Comments 6

Capsule Wardrobe: Conservative Corporate, Part 2

Having outlined in my previous post my guidelines for a professional wardrobe, I dove into my wardrobe and pulled out… not very many clothes. Oh, woe! But this, at least, culls those items that I have tried waaay too hard to make work-appropriate over the last five years. I have tried to make the items in my capsule wardrobe as interchangeable as possible. Most tops go with most bottoms, and I can put any cardigan over any outfit in case of arctic air conditioning. Most of the items below are so old that they are no longer available online, but as much as possible, I have linked similar items to the ones featured.
L – R:  1. Cue skirt suit (similar) with Cue white shirt (similar);  2. Portmans square neck pencil dress (similar), Cue suit jacket;  3. Cue dress, Portmans shrug (similar);  4. G2000 dress (similar).
1.  This is, by far, my most conservative outfit. I wear this when what I wear must be completely inoffensive, i.e. to interviews and to court. I strongly recommend getting the absolute most classic, well-fitted and expensive suit you can afford when you’re just starting out, and getting as many components as you can (skirt, trousers, jacket, dress – if available). Yes, it is a big initial expenditure, but the cost-per-wear ratio of a classic suit makes it good value in the end. I would avoid pinstripes, though. They tend to be tricky to match. I got this suit four years ago and have worn it than any other item in this write up, and it still looks brand new. As for this shirt, it fits me better than any other shirt I own. Even more so than any other item of clothing for work, a fitted shirt should not be tight, and the fabric should not pull anywhere.

2, 3.   The real star of the next two outfits is the Portmans shrug. I bought this Portmans dress because the square neckline and flattering fit made me feel like Mad Men’s Joan Holloway. I foresee wearing this to networking events or to presentations, where every bit of Joan-esque confidence would help. Ok, I admit, it fails the ‘eating test’, and the square neckline exposes a tad more of the décolleté area than is desirable. Similarly, the Cue dress I am wearing in Outfit 3 is sleeveless and has a low-ish back (why, Cue, why?) and, to me, goes right up to the line of being office-inappropriate. But for both outfits, the shrug pulls these dresses way back into the realm of professionalism without adding too much warmth or bulk. Win.

4.  This G2000 dress meets all my criteria for office dressing, but is probably as short as I would go for an office dress.


L – R:  5. Top from Far East Plaza, Promod trousers;  6. Zara angel sleeve top (similar), Tokito trousers;  7. Tokito top (similar), Tokito skirt (similar);  8. Country Road cardigan (similar), Everlane shirt, Cue skirt

5.  This top meets all my criteria for tops, and has the added advantage of not needing to be tucked in. No more crumpled bottoms on shirts or sneaky trips to the bathroom to tuck in a renegade shirt! A well-fitted pair of black trousers is an absolute wardrobe staple. I like the straight-leg cut of this pair, and the fact that it goes with every top in my wardrobe.

6.  This top similarly does not need to be tucked in. These charcoal-coloured Tokito trousers differ slightly from the Promod ones in that they have a softer material and more relaxed fit. This is probably the most relaxed outfit of the bunch, which I think is essential for those big-lunch or bloated days. You know what I mean, ladies.

7.  I particularly like the neckline of this top, which provides a little visual interest while still being modest. This is what I would call a workwear basic. It can be worn tucked, untucked, with a suit, etc. I need to get more of this. This skirt is probably as short as I would go for the office.

8.  This cardigan was actually a hand-me-down from Linette. Thanks, Linette! I plan to keep this cardigan around the office and throw it over any outfit when it gets chilly. It is definitely worth investing in quality – this one is made of fine gauge 100% merino wool, is slim-fitting without being clingy, and has subtly tailored shoulders. Fine details like that do actually make all the difference. This Everlane silk shirt is also my personal favourite. It is the Goldilocks of silk shirts: not so loose that it’s slouchy, not so tight that it’s tacky, not shiny, but with enough of a sheen that you know it’s silk. And whaddya know, the Cue skirt from the skirt suit makes another appearance, getting its cost-per-wear ratio down!

There is still much room for improvement. As you may have noticed, there is a very conspicuous lack of colour here – I could well be attending a funeral every day of the week. Unfortunately, most of my colourful things tend to look a little garish. I’m also largely clueless about accessories. While a string of pearls may be classic, I have never actually seen anyone wear them at work. They seem a little too formal and stodgy for everyday wear, especially for someone in her early 20s.

Do you have any ideas on how to incorporate a little more pizzazz into a working wardrobe? I would love to know!



    • Megan says

      Yes, I’ve spent too long thinking, ‘I guess this could be professional if I pull the neckline waaay up every five seconds and never take this cardigan off, even if it’s boiling.’ Thanks for stopping by!

    • Megan says

      Haha thank you. They are my ‘sexy’ outfits, for when I want to feel extra confident.

  1. Pingback: One skirt, four ways |

  2. Allison says

    when searching something for formal dress code I came across this page. really love your choice of mix&match, so good for asians. thanks for the inspiration!

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