What should women wear to work? Women's work wear has certainly evolved through the years. At times, the change was brought about by the introduction of new fabrics or new technology.  Other times, the transition was the result of shifting trends or lifestyle changes. Whatever the cause maybe, women's work wear does not have to be boring. There must be an element of excitement which make dressing up for work more than a flitting preoccupation. 


In the sixties, for instance, Jackie O ruled the roost with her tailored suits and pillbox hats, which working women soon traipsed around the office in. By the time the seventies came around, every other office gal had on Diane von Furstenberg's wrap jersey dresses.


While the jersey dress was perfect in its simplicity, the next evolution bordered on excess. Yes, we're talking about the eighties with women wanting to dress like men in their suits and shoulder pads. No wonder Harrison Ford took to Melanie Griffith in that iconic scene in Working Girls where she wore a shiny, shimmery dress amidst a sea of suited up ladies.

It was a much-needed breath of fresh air then when Calvin Klein's streamlined pantsuits marched onto the stage, kicking out all the maximalist tendencies of the eighties. This newfound freedom, if you can call it such, continued onto the next decade as women opted for separates. The workplace in the year 2000 and onwards had women mixing and matching their tops and bottoms, unshackled as they were from having to wear matching suits on all occasions. Eventually, work wear fashion became relaxed but polished, powerful but comfortable.

Anne Bella Arguelles, personal shopper, stylist, and publisher of the blog, Stylist of Sorts, says, “The new corporate is more than just the stiff suit jacket and matching pants of the eighties. It's now more relaxed in the sense that women have more options like wearing knit twinsets or sweaters with tailored pants and skirts.”

She adds, “Trends can also be incorporated such as brights, mixing prints and dress over pants. However, some classic rules remain like always look appropriate, well-groomed and neat.”


One need only browse through the social media accounts of fashion's powerhouse women to get a sense of the new work wear. Francesca Amfitheatrof, design director of Tiffany & Co., has a preference for separates in rich fabrics. She would pair a silk blouse with an embroidered skirt, for instance, amidst a palette of complementing colors. She keeps her jewelry to a minimal, opting for just a double-stranded necklace to complete her look.


Deborah Lloyd, president and creative director of Kate Spade, keeps it feminine with frilly skirts and dresses, which is on point these days. Occasionally, she'll wear a plain white top but she'll mix it up with a loud printed skirt. 


But of course, none of them breaks boundaries more than Leandra Medine, founder and editor of The Man Repeller. The woman who mused about turbans and jumpsuits certainly knows how to rock her work wear, matching a violet top with plaid pants or wearing a man-sized jacket over a high-waisted skirt.

Certainly, these ladies' sense and sensibilities will serve as inspiration. But for a more concrete guidance, Anne forwards a couple of recommendations when developing your take on the new work wear:

1: MIX IT UP. Mix brights or prints with more muted, neutral tones. Don't go all out bright. That's best done after work.

2: CHECK YOUR LENGTHS. The cut of the skirt or top should not be too short or navel-bearing. You must, of course, abide by the standards of professionalism. While some industries might be more lax with their dress code, it is best to be conservative.

3: WHEN IN DOUBT WEAR HEELS. Opt for closed shoes with heels 2.5 to 3 inches high. No sandals or sneakers please.  

4: KEEP ACCESSORIES TO A MINIMUM. Avoid wearing too many accessories. It's okay to mix metals so long as it's not overdone. Keep it simple.

5: AIM FOR NEAT AND POLISHED. Your hair should look neat. There's no room for just out of bed hairstyles in the workplace. Your nails should be cut short and clean. Opt for light makeup. You are, after all, at the office to work, not to party. Work wear does not only refer to your clothes, but your overall look – and that look must be professional.

Above all, remember this most important of rules: Dress for success! By dressing properly at work, you give off the impression that you are a professional with a good work ethic. But by dressing for success, you let other people know that you mean business. You are not just there to work, you are there to achieve your full potential. Dress for the job you are aiming for, and eventually, you will earn it!