As anyone who has had to battle their way through the London’s square mile at rush hour will know, there is a uniform. When I navigate my way through the eclectic mix of old, slightly worn, neo-classical buildings and the gleaming, glass armoured towers of corporate success that make up the City of London I am confronted with droves of somewhat less varied looking city workers. An army of grey shades, with the odd glaring pin stripes and bling watches thrown in an attempt to let some personality through the dark layers.
The suit isn’t entirely a cloth equivalent to the ball and chain though. There is a certain sense of security and ease with suits – just put one on and presuming it’s clean and fits well, chances are you will look the part for whatever work throws at you. In the somewhat more arty media world the dreaded ‘smart casual’ dress code can turn mornings into a nightmare that ends with a massive pile of clothes and hangars on the floor and a self-conscious feeling all day at work that you are the very large multi-coloured elephant in the room.
And it is important that you get your outfits right, more is at stake than just your pride. As much as we don’t like to admit it – we do judge people on appearances because appearances can give away a lot about someone. It’s not an infallible way to judge someone and it sure as hell isn’t the nicest way to judge someone but we do do it.
In the creative industries, looking, well, creative, is a plus. Within reason of course, there is a lot of variety within the very broad term of ‘media’ – turning up in painters overalls to work for a top PR firm isn’t going to go down well. However wearing colours other than black and some standout pieces will signal you are bold, and have a creative side. Also some of the most important interactions and networking in the media world happens over drinks, in laid back locations, so you don’t want to be looking stuffy at those times. On the other hand you also need to be aware that if you are facing clients or members of the public a lot, they are naturally going to consider you with more authority or trust you with lucrative projects if you look reasonably smart. So as you can see ‘smart-casual’ is an important look to achieve in the media world.
So how to get this balancing act right? The trick to dealing with this dress code is knowing which wardrobe pieces to invest in and base your outfit around.
1. The blazer
This versatile item adds an air of smartness to every outfit because of the tailoring and the connotations of being part of a suit. However they can easily make you look a bit more fun, trendy and casual as well by buying colourful ones, or ones with exciting details and by rolling the sleeves up.
Wear with: jeans (skinny jeans traditionally look good but if you want to be very on trend for 2012 experiment with skinny flares), shorts – to stop them being too cheeky for work, and floaty dresses – to toughen them up for work.
2. The blouse
The fluid shape, soft material and little stitching details and buttons make blouses sweet and feminine without straying into the realm of shapeless shirts kept for mooching around at home with Ben & Jerry’s. To really look elegant try blouses like this Ted Baker one with exciting details or chic print and cut like this Oasis one.
Wear with: jeans of all shapes and sizes (why not try with rolled up boyfriend jeans, high heels and a blazer?), tailored trousers, jewel coloured pencil skirts.
3. The shift dress
A smart tailored dress doesn’t have to be dull. Prints and block colouring have been very popular for the past few seasons. Little details like draping and cut all add to making this wardrobe staple scream that you can be trusted with important details and can come up with fun work projects.
Alternative: Shirt dresses are an elegant and sexy alternative to the shift dress. If you have the cash to burn, this dress from Proenza Schouler is a must-have.
4. Accessories – Avoid trainers!
Trainers are a no no. Unless you are in a super casual office and not meeting any new clients/clients who don’t know you very well. Splashing out on nice, well-made smart looking bags and shoes will really bring the ‘smart’ to the most casual of outfits. Plus when you are carrying your portfolio and other important documents around you don’t want to be banging any old battered holdall onto the table, you want something fashionable and sleek like this.