The Best “Back To Work” -Style Tips
Get back to work in style with these expert tips from your image consultant and personal stylist. Yes, that’s me! Focus on your work, get out of the house faster and stop second-guessing your style choices. Looking put together will help you feel like you’re in charge and on top of your game. Put your best foot forward every day at work!
Whether you are going back to work after the summer, after your parental leave, after your sick leave or after your sabbatical, this workwear style advice will help you put your best foot forward in every situation. Others will certainly notice your amped up professional appearance.
A lot has been changed on the work front since last year and for many it has been a challenge to figure out what to wear to work. With this office style post I want to help you to look great and feel more confident. My aim is to take the guess-work out of the equation and help you appear looking your best at work.
IMPORTANT: These business style tips apply to face-to-face work situations, working from home and meeting people online.
1. Set Your Style Intention
Your image speaks volumes, often before you have even had the chance to say a word. Pay careful attention to what kind of image you want to project before planning your actual outfits. Every aspect of your style sends a message to others.
Make your style choices intentional by asking yourself these questions:
- What are your current values, skills and aspirations?
- Does your style reflect those aspects of you?
- What would you wear if you were not afraid of anyone’s judgement?
- How you can express yourself better through your style?
Note that my focus is on NOW because I want you to realize that life happens right here and right now. Not when it’s your favorite season, not when you get the promotion your want, not when you are at your ideal weight, not when you have more time or money. NOW.
2. Know Which Workwear Looks Works For YOU
Start your back to work style journey by focusing first on JUST YOU. Look yourself in the mirror and make a list of your strong points. Close your eyes from the influence of others, current fashion and style trends.
Discover your body shape, learn what looks great on you and what styles you love to wear. A well fitted outfit will make you feel good on the inside which then reflects to the way people see you. Pulling and tugging nervously will not increase your executive presence so always choose the right fit over anything else.
Define the colors that flatter you the most, but also work in your job description. I like a nice session of color analysis but sadly it’s results are not always practical. A professional woman needs a color palette that reflects her skills, oozes trust and matches the office culture. Your palette might not do that for you so approach with caution, no matter how pretty the colors.
I love to seek style inspiration in magazines and online but the truth to be told: I am not a model, actress or a celebrity. What works on them might not work for me. I don’t want you to fall in this trap of comparing yourself to others and making their choices affect you.
Style is a very personal matter and most stylish people in the world are always individual and deeply authentic. If you want fashion, you can always copy great looks that you see on Instagram. But if you want style, you look at yourself and your desires.
3. Be Practical
When planning your back to work style it pays off to be a little bit practical. Make a list of your daily routines, upcoming events, business trips and holidays. This will help you to map your style needs and to shop intentionally.
Think about the typical weather in your country. In a cold and rainy country, like The Netherlands, you want to pay extra attention to outer wear and shoes. Without these essentials you run a risk of ruining your outfit before you’ve even had coffee!
Also consider your daily commute. Many of my clients are cycling to work and I would hate to make them do that in a pencil skirt and delicate heels. If you need to bring/pick up your children to/from the nursery or school, it’s better not to wear anything too precious. Those bye-bye hugs can be sticky, I know from experience!
Prepare your business wardrobe like you would be building a capsule wardrobe. Think about the compatibility of your clothes: Their materials, colors, purpose and proportions. In an ideal situation the parts would work seamlessly together. That was it’s no drama if one part is in laundry or you change your mind last minute.
Starting small with just a few well planned outfits will help your busy mornings a lot. My advice is to take some time aside on a Sunday to prepare your outfits for the coming week. If you get really inspired nobody will stop you from expanding and creating more looks. That way you’re set for weeks ahead!
Get more workwear inspiration and business fashion advice in my previous blog posts:
- The Best Business Casual Fashion Brands For All Sizes
- Powerful And Personal Job Interview Style Advice For You
- Workwear & Business Style Forecasts
4. Consider Dress Codes
Many offices have given up stuffy dress codes to the relief of many. Employees are now in charge of their own professional style, which is at the same time liberating, but also confusing. Basically you don’t need to wear a pantsuit but you are still expected to show up looking every inch professional. Isn’t it just easier to then continue wearing the pantsuit?
The strict rule book has been replaced by unspoken expectations. Some say that it was easier when everyone was just wearing a grey suit. Then you didn’t have to think… or did you? That grey suit still needed accessories, a shirt underneath it and some maintenance. Your work looks were never really a no-brainer.
Style is a great way to express yourself but at work you are there to represent your employer. So even without a dress code it’s still important to match the expectations and to fit in the corporate culture, whatever it may be. In general, you are now allowed to style your suit with a sneaker and a tee. It’s all now way more relaxed than it used to be.
If you are unsure what kind of business attire is expected at your office, don’t hesitate to ask HR, your manager or your mentor. You could also look at the website or social media pages of your company and see what others are wearing. That way you don’t have to guess and you’ll feel more at ease right away.
Regardless of the dress code, or it’s absence, make sure that your clothes are clean, neat and ironed. Avoid showing too much skin and keep your image professional.
5. Observe Company Culture
The lack of dress codes has put more emphasis on company culture. A suit would look out of place in creative industries and in conservative companies denim will be frowned upon. Instead of conforming it’s now very much about belonging and being part of a community.
As mentioned in the earlier chapter, an easy way to get an idea of the company culture is to browse their website and social media pages. They often display the company values and the company culture in a comprehensive way. You will see real people at work, glimpses of the offices and snapshots from events. You’ll get the feel of every day life at the office and some style tips as a side product.
You can draw clear conclusions from those images and adapt your individual image to your company’s image. This will give a message that you are in the right place and a part of the group. The changes don’t often need to be even that dramatic as you already work there. It’s just shows respect towards others and your ability to stay up to date, even when you are out of office.
6. Get Organized With Your Style
I can’t stress enough the importance of being organized with your style. Not in an obsessive way, but in a way that helps you get ready faster. Searching for missing items of clothing, hasty ironing and changing outfit several times all eat from your time that you can spend doing more meaningful things.
Appearing effortlessly put together also gives a professional impression and helps people trust your abilities to handle challenges. Being on time respects other people’s time and shows that you are on top of your game. Being late because of fashion is very immature and definitely not professional.
In my blog post “Shop Your Closet” I give you loads useful tips on how to manage your wardrobe. Get more out of your existing clothes. Save your money -and time- for something better!
More Work Wear Ideas
My popular Pinterest borad “Working Wardrobe – What To Wear To Work?” is full of great office style inspiration for you to save and share with your friends.
You can also profit from free personal workwear shopping tips in blog:
- The Best Online Fashion Shops For Busy Business Women
- The Best Business Casual Fashion Brands For All Sizes
My monthly newsletter “Stylish News from I on Image” will keep your image & style up to date. Profit from exclusive offers and image consulting advice reserved for my inner circle.
Still unsure about your office style and second-guessing every outfit you own? Book my image consulting package and put your best foot forward at work every single day. This service is also available online worldwide. Learn more about my virtual personal styling services and book today!
This post was originally published on 30th August 2019 and updated on 18th September 2023.
Enjoy going back to work in style. Stay safe and go get them. I am rooting for you and I want you to succeed!
You got this!