How to look good at work and why your wardrobe matters
Not everyone can be a style icon. But how you dress for work does matter.
If you look good, you feel good – and they both have an impact on your success.
First up, there’s no way to stop others judging you, so avoid diving into new trends that you suspect might not suit you. You won’t feel comfortable or perform well at work, or in front of an interview panel.
When it comes to an interview, let your individual style shine through – because your clothes tell people a lot about your personal brand. Think of it as a visual shortcut to your CV.
But you must always make sure you dress appropriately for the role.
Imagine you’ve been shortlisted for your dream job or promotion. You want to demonstrate that you’re the right person and a good fit – but still have something a little different to bring.
You need to demonstrate this in your look – which is why I always ask my candidates what they’re planning to wear to an interview. Not only is it part of my service, it’s a final sense-check for me that they’re totally on-board with how I’ve prepared them.
It’s only happened to me once that someone didn’t follow my advice, and turned up at a casualwear brand ‘suited-and-booted’. He said he that just didn’t feel right not wearing a tie to an interview. It didn’t go well.
But there are ways of looking and feeling smart without feeling overdressed.
So, if you’re after a new job or promotion, getting to work on your wardrobe is a good place to start.
How to create a wardrobe that works for you
I’ve asked Anna Berkeley, founder of Anna Berkeley Styling (former buyer for Selfridges, Prada and Reiss), and Jacqueline Allen, founder of Edit London (and former designer and business consultant) to give you some tips on creating a stylish work and interview wardrobe.
Anna and Jacqueline both offer a wardrobe-editing-and-styling service, which is much more bespoke than the usual personal shopper found in department stores.
They know that you don't need a huge budget or a passion for the runway to get the most from a stylist – and often the best place to start is with some good basics.
Here are some shortcuts from the women who really know…
The essential items for your work wardrobe
A great shirt. Semi-fitted in white poplin, or silk if you’re a ‘classic’ dresser. Otherwise something more casual and relaxed, in printed fabric. If you want to look ‘edgy’, go for an oversized shirt with statement sleeves. A cord shirt would also work right now.
Perfectly-fitted tailored trousers are a must. Don’t try to cut corners yourself. Get a tailor to do it and achieve your perfect fit.
A simple knit. V-neck or scoop for a short neck; high-crew or turtle for a long neck.
A classic dress that you can dress up or down with heels or flats.
Great accessories. A good handbag and tote, plus a range of shoes at the three traditional heel-heights.
A decent winter coat, plus a transitional coat/jacket that has room for laying.
The best places to shop for work clothes
Obviously, it depends on budget.
High street: Zara, Reiss, Whistles, Zara and OtherStories.
Designer: Theory, Joseph, Sportmax, Paul Smith and Margaret Howell.
High street: Reiss, Karen Millen, Ted Baker and Cos for accessible pieces.
More sophisticated: Max Mara, Sportmax, Joseph, Acne, Massimo Dutti, Paula Ka, DVF.
Designer: Bottega Veneta, Roksanda, Stella McCartney, Marni and Dries Van Noten if you like textiles and a bit of quirkiness.
One-stop shops: Harvey Nichols, Matches and Selfridges.
Top tips on how to dress for interview
Always be true to your natural style. You need to be comfortable. Never experiment with a new look for an interview.
Exceptional grooming and understated make-up. Shoes and bag in excellent condition. Make deliberate choices with your accessories – don’t let them be an afterthought. Taking care of details will set you apart and make you more memorable.
How to look stylish without spending a fortune
It’s all about the mix. It doesn’t need to be expensive but it does need thinking through. Play with ideas until it feels right for you. You need to know your body shape and what suits you right from the word go. Get advice, if need be.
My body-mapping service is an invaluable starting point if you want to understand your shape and what to wear to look your best. Armed with this information I guarantee you will shop with more confidence.
Always go for looking fresh, modern and pulled together. Be selective choosing one or two new items from what’s on trend. Don’t go overboard.
Who are your style icons?
Victoria Beckham, Miroslava Duma, and Sophia Coppola. They do simple looks which always have interesting silhouettes, plus a texture mix or one killer statement item.
Caroline Issa – inspiring, colourful and practical. Amal Clooney – modern business chic done to perfection. Ranja Al-Abdulla (Queen consort of Jordan) and Queen Letizia of Spain for packing a big style-punch with their conservative business looks.
More about our stylists
Where to find Anna – Anna Berkeley Styling
Anna’s body service is an invaluable starting point. She’ll help you understand your shape and what to wear to look your best. Armed with this information you can shop with confidence.
Where to find Jacqueline – Edit London
Jacqueline offers a boutique personal image and wardrobe consultancy for ambitious professionals who lack time but want to create an impact with a modern sophisticated look.