The New Uniform: How Powerful Women Are Giving New Life to the Corporate Dress Code

In the age of stay-at-home entrepreneurs, tech start-ups, creative offices, and co-working hubs that boast little or no dress code, the spotlight on wear-to-work items for the corporate world has waned considerably. However, there is still a faction of us boss babes that have to maintain a slightly more formal look when it comes to dressing for work. For those of us who sick of treading water in a sea of skirt-suits, fret not; there are so many ways that you can add some personal pizazz to your office look. Here are 5 of my favorite ways bring down the boring and amp up the excitement when it comes to your office wardrobe.  

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Turn the Power Suit on its Head

The power suit exploded on the scene in the 1980s as women were commanding more power in the corporate workforce. However, even though women were shattering the glass ceiling in record numbers, power was still associated with masculinity. Enter the power suit. Usually gray, black, or navy, with a pinstripe, if you were feeling bold. These suits were meant to resemble the suits men had been wearing since… well since they decided that powdered wigs, ruffled collars, and tights were so last season. They were no frills, boxy, broad-shouldered, you’d-never-know-there-were-boobs-under-there, suits, that were designed to make a woman blend in with her predominantly male counterparts. Fast-forward to 2018 and the power suit has come back with a vengeance, although this time, it has evolved with a funky and feminine twist. Trade in the basic blacks and navys for more vibrant colors and patterns. Make a bold statement with a bright blue, or even an all-over floral. Go for a slimmer pant to offset an oversized (but structured) blazer. You’ll make a bold statement, but still be work appropriate!   

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Borrow from the Boy’s Club

Nothing says menswear like a crisp white shirt and tailored pair of slacks. Traditional menswear fabrics like pinstripes and plaids are reminiscent of that 1930s and 1940s era Dapper Dan look. When you saw a man bent over his desk with his shirtsleeves rolled up and his collar unbuttoned, you knew he was there to get shit done. Well… women get shit done too, and we look pretty damn good in a starched shirt and slacks as well. A high-wasted trouser in a menswear fabric looks so effortlessly chic. Take it one step further an opt for a tapered tuxedo pant! Paired with a white shirt and the right accessories you can do no wrong. Katharine Hepburn was the QUEEN of this look! We assure you that you’ll command the boardroom just as she commanded the big screen.

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…But Don’t Shy Away from Feminine Touches

Gone are the days where women have to try to look more like men in order to climb the corporate ladder (refer to the above section on the evolution of the power suit). Today, more and more women are discovering the power that is inherent in their femininity. So why not show that femininity in our office wardrobe. A structured dress is always appropriate, and we’re seeing so many this season with amazing architectural interest that goes beyond the basic silhouettes we’re used to. My 2 main rules for wearing a dress at work: mind the length (the sweet spot is anywhere between 3 inches below the knee and 2 inches above the knee depending on your height), and of course, cinch that waist girl! 

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Classic Colors in Bold Silhouettes

Basic doesn’t have to be boring. Some of the most traditional “corporate colors” like black, gray, and navy, can be given a new life when complemented with an out-of-the-ordinary silhouette. Play with your proportions and find pieces that create movement when you walk. Doing this will be sure to tease the eye and give that classic color some visual interest. A bold shoulder or an oversize palazzo pant are my go-to ways to give those old hues some new moves. Which brings me to my final and favorite way to enhance your weekday wardrobe…

Elevate Your Accessories

You don’t have to go out and purchase a whole new outfit to update your office look. Sometimes some bold accessories or a visually interesting makeup look can make your standard “wear-every-Wednesday” pantsuit seem like an innovative fashion statement. Big bold earrings, chunky necklaces, stacked bracelets, colorful shoes… bring it on. Same goes for makeup. Try trading in those red lips for an orange or pink, or amp up your eyelids with some subtle blues or emerald green. But, don’t get too excited, there is a formula to help you avoid looking like Mimi from the Drew Cary Show. If you’re playing up your makeup and accessories, keep your outfit more understated, and only pick two or three pops of playfulness. For instance, I love styling a monochromatic outfit with a bold shoe, statement earring or necklace, and a pop of color on my lips!

There you have it! 5 ways to bring some serious style back into your workday wardrobe. Of course, the number one way to look your best at the office… always accessorize with CONFIDENCE. So go forth and conquer that boardroom, babe, and look damn good doing it!

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As a Commercial Real Estate Project Manager in one of the country’s fastest growing cities, Katie Whelley has made big waves in the Nashville community. With her no-nonsense demeanor and her many publicly-proclaimed passions (not to mention her bold wear-to-work style), Katie is an example for other women who refuse to be put in a neat little box.