October 16, 2017
I’ve received some requests for wardrobes that address the desire to return to the workforce without completely sacrificing personal expression. Of course, this is going to depend entirely on the nature of the office in which you find yourself – some are still pretty strict, while other will let you wear pretty much anything that gets you into the office without getting arrested!
But let’s assume that you need to start out pretty cautiously; all of the internet “chat” about the office talks about their very old-school image, in the eyes of the public. Once you’re in, and find your niche, you can branch out a bit.
This photograph was on that amazingly fun site Design Seeds – I thought that these colors would be a good starting point, since it includes good old corporate navy and grey, while introducing some really lovely accent colors…
For the first 2 interviews, I’ve kept things pretty conservative, without being absolutely “cookie-cutter” bland… And I made a point of finding a navy suit that also has pants available – having all three pieces in the same fabric opens up all kinds of options…
(I’m putting general guidelines onto these images, thinking that I’m going to replicate this general idea tomorrow in a completely different palette, with a less dressy feeling…)
For her first wave of wardrobe additions, the clothes are all going to stick to really basic pieces, in the 2 neutrals. Hallelujah for tweed, which gives you at least a little bit of interest! (Ideally, there would be a skirt that matched the jacket shown above – THAT would be helpful…)
I’m sticking with black leather goods for now; men wear black leather with both navy and grey, so it’s not something that can offend someone. Navy might be more fun, if you can find things that delight you.
And the first glimpses of accent colors are making an appearance…
This isn’t abundant, but it would make an absolutely foolproof travel wardrobe for work, and it’s completely inoffensive and classic…
Not a million options, but at least you can get dressed for the first weeks of work! Wait for that first paycheck…
I’ve been just dying to get this cardigan in here! I love the audacity of the stripes, and the colors… sigh…
If you’re truly in a strict environment, you might need to buy a grey suit instead of a cardigan and pants, and your cardigan might be a subtle nubbly tweed rather than these exuberant stripes; it’s important to actually get on the ground in an office and see what’s being worn by the “powers that be.”
(I’m not telling you that this amazing scarf costs a FRACTION of the price of an Hermes…) And yes, those loafers aren’t quite navy… The nerve!
This is starting to look a little bit more generous, and slightly more varied. If you had a LONG business trip in front of you, this wouldn’t be the worst way to go…
Each new piece now fits into your existing wardrobe in a variety of ways, which keeps you from getting bored with a limited wardrobe. It also offers you all sorts of possibilities from very formal to much more relaxed…
Okay, let’s hypothesize that our heroine’s office turns out to be… moderately conservative, but not fanatic. No bare legs, no exposed knees nor armpits, but a bit of color and pattern is okay. So she/I start shopping around…
THEN… I saw these teal pieces at Harvey Nichols. I think our heroine would throw all caution to the wind and stock up! (there’s even a trench coat…)
Now the completely wardrobe has a decided point of view! She still has plenty of options for events and occasions that require a quite strict appearance, but on days when she’s her own mistress, she can live it up in her favorite colors!
And as before, the new pieces give her lots of additional outfit options:
I think I’m going to try this tomorrow with autumn and earth colors, and a rather less conservative work environment…
Janice, you have made my day! The colours and style of this wardrobe are everything I have been trying to achieve but I have been missing the mark slightly. You have managed to visualise it here so clearly and I am going to print this out for reference to get me back on track. And thank you for your thoughts on choosing black leather goods. I am always stumped here mainly because I don't/wont wear anything black in clothing. In particular, footwear is a special problem for me as I have a very wide foot and finding anything that fits is often difficult let alone trying to find that perfect navy! I would love it if you could revisit this and extend it into some more casual wear for non-work days as well.
I am absolutely thrilled to have found The Vivienne Files and am convinced that you are a genius, Janice! Thank you for what you do. I have a question about adapting this wardrobe to my own circumstances — something that might affect others as well. After being rear-ended in a bad auto accident, my ankles started swelling and there appears to be no cure. People stare and ask what's wrong, so I started wearing compression stockings and now wear only pants so my ankles won't distract. So . . . Where you include skirts or dresses in the wardrobe, should those of us who cannot wear skirts simply omit them and work with more limited choices? Should we add more pants (different styles?) and tops in the core colors of navy and grey? Should we make teal a third core color and use the sea foam green more liberally as an accent color for tops? Maybe there is another way to tackle this "no skirts" situation? Could you possibly re-do this wardrobe for women who do not wear skirts to see how it might be adapted? I could just wear midi skirts and boots, but that doesn't seem very corporate or executive . . . or is it? Thank you so much.
Janice is a genius and the colors on this wardrobe are lovely (even if I don't work in an office). I'm interested to hear Janice's advice on this as well since I have the opposite problem. I only wear skirts (for religious reasons) and all of them noticeably below the knee. What I've always done is substitute in more skirts for the rest of the bottoms, usually putting in dressy skirts for all the skirts, everyday skirts in place of the pants, and casual skirts for the shorts and capris. My typical week currently requires a couple days of each. I've wondered how you would handle it for a wardrobe that needed to stay closer to one end of the dressiness spectrum.
7 of 9 says
I guess janice will answer to simply substitute skirts and dresses with nice good quality dress pants? Think Angela Merkel
Janice Riggs says
Exactly – think Angela, Hillary, Elizabeth Warren – many women who are often in the public eye have got this one figured out. Yes, they have some expert help, but we can certainly copy what they're doing!
Thank you again! I Googled "Angela Merkel clothing" and found her currently pictured wearing usually black pants and shoes, and beautifully colored jackets. Sometimes they are open and have a crew neck tee/shell peeking out from under the jacket and usually she wears a necklace or choker. So . . . I could easily substitute for the skirts and dresses a pair of black trousers, a black silky fabric shell (for our mild SoCal winters here), and a lighter color of teal or turquoise jacket or blazer. I should keep a skirt and a dress for this wardrobe for those occasions where I might truly need them. Janice, you are the best! You have saved me from wardrobe mayhem, stress, and whatever else! I have read countless fashion books and magazines over the years, but nothing comes close to being so fun, helpful, and absolutely beautiful as your work.
So sorry for duplicate comments. I thought my first post never went through and tried a second time, and, as of writing this, I could not delete one of the duplicates.
This is beautiful! I love the scarf with thetrees and animals.
Thank you, Janice, for this great wardrobe. These are the exact colors I'm working on achieving,except for a lighter grey. And teal is my absolute favorite fall/winter accent and I really don't Need another teal top.. you tempt so :) I love the scarves here! And another response to Helen above: I also wear pants almost exclusively due to thick short legs. For dressy occasions I wear pants and a dressy top with pumps and nice accessories. Instead of the dresses in The wardrobes Janice designs, I often wear matching pants and top with a scarf or necklace. I've found that even the strictest office these days allow dress pants for women. My husband and I give presentations at professional conventions and many other women presenters wear pants and a jacket and look elegant. And for formal dinners I see bolero pants and beautiful tops and other pant/top styles and of course, long dresses. Janice Collins, Washington DC
Lara the Librarian says
When I first saw that stripy jersey, I wondered what on earth Janice was thinking? Then I saw the outfits and realized her genius is still there!
Oh, that Aspinal scarf. It's gorgeous! I love this wardrobe – these are wonderful colours, and such a practical way to look polished and ready for any office (or out of office) eventuality. I'm a teacher, and as such, can dress very casually, but I like to look polished and do wear dresses and skirts. Thank you, Janice!
cheryl :) says
This color scheme is simply stunning. The wardrobe is much too dressy for me but substitute some jeans and more casual items and i would be ecstatic with these colors. Feels relaxing and beachy to me. :)
I love the combinations in this post. They give me lots of ideas for wearing my navy and gray with turquoise and burgundy winter wardrobe. I drooled over the bird scarf last year, and am almost relieved that the site lists SOLD OUT, although the blue version is also very appealing!
I do wonder what color the WTR items really are. The pictures on the site certainly appear teal on my screen, but the color is listed as imperial green over a very green square.
Janice Riggs says
I noticed that too – I think that the bright green is just to indicate when you're searching for something, that this is indeed in the green family. I can't imagine that these clothes would ALL photograph so truly teal, but really be an entirely different color. But it could happen – photographing clothes is not an exactly science!
Great post as always! But I have to admit that my first thought was OMG, these are the same clothes women wore to work in the 70s–the office must be very conservative ;). I'm sure the silhouettes are a bit different, but I'm disappointed. I hoped
that all work places had lightened/loosened up by now.
Janice Riggs says
Many have, but this still exists in a lot of places, and one of the big mistakes that very young women make it disregarding these guidelines in favor of wearing whatever they want. I hear it often – she would be so easy to promote, but we can't put her in front of clients. Better too conservative than too trendy, in some environments!
A friend's sister works back East in the corporate world. The first several times I saw her she was traveling for her company and she was wearing black, ivory, and heels. Recently I visited her home and for the home office she was wearing some colored blouses with her black and heels. She has commented in the past that she can now branch out some in her colors, but young ladies coming into the business need to wear the most conservative clothing if they want to stay in the business, much less advance.
This is one of the best capsules you have designed. It is perfection. Thank you.
What a relief! After reading all the archives and painstakingly applying the lessons learned over the last couple of years, Janice has posted a corporate version of my summer wardrobe! It is more casual (less pencil skirts, more capri pants) and the accent is white but it's there. I never would have got to this point without your guidance though. I will look cool and comfortable while everyone else in my area of Australia is drowning in a sea of waterfall cardigans, cold shoulder tops and brights.
You are a devil though for tempting me with the cardigan. I adore stripes and something would have to not perform in the coming months for me to justify the purchase. This curated wardrobe business is hard in the face of a joyful piece like that. Sigh.
Anne Robinson says
A wonderful wardrobe with gorgeous colours. I always used to advise new entrants into my profession that they should observe the style of those people in the positions above them (the positions that they would aspire to be in) and that they should subtly mirror these styles. It certainly worked for me. When I returned to work after having my boys it took me ages to realise that my scruffy clothes were not doing me any favours. So I invested in a smarter wardrobe and this helped to lift my image in the eyes of my superiors. As well as doing a very good job for them of course!
Lisa Burns says
I am ecstatic about these colors! I would love to see them in a casual wardrobe. My job environment is very casual so I pretty much wear the same clothes on the weekends as I do at work. I don't think I'd tire of my wardrobe if I had this color combination. I really enjoy your website!
Eileen Dean says
I really love how you put this wardrobe together. Of course I adore the colors, and it is so classy.
so very nicely done. I wish I was the woman with this wardrobe and the job.