looking smart, feeling confident and being true to your individual style. Know what you like, what to avoid and don’t be distracted by passing trends. Building a polished working wardrobe takes time and investment. Take pleasure in the process and the results will be sensational.

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