Last week, The Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley wrote a pertinent column about modern power dressing. She made a point about the sheath dress being over and I’m afraid she’s right. Obviously, you can still wear a sheath dress. You are a grown-up woman and can wear anything you like. Personally, I will certainly still be wearing sheath dresses, as they happen to work well on me. But it’s true that wearing one (even one as good as this or this) no longer seems as on point as it used to. The Zeitgeist has moved on.
While Jess (I read her column every week, so I feel like we know each other very well) raises an important question, I’m not convinced the dress she wears for the column is the perfect answer – at least not for me. I do agree that a loosening of the silhouette is in order, but have not found one comprehensive solution to the power dressing conundrum, the way the pant suit (in the nineties) and the abovementioned dress (in the noughties) used offer. Maybe there will not be one, in this age of thousands of trends.
In the absence of a single answer, I decided to post five office looks – people seemed to like them on Instagram, so I’ve gathered them all here. These aren’t really examples of power dressing – the search for the perfect Important Meeting Outfit continues -, but they are all real examples of workwear: all worn to the office in the last two weeks. Pictures have been taken before or after work, without any special make-up or styling, so they lack the polish of the professional shoots. To compensate, I have climbed on our dinner table on one occasion, to mix things up.
1. Yellow sweater, blue skirt. This look is, obviously, all about the colour combination. There is a slightly Gucci vibe going on with the sweater-skirt combo, the pattern and the pleats. It’s also worth noting that nothing is fitted (that used to be a no-no for me). Clothes from Zara, bag by Sensi Studio, shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood for Roksanda Ilincic.
2. Updated sheath. This is my current take on wearing a sheath dress – the shape of the dress is pretty classic, but layering a more voluminous piece underneath makes it feel different and fresher. It doesn’t have to be as Victorian as this, a more traditional turtleneck would also work. Interesting sleeves are a big trend for autumn/winter, though. Dress and blouse by Zara, shoes by Louboutin.
3. All pink. This is the most structured look of them all and in terms of the shape, quite conservative. Putting four pink items together makes it almost provocative, however, and strangely powerful. I’m more and more convinced that wearing pink in a non-romantic way is very empowering. Coat, bag and culottes by Zara, sweater by Alexa for Marks & Spencer, shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood.
4. Office disco. I’m sure many of you would not wear this dress for work – there certainly is an element of Studio 54 about it. But I absolutely love the length and cut of it, so I will continue to wear this to the office. And the midi length and the slightly seventies outline are worth noting even if this particular item is not your jam. The colour is unusual for me, a warm bronzy brown, but pairing it with baby blue makes it work for me. Dress and shoes by Zara, bag by H&M.
5. Casual Friday. Oversize is definitely one of the biggest trends of the moment, but it’s a difficult one for the office, unless you work somewhere hip. I feel that the crispness of the gingham makes it more office-friendly. Flats are not going to go anywhere either, and a good pair of loafers is excellent for relaxed office wear. Everything is from Zara, I’m afraid – a lot of my work wardrobe comes from there, with the exception of my beloved sheath dresses…
Does a post like this make any sense to you? And what would you wear for a really important day in the office?