Years ago, it used to be that your work and weekend wardrobes were separate. The understanding today is that business casual has become the accepted standard of office attire in many industries, and, along with the extension of the workweek into evening and weekend hours, our business wardrobes are expected to work overtime as well. Everyone wants good value from their clothing, so this article is dedicated to office pieces that work overtime.
1. Suits. I used to advise against wearing suit pieces separately. My thinking was that trousers or a skirt are different from suit bottoms, and blazers or sport coats are different from suit jackets. As suits have become less formal my thinking has become less rigid as well. There is nothing wrong with wearing the pants or skirt from a suit with a sweater or top, a different jacket, or a blouse and cardigan. Similarly, a woman’s suit jacket can be worn over a dress, or with a complementary skirt or pants. Office attire for men is less versatile, as the buttons on a men’s suit jacket generally match the suit color, and signify that it is part of a suit. The buttons on a sport coat are more dramatic, usually metallic, with some type of insignia, indicating its more casual and fun nature. So, be wary of wearing a men’s suit jacket as a sport coat. Although it is generally okay to wear the individual pieces of a suit separately, I still recommend dry-cleaning them together, so the color doesn’t fade more on one section than on another.
2. Sheath Dresses. The basic sheath dress is now standard office attire for women. Worn with a jacket, cardigan, or shawl, it is an easy way to go from day to night, or to double as a social dress on the weekend. Some new trends in sheath dresses are side panels that give the illusion of slimming the waist, and mixed media fabrics which incorporate different materials such as ponte knit, silk, or boucle in the same dress.
3. Cashmere Blazers. While a cashmere blazer sounds like a luxury item, it actually is a hardworking part of a man’s wardrobe. The cashmere blazer can go easily from the office to dinner and a holiday party. It can double as outerwear on chilly, but not freezing cold days. And it is great for travel as it will keep you warm on the plane, and still look cool when you arrive. A cashmere jacket will always look rich, and it will last forever. Colors to consider are black, navy or marine blue, dark brown, or a grey/blue plaid.
Other items that work overtime, and make good office attire, are v-neck sweaters, sweater sets with a shell and cardigan, and for me, it’s my black cashmere fringed cardigan sweater (at left). I wear it over skirts, pants, dresses and on the weekend, jeans. I’ve worn it to a black tie wedding, to meet clients, to a Broadway show and once to the gym. Right now it’s taking a rest at the cleaners, as it most definitely has been working overtime.