Dunhill’s creative director John Ray says that shirts should trace the body, not cling. Though directed at menswear, this is also good advice for womenswear generally. If my clothes are so tight that you can see underwear digging into flesh at all (bra straps digging into back fat, VPL… you get the idea), it’s too tight for work. I like to apply the ‘eating test’: would I feel comfortable in this if I impulse-ate a large plate of pasta for lunch? If the answer is, ‘Ehh… probably not,’ then I know it’s too tight.
Tops: Necklines no more than 7 cm below collarbone level. Shirts must not gape at the chest. (I sympathise, my buxom friends!) Any top should still be appropriate when a cardigan/suit jacket is removed.
Skirts/Dresses: Skirts and dresses no shorter than just above the knee. (The Portmans work dress selection appears to disagree with me though.) Must not flash large expanses of thigh when I sit down. Must not be too tight; the ‘eating test’ is especially pertinent here.
Suits: Shoulder seams should hit exactly where the shoulder meets the arm, but shouldn’t be so snug that I can’t fit a dress shirt under it. I find that the most flattering length for a suit jacket is one that ends at the high hip area. I already have a suit that is classic to the point of being generic, and am looking out for something in a subtle texture and non-black colour.
Shoes: My shoes should be so comfortable that I can walk fast, or even run in them. It is important for me to, quite literally, keep pace with my colleagues. I especially dislike it when people whine about how their feet are killing them, and truly aim never to do that. Comfortable shoes usually mean 1) reasonably wide heels, and 2) reasonably low height. To me, that translates to about a 2 to 3-inch height, max.
Having said all that, will I be able to extract clothing from my cavernous wardrobe to fit all these guidelines, or will I get buried under see-through, flimsy, poor-quality clothes accumulated after years of sentimental hoarding? All this and more in Part 2.