The last time most people were in the office was approximately one pair of stupid pants and half a sequined duster ago. And while ripped jeans and Target graphic tees are a delight, they probably aren’t going to fly in one-on-ones with your boss.
And yet pre-COVID (March of 2020 to be exact), when most people were actually in an office full-time…skinny jeans were still in style and Gen-Zers didn’t have quite so many thoughts on our side parts.
A lot has happened since then.
Back In The Workwear Groove: An Office Outfit Refresh
There are many reasons — mentally, physically and emotionally — that going back into an office may provide more than the usual bout of “Sunday Scaries.” And, while refreshing the workwear part of your wardrobe won’t work miracles, it can make you feel fabulous. And you deserve to feel fabulous.
1| Power Moves: A Seriously Chic Workwear Dress
Give me a “villian-esq” collar any day of the week, honey. I literally squealed when I saw the cut and neckline of this Black Halo Madeline Tie-Front Sheath dress. Available in blue and black it’s giving “Don’t speak over me in the boardroom or I will go Maleficent on your a**” energy. It would look fabulous under a blazer and on its own for dinner after work — alone, with your SO, nary a grubby hand of a child in sight (in this fantasy, childcare has been lined up by your considerate partner in advance).
While these dresses tend to be pricey, they easily take the place of a suit, and are classic enough to last for years. (You can also look for these exact dresses on sale at places like Saks OFF or Nordstrom Rack.)
Shop More Work Dresses
2| A Polished Statement Jacket
It’s easy to get into a rut with black and blue blazers. Not that they don’t have their place and time, but why not spice up your work attire with a fun, yet professional, pattern like this Veronica Beard Theron Dickey Jacket? It’s a gorgeous feminine tweed blazer that’s perfect to put your basic shells under or level up a dress. And yes, VB isn’t known for affordability, but that’s what’s great about shopping stores like Nordstrom Rack where I found this blazer for under $300. It’s an investment piece for sure, but one that will last you many years in the workplace.
Shop More Blazers
3| Dark Wash, Trouser (ish) Jeans
These FRAME Le High Flare Jeans are not destroyed — pretty integral for an office look — and make your legs look miles long. Trust me, I own them in a different wash and LOVE them. They are the jeans that will take you from 9am team meeting to 9pm cocktails (or something like that, I don’t know what cool people do, I just imagine it involves Happy Hour).
Shop More Jeans
4| A Pretty Blouse
I’m obsessed with this Halogen V-Neck Top. It screams (no, whispers) effortless elegance. Plus it is the palest of pinks, which elevates it from your basic blouse. Best part? It’s under $40. If I didn’t have a handsy toddler, well, you know the drill.
Shop More Blouses
5| Professional Pull-On Pants
Who says we have to give up all lockdown habits? These pull-on pants are the perfect way to say, “Fine, I’ll return to the office, but I want to feel as close to wrapped in a comfy sheet, working from bed as possible.” They are available in other colors/patterns so you could essentially have a pair for every business day of the week if you so desired.
Shop More Trousers
6| Classic Pointed Pumps
This is definitely your classic pump; it might even bear similarities to shoes already in your closet. What sets these Schutz Lou Pointed Toe Pumps apart for me is the color. It’s called wood leather, but to me spicy brown mustard (a favorite color and condiment) could also work as a name for them. They are neutral, but elevated. Definitely not your basic black heel.
More Pumps to Shop
7| Sleek Leather Booties
For those colder days when a pump won’t cut it, go for a pair of chic booties like these Ulani Leather Booties from Marc Fisher. I’m really into this red color that’s so dark it almost comes off as a warm brown. I also love the subtle detail on the boot.
Shop More Booties
8| Large Tote Bag
Different work environments call for different bags, but this Slouchy Suede Shoulder Bag from Anthropologie should cover most of your bases. It’s large enough to hold all those work day essentials without feeling like you’re lugging a beach tote to the office. Plus that color is dreamy. It also comes in a equally delightful yellow.
Shop More Bags
9| A Statement Top For Layering
Nothing is worse than getting overheated in the office and realizing the shell you put under your blazer isn’t *quite* appropriate on its own. Finding quality shells that work with a blazer and without is key, which is why I love this FRAME Flounce Ruffled Sleeveless Mockneck Silk Top I found on sale. The detail around the neck and shoulders gives it a delicate feel and sets it apart from your basic shell.
Shop More Statement Shells
10| Classic Midi Skirt
Listen, this is definitely an investment piece, but I couldn’t help but include this fabulous Wool Midi Skirt from Sportmax. It’s an A-line skirt with a “little bit of spice” added to it with the goldtone metal grommet and ring details. I feel like it’s a skirt you could wear for decades and pass down to your children one day along with your unopened Spice Girls dolls (I can’t believe they ever broke up!) and cassette tapes you made off the Top 9 at 9 on Z100 — just me?).
Shop More Skirts
11| Statement Sweater
You know there is always that one person in the office who becomes Captain Of The Thermostat and you, matey, sweat or shiver (me timbers) based on their spin of the dial. With that in mind, it’s always good to have a sweater on hand for the day they decide to freeze you out. Why not make it fashionable? I am obsessed with the sleeves on this Veronica Beard Novah Puff Sleeve Sweater. I also love that it comes in lilac, an unexpected winter color. It would look great paired with a straight pair of trousers or a pencil skirt.
Shop More Sweaters
12| Athleta Women’s Activate Face Mask 2 Pack
While it’s still unclear what the rest of this year will bring, it’s never a bad idea to have a face mask handy (especially now). I love these Two-Pack Face Masks from Athleta; the colors are great and they are easy to adjust. They are the perfect intersection of practical, but still pretty chic.
It’s hard enough going back into an office after a year+ out, but at least you can look amazing whilst emailing Marc that, “you think there is synergy there, but would like to sandbag it for the moment.” And sometimes looking (and feeling) fabulous is half the battle.