For the past nine years I have worked in creative agencies where myself and the majority of my colleagues wear whatever we like to work. You could rock-up in shorts and a t-shirt in December – as my Creative Partner has done on many a cold winters day – or you could dress to impress and wear a suit. The key rule is that I just have to make sure that I dress well when attending client meetings, but even that will vary depending on the client.
So basically when it comes to dressing for office days, we have free reign. This has meant I’ve never really had a definition between a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe. Not having a uniform, or a dress code has resulted in me shopping lots of looks and clothes and getting bored with them very quickly. Having a uniform would have actually been easier, and probably saved me a lot of money, not to mention a lot of time in the mornings. But in saying that, the shopping-obsessed fashion girl inside me does believe that choosing your daily attire is a strong form of self expression.
I don’t know whether it is my new role, an effect of returning from maternity leave, or maybe I am just growing up, but I decided that it was time for a make over – on my wardrobe! I knew I needed to separate my clothes; I needed a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe. The good thing about a wardrobe make over was that it wasn’t really a case of buying anything new (no more spending!) but just selecting items from my wardrobe that are appropriate for work. I have certainly narrowed my colour palette down over the years to more muted colours, mainly black and maybe a hint of grey or mink.
My work wardrobe needed to be practical, smart, with some casual thrown into it.
Here are the staple items I chose for my Work Wardrobe:
Shoes: It’s winter so I currently live in boots. They’re both comfortable and smart. Mine are over the knee, and worn with black leggings or black jeans can still be professional. I also have a pair of leopard print Chelsea boots which are ideal for the office, and possibly a meeting with one of our more quirkier clients. They go perfectly with an all-black outfit. I have one pair of black leather heels that I got for £40 reduced from £80 in the John Lewis January sales (a trusted brand), they have black patent bows on the front, but not over the top.
Black Bottoms: I have two pairs of thick leggings and two pairs of black jeans, one denim and one waxed denim. I wear these most days to work, with either my knee boots or ankle boots, or on a really casual day, white converse. These are an absolute must have item in my wardrobe. For suit days, I have a black leather pencil skirt, great for nipping in the waist with a plain shirt.
Tops: I keep my tops quite simple, muted colours, long jumpers, t-shirts or shirts. All of these can be dressed up or down, with the right accessories. I like to layer as well. H&M or Primark vests are great for wearing under all my tops.
Dresses: I am not a huge dress fan, but have a number of shift dresses, most are black or muted colours mainly for client meetings. I typically team them with my favourite M&S jacket, tights and either my boots or black heels.
Outerwear:I have two coats i tend to alternate between, an M&S steal, reduced from £70 to £20! It’s perfect for winter as it is three-quarter length, black and white asymmetrical pattern and collarless. I also have an oversized boyfriend coat in Pink from Topshop. This is perfect for adding a pop of colour to a dull day. If it is a super casual day, I will wear my Zara padded fur hooded coat, especially if it is freezing.
Accessories: The bag – always a big investment for me, I need a sturdy leather bag that can withstand being dragged and thrown around whilst still protecting my Mac Book Air, notepad, documents and both my phones. I am lucky that my mum bought me a new gorgeous Jack French classic leather tote for Christmas which my laptop fits in it perfectly. I am also a hat fanatic, and so this Ted Baker Fedora comes out a lot especially for client meetings, and when I am traveling around London.
I am 8 weeks in on rotating my new Work Wardrobe, and so far I am not bored, now and then i throw in a random coloured top. I actually like that I know what I am going to wear most days, and I don’t have the panic every morning looking through what’s been cleaned, ironed and is appropriate for my day. I imagine once it gets warmer I will need to tweak my work wardrobe to reflect the summer weather, but at least that is something to look forward to and I can start to think about what key items I may want to invest in.
My Weekend Wardrobe
I have always tried and tested styles and colours, taken risks with out there trends, but only in the past 18 months have I started to understand what works for my body shape and my skin tone. I’ve realised I love basic clothes and then enjoy having fun by dressing them up with coats, shoes, bags, jewels and accessories. I see it as a plain canvas, that I can dress up or down. So during the January sale I picked up a couple of basic items to keep me going till spring:
I went to Zara and John Lewis and spent £110, and all of these items were less than 50% of their original price. Now that I had items I was only going to wear over the weekend I was really looking forward to how I could style them, what necklaces, what coat, hat, bag, everything. Eight weeks in, I still wear at least two or three of those sale items, and I look forward to it. Bar a trip to Primark for some basic vests, I haven’t bought any new clothes since. I am on a role, so let’s see how long I can last (i am aiming for April), and hopefully save for my ‘Big Wish List’ items. Fingers crossed!
To follow on from my maternity ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ I have jotted down my tips for maternity shopping.
I’d really like to hear any tips you have or advice you can offer for others currently looking to revamp their maternity wardrobe.
As mentioned in my previous post Part 2: when it all becomes real we took a holiday when I was 16 weeks and I was certainly more rounded (when you basically look like you’ve eaten too many pies), but it wasn’t till about 20-22 weeks you could really tell I was pregnant. At this point I was struggling to get into my skinny jeans, I held off buying maternity for as long as possible, so took myself off to Primark, and bought the next size up skinny jeans. At £10 a pair, these were a bargain. They also came in useful once I had given birth, and my maternity clothes were too big.
I searched high and low for fairly inexpensive maternity clothes, I didn’t want to spend too much, as they would only fit for a couple of months, but I did still want to look and feel good.
Here is my ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ maternity wardrobe list!
SERAPHINE was recommended by a friend, and Kate Middleton had been seen in lots of their dresses, but I found them very overpriced, and the styles were quite dull.
ASOS has a big maternity range, so i ordered a variation of tops, dresses and jeans, but the quality was really poor. Most of the tops were see-through, or didn’t have much room for growth. I ended up keeping 1 top, mainly as I had a weekend away and just needed something that would fit, but even then I had to wear a cami underneath it.
They do stock other brandS though so it’s quite a good place just to have a browse.
NEW LOOK have a small collection, their jeans are good value at £20-£25 a pair. I found their t-shirts a bit kitsch with things like ‘I love my bump’ ‘hands off the bump’. Some people love these, and if so this is your shop, but they weren’t for me.
MATALAN, I was recommended to for maternity by a pregnant friend, but my local store only ever stocked maternity leggings. I did purchase some over the bump leggings once it started getting colder. These were okay but I would probably go for H&M leggings if I was to buy again.
MOTHERCARE have small ranges in most stores, better online, but I felt its target market was a slightly older mum, they did great pj’s and underwear though. I got my nursing bras from here.
NEWLOOK (non-maternity ranges) do great plain colour stretchy dresses in normal sizes, I just bought a couple in my size, and they stretched around my bump, and at £10 a dress I wasn’t bothered that I had stretched them too much to wear post-baby. They were perfect for summer or with leggings once it got a bit colder.
TOPSHOP have a good range, and not to overpriced, their jeans were the most expensive at £38/£40 a pair but by far the comfiest I had tried, I bought two pairs, but I could of bought SO many more.
They do lovely maternity underwear, which I was tempted to get, but once bubba arrived and I was nursing the last thing I was bothered about was matching underwear.
H&M has by far the widest range, great value for money, and stylish but practical (AND MY FAVOURITE). My BEST buy was a pair of leggings, with leather panels down the front, and they were great for both day and evening wear. I also got a cardigan that covered my bump, and I can still wear it now I am back to my pre-baby size. Their range is really affordable, and by the time I got to 8-9 months, I was so tired of wearing the same outfits, i didnt mind spending £10-£20 on a new top to vary things up a little.
They also have shirts and smart tops for work but also t-shirts and vests for as little as £3.99 that were great for wearing with jeans.
If anyone has any other suggestions for great places to go, to avoid, or just any tips for stocking up a maternity wardrobe, let us know.