Oh my, how things have changed. I remember back in my A Level days, shopping in town with my friend Colin. I had my nose pressed against the window of Next, back in the days when it was the first word in High Street Luxe. The object of my affection? A Prince of Wales check suit, in Pure New Wool – remember that? Oh, and it had the matching power courts and briefcase. My friend Colin told me when we got our first jobs he was going to take me into Next and buy me a suit. It is such a powerful memory for me as that suit, and thinking about starting a new career, brought about a feeling of such excitement and possibility.
For so long, the whiff of power dressing hung around women’s workwear. Long after I had put away the fake Chanel numbers, the suit was still what women stuck to. It was easy to put together, (it does match after all) and in many work places, expected. Come the new century and everthing started to shift a little. A whole generation of women were tutting about the younger one, coming to work in their low cut lycra tops and not wearing jackets, whilst boring themselves rigid everyday with the black bootcut trouser, the most boring piece of workwear known to womankind.
I have worked from home for a long time and have not been near a formal place of work, except for a meeting, for more than ten years. However, I have now found myself in a position were I will be going into the office to actually do some work. I won’t breeze in and out in something fabulous and go home and burrow away in old Nike track pants. I have to go there and stay there. Sometimes for hours at a time. I am the oldest person in the office. When I went for a ‘look around’ my idea of smart casual looked like someting I would wear to lunch with Anna Wintour. I am a serial overdresser. However, the fun of the new way of working means I get to choose some new pieces. And here are my Top Ten for starters…………..
Ah, a new coat gives you that back-to-school feeling. I have a prized Burberry Trench but I have no plans of wearing it work as I know I will drop coffee on it, and it might get rain on it! So I picked this one from Zara to be its workplace replacement. I know trench coats and work put you in mind of city gents but to me, they are just a very chic way of getting yourself about. This one is classic enough to go a few seasons so is very much an investment.
Again, I am lucky enough to have a few lovely designer bags but they are very much for show time. This one has to contain what I carry in my real life, and so I plumped for this beauty from Reiss. Reiss really do the best bags on the High Street, and I didn’t want something too ‘smart’. As the office Grande Dame I didn’t want to come over all over Mrs. T. and the saddle style is still very much on trend. I am sure I will accrue a few more bags as I go along but this one is great for starters………….
I was going to get a nice little shift dress and though, sod it,I want something with a little detail and fell in love with this Reiss dress. It’s very difficult to get the balance right between smart and on trend, and tailored and frumpy, but I decided this will be my Friday dress, should I be popping off for a nice little cocktail after work. I can just add a higher heel and a bigger earring and I will be ready to rock.
I am not going near a black pencil skirt. I know they are useful and you can throw them in the washing machine but what is the need this season? This season is all about the skirt, and there are so many to choose from I won’t just stop at one. The sunray pleated skirt is still around, and fifties dirndl numbers are very much in evidence but I adore this floral trimmed one from Zara. Whether I will have the nerve to team it with lots of prints I am not sure – I know it is very fashion-y but I am a bit worried about looking like an explosion in a garden centre. I will go in gently. Just to begin with.
Sometimes going ‘too’ classic can be a bit boring, and dare I say it, ageing, but I know there is no way I could put myself together every day without the help of a white shirt. High Street ones can be notoriously poor quality but, again, Reiss come up trumps with their classic white shirt with a gathered sleeve to add a touch of detail.
Summer calls for colour and I feel in love with these dusky rose trousers – Reiss again! What’s not to love? The super flattering flat front is fine by me – am I glad those gathered peg leg gathered trousers have been and gone! The ankle skimming length means I can wear them with a flat pump or dress them up with a heel. And should I get any type of suntan they will set of a golden glow nicely. Of course, I would like a nice Burberry bag to match but unfortunately I might be the oldest lady in the office by age, but I am very much the junior. So it’s High Street for me!
This gorgreous top from Mango could be all shades of wrong but it is just, well, right. I will not be pairing it with spray on jeans, huge wedges, and big hair. But on the days when I might consider some smart, dark denims then this leopardskin beauty will make a statement all of its own. Because as much as I love classic on some days you just want to be a diva…..
One thing I do remember is that, on really hot days, being in an office is officially not fun. What to do? Well I am not sure the boss would appreciate me in a pair of shorts, so these amazing lightweight, wide legged tailored trousers from Zara will be be paired with a lightweight silk t-shirt. They are meant to look a little rumpled which is only a good thing, because I often start off well and end up with a hedgeways backwards appeal by lunchtime. So with these at least I will start as I mean to go on. Nonchalant is a fancy way of saying it – grunge it is not!
I have gone High Street so far but I wanted one wow piece and for this I went to By Malene Birger at netaporter.com the site that we all love to sit and drool over. This really is a little piece of luxury, will keep me warm on chillier days and smarten up anything I put with it. I never thought back in the 1980’s that one day I would be dreaming of cardigans, but this is one that will become a beloved piece. Just keep me away from printer toner and I will be fine………….
The shoes, the shoes, the shoes…………. I am very much a heel person but when I saw a certain set of stairs that I will have to run up and down (no lift!) all thoughts of Jimmy Choos went out of the window. I still can’t get back into kitten heels, so I just thought I would go for some pretty flats from Moda In Pelle. Of course, I will always have some heels on standby should they be required, but these lovelies also come in black and leopard and I can’t wait to wear them.
So wish me luck. No more tying my hair up in a scrunchie and eating my lunch in front of Loose Women. No more opening the door to the postman in thermal onesies. It’s time to take my place back in the working world and I plan to do it in style. And I might even venture into Next. But only if Colin is paying…………………