Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adding Pizazz to Corporate Wear

When I wore this outfit, the thought occurred to me that this would be a perfectly reasonable ensemble to wear in a more corporate-type environment for a look that's professional yet still unique. Since I've also gotten more than one request for ideas on how to jazz up a typical corporate wardrobe, I figured I'd use this outfit and a few past ones as the basis for this discussion.

With this outfit, I started with the typical dress pant/blazer combo that is pretty much standard corporate gear. However, I chose wide-leg gray pants instead of black, and paired them with the somewhat unexpected choice of a brown herringbone jacket. Both pieces are fairly conservative on their own, but the combination has more depth and texture than a suit would. Rather than wearing a button-down shirt, I instead chose a batik-dyed argyle sweater and fitted denim waistcoat. The waistcoat gives the outfit a tailored appearance while the denim keeps it relaxed and funky. Finally, I added the rich purple cowl and angora knit hat to mix some color and texture to the muted neutral tones and flat fabrics.

This cowl, by the way, came with the shirt I wore in my 'Thank You -- and a contest!' post; it has leather straps that allow it to be buttoned to the shirt. But I prefer it worn separately, so I just tucked the straps underneath the cowl to hide them for this outfit. Something like this would be an incredibly easy DIY project because as you can see, the cowl is just a tube of jersey fabric with raw edges. All you'd have to do is get a t-shirt, cut a 6 to 8-inch section off the bottom, and voila! Instant cowl. You could even start with a plain white t-shirt and dye it whatever color you wanted. A cowl has a bit more modern an appearance than a scarf, so it's a great way to update a conservative look.

Here are some other tricks I've used to funkify corporate wear, with examples immediately following:

  • Put a sheer top over a classic button-down and belt over the top. The sheer fabric softens and feminizes the button-down but still allows it to show.

  • Add some shine, either with sequins, shimmery fabric, or metal. One of the big things lacking in a lot of suited garments is any sort of sparkle, so a sequined top peeking out from underneath a blazer, a pile of long, bright silver necklaces, or a metallic scarf really adds some pizazz.

  • Wear interesting shoes. Even the most straightforward pencil shirt and blouse combo looks instantly more interesting with a cool pair of shoes. Pair brightly-colored shoes with a neutral outfit, or replace a basic black pair with one that has studs, buttons, or some other interesting detail.

  • Go vintage. Even a conservative suit looks amazing and unique if it's from a different era. What was once staid and sensible becomes fresh and exciting when viewed through modern eyes.

  • Add an unexpected accessory. I've been getting quite a lot of mileage out of my thrifted men's tie lately, and it's an unexpected twist on even a classic corporate look. Likewise I've worn some pretty eye-catching hats with otherwise 'normal' outfits. As long as you keep the rest of the outfit simple, you can get away with at least one fairly radical accessory.

  • Mix up the patterns. I've mixed florals with plaid, plaid with a geometric print, argyle with leopard, and countless other combos. An unexpected mix of patterns, even if the whole outfit is very subdued color-wise, adds an interesting twist.



  • A sheer layer adds softness to stiff button-down shirts.



Sequins and shiny metals add interest to flat fabrics.



Bright or uniquely-detailed shoes are an unexpected twist.



Vintage pieces, such as this wool suit and fur stole, can be more unique than their modern counterparts.



Interesting accessories, such as a tie or a hat, can really make an outfit.



Pattern mixing makes even a monochrome ensemble more fun.


This list is far from comprehensive. For more great ideas on how to personalize your corporate wear, see Angie's fantastic post over at You Look Fab. And as always, you're invited to stop in and share your ideas.

Today's outfit:
Hat: Accessorize (Copenhagen)
Jacket: La Redoute
Cowl: from a Just Angels shirt
Sweater: All Saints
Waistcoat: Promod
Pants: Anthropologie
Shoes: Tsubo

37 comments:

Michelle said...

Hi Audi,

I've been reading your blog for a while and although your style is (WAY!) edgier than mine it is SO inspiring!

I find fresh ideas all the time, which are totally adaptable to anyone's style - especially when you guide us through it!

I just love looking at your outfits.

Thank you!

Sheila said...

Amazing! I love seeing all these outfits together.

I have a question about your hats in your outfits: do you wear them during the workday? Or do you take them off? If so, what do you do about "hat head"?

I love to wear hats, but it's usually a case of "once it's on, it's staying on" due to hair issues.

Emily Kennedy said...

Man Audi, you get that hat question ALOT! Maybe you should put a statement of hat purpose near your Etsy shop link. The answer: she leaves them on. Used to be only women could leave them on indoors (and remain socially acceptable), but nowadays anything goes! Woot!

Also, I spent practically the entire weekend reading your archive of posts. What can I say, you're a great writer, with intelligent stuff to say, and cool outfits! But I wanted to give you a heads up: some crazy person has been leaving spam comments on your old posts. You can tell they are spam because they are a huge link of Japanese or Chinese characters: super spam. Um. So. Some folks prevent that by moderating the comments as they come in, through a Blogger setting. Just a thought, but maybe it's not a concern of yours.

Also, disclaimer: I too was leaving comments on old posts, but I'm neither crazy, nor madam-spam-a-lot.

Healthy and Homemade said...

You look ridiculously awesome in pants!! ^_^

WendyB said...

My corporate outfits never came close to having that much pizzazz!

Audi said...

Emily Kennedy: Thanks for answering Sheila's question for me! Yep, I leave 'em on all day, so no hat head issues. As for the spam, yeah I know it's cropping up now and then, but I figure I'll just go through and delete the individual comments if need be. Anyway, nobody goes back and reads all those old posts except for crazy people. ;-)

Luinae said...

I agree with Michelle, your style is so edgy, which makes it even more inspiring! I love how you rock the hat. I would like to start wearing more of my hats, and seeing inspiration likes this makes me want to just do it!

Mikaela said...

I love the tie look!! I think I'll try that for work!!

Anonymous said...

Audi, I am obsessed with your blog and your look! I am stepping out of the mom cocoon (now that my kids are in college-shhhh), and finally letting my arty alternative self out. Altho I am not your age, nor your cute figure, I admire your artistic feminine edgy look. Thanks for the inspiration!
~Madeline

Terri said...

I love your quirky style. Your use of colours and patterns is really inspiring.

I have a question about makeup. You always have great lipstick. Could you share some tips?

Esz said...

Fabulous ideas! I just bought my first suit and these are some great tips on how to make it a bit more casual for work. Even though I'm usually the most overdressed one anyway in an office full of men! Hehe

Sal said...

Such great suggestions for breaking out of a work-style rut!

Brianna said...

Audi, thank you SO much! I have already started to try to apply some of your previous suggestions (I even broke out of my mould and tried on some skinny cords and rocked a modern 80's look today - a grey wide-sleeved sweater (vertical knit stripes, of course) and purple skinny cords with grey ankle boots!). I've been trying to branch out into vintage (tough for someone in a size 14, let me tell you), and I love some of the pattern combos you've done above.

I might try to duplicate some of the style choices above over the next few months - gotta go shopping, though!

I have to say, those red and black boots are AMAZING. Who are they?

Lorena said...

This has got to be my favorite post from your blog !
I LOVE
LOVEEEEEE
all the looks in it .. and thank you for sharing those great tips - !

Em said...

I love-love-love!!!!

Tara said...

Love this post! And now I really need that sheer vest!

Alli said...

Ooh, so fun to look back at some older outfits and get to see them all at once! Love love love today's outfit, but I'm also re-admiring that grey (or brown?) pencil skirt with the fun pleats and the outfit with the yellow shoes.

Miss Noelle said...

Thanks for doing this post! I've been in a professional work environment for about 4 years, and need a fashion re-make. OUT WITH THE BLACK PANTS!!! :)

Thanks for the inspiration!

Audi said...

Madeline: How great that you're dressing for yourself and finding some inspiration here. One of my goals this year is to do more posts about dressing different figures, so stay tuned!

Terri: I tend to fuss with lipstick quite a lot, so I don't wear proper lipstick very often. Instead, I usually use Benetint as a lip stain, and then follow with a coat of sheer tinted lip gloss. I like the plumping lip glaze by E.L.F., which happens to be only a dollar! I initially tried it simply because it was so darn cheap, but I really like the way it actually plumps up my lips and stays on quite a long time. http://www.eyeslipsface.com/lips/gloss/plumping_lip_glaze

Brianna: The boots are Fluevogs, of course! That's a slit up the side that reveals my red socks underneath.

Kasmira said...

I really enjoyed this. As I was reading your tips for personalization, I thought, "Gee, I wish there were pictures." And, then, BAM, pictures. Thanks!

Brianna said...

Audi: Oh, my, I can't believe I didn't catch that. My goal is to own one pair of Fluevogs before I turn 25. I can bet that won't happen, for sure, because of the cost (and no local stores so I can't confirm my size at all), but gosh, would i love to.

Eyeliah said...

Great tips, though I still am unsure when I wear a hat to the office if it's inappropriate.

LPC said...

Audi - As always, I admire your brio.

A-C said...

I love that you've written this post. Even though a lot of these wouldn't work in a law office, I think the spirit behind them, feeling free-er and more creative definitely works. Definitely going to link this in my blog, thanks!

spottedroo said...

I love this look. Love mixing warm and cool neutrals. Love the wide-leg trousers. Love the purple cowl. And the hat. I never thought I could pull off a blazer but this makes it looks possible.

Jamie Michelle said...

Audi, can you give us some places for good pants shopping? Especially those gorgeous gray pants from the first photo? Thanks!

La Historiadora de Moda said...

Audi, your blog makes me so happy! I can't even tell you how much I love to look a the looks you create!

H to the izzo said...

Found your blog from Academichic and love it! I especially enjoy this post. I work in a business casual environment in academia, and love the classic business look+some flair. You clearly have your own sense of style and I've gotten some great new ideas here. Added you to my rss reader!

angie said...

Thank you for the shout out, Audi! Your outfits are so nice to look at and you pose beautifully. You are awfully creative and I love how you treat each day as an outfit adventure. You remind me of the uber funky theatrical Japanese lasses who glide along the streets of Tokyo. Never a dull day in your style life. You’re like a walking work of art. And don’t get me started on how impressed I am with your hat creations. You are brilliant.

Chelsea said...

what a great post!

gina said...

Great post! Thank you for all the suggestions and the inspirational photos!

Lynette said...

Audi,

I love your blog-found it through a suggestion on Corporette. I work in an industry where I can dress much like you do. It's a breath of fresh air to find a blog written by someone who features outfits that aren't met with a chorus of "how unprofessional".

Love the hats too. In my previous career, I once wore a hat to the office and management promptly issued a "no hats allowed" memo to the staff. Naturally, I'm still a little gun shy about trying that again, but we'll see....

You have found another fan.

eliza said...

Audi, I love your hair in the third picture down on the right - all springy and happy!

a_biologist said...

Great post! I can definitely see how these ideas could be worn in my workplace. I really like how you showed several outfits with the same theme--that's very helpful.

Terri said...

Thanks!

enterrement vie de célibataire Paris said...

Merci, mention spéciale pour les chapeaux et le pantalon large.
Lilou

bmore hon said...

I LOVE your style. I've been looking at fashion blogs for years, and have yet to find one whose style I can whole-heartedly relate to... until now! Thank you for the creativity and the endless imagination.