After leaving my job in Canary Wharf to go freelance five years ago, my working wardrobe has narrowed to jeans, T-shirts and long, cover-it-all tunics. As I work at home, I can get away with wearing anything from my gym kit to pyjamas! So you can imagine my horror when I was recently asked to attend a business conference in Canada, which involved looking smart during the day, right through to evening cocktail parties and dinners. Discussing the trip with an ex-colleague of mine, who had recommended me for the job, I exclaimed: “I’m not worried about the work. I’m terrified about what on earth I’m going to wear!” It’s bad enough feeling that your skills might be out-of-date but if you look like a throw back from the 1990s, then it won’t help your confidence. So I asked two very different stylists to help me in my quest for the perfect working wardrobe.
says. She’s going to have a field day with me as my wardrobe consists mostly of black. As I sit in front of a mirror looking like Pierrot as Laura drapes different sets of colours around my neck, it is crystal clear that certain colours enhance my skin tone while others literally drain me. I’m ‘winter’, a vibrant cool palette, which thankfully includes black. She says I need a staple wardrobe of trousers, skirts and coats in ‘plain neutrals’. Then add ‘colourful accents’ with a top, cardigan or accessories. “Teaming your ‘neutral colours’ with different accent colours is a clever way of creating a small, capsule wardrobe,” says Laura.
It’s time to open my wardrobe. I cringe as I bring out my old black trouser suit and skirt combo. “Wearing a suit won’t set you apart,” says Laura. Obviously, this is dependent on the industry you work in, as the suit still reigns supreme in banking, accountancy and law. Laura says that you should still aim to stamp your sense of style onto your work clothes. Laura analyses my shape and explains several tricks to both enhance and disguise. She writes out a style prescription, stating the colours and types of clothes I should be looking at, plus a number of shops she thinks would suit my ‘style personality’. Then it’s off to Westfield to throw some cash at the problem. Laura has captured my style personality and given me my shopping mojo back. The next time I hit the shops I feel 100% more confident about colour and what shapes will suit me. But I have to admit, I come back with a rather nice ‘black’ cardigan …
Contact Laura at caboodlestyle.com 07799 713814
Russian born Natasha Coote has worked in the fashion industry since 1999. After her two sons were born she decided to set up shop at home and Boutique@Home was created. Her Fulham house is now a gorgeous, funky boutique full of clothes and accessories all sourced by her. Although it’s rather like an exclusive shopping club, Natasha insists everything is affordable. You just pay for the clothes. There is no minimum spend or hidden extras. You can book an appointment on your own or with friends (maximum eight), day or evening. Natasha welcomes children, which is a godsend, as I find shopping with young children makes me want to either abandon the trip or buy the first thing I see.
It’s like a giant dressing-up box: I’m itching to get started. Natasha attends fashion shows and selects a mix of designers and high-end brands from the UK and Europe. “I hate the high street because you have to go to five different shops to find what you want,” says Natasha. “I’ve pre-selected gorgeous outfits and shoes and the magic happens in two hours.” Natasha says very few of her clients wear a suit to work, so smart casual really is the order of the day. She only selects clothes with great tailoring. Natasha says many women make the mistake of wearing ‘tunic’ type dresses to hide lumps and bumps (I’m glad she can’t see my collection!) but these hide your narrowest area i.e. your rib cage and you can end up looking bigger than you are. She prescribes wearing fitted clothes under your bustand sleek arms too.
My work dilemma is going from day to evening, when I attend conferences or go straight out from work. Day dresses worn with a cardigan, according to Natasha, are perfect for the smart casual look. Glamorise for evening by adding heels and different jewellery. She recommends wearing neutral-coloured dresses or with a pattern that includes your favourite neutral. Then team your dress with shoes and tights to match. “If your shoes and tights are the same tone, it looks even more luxurious.” After the day dress and cardigan, a jacket in a versatile colour like grey, navy or brown is the third most important thing to have in your work wardrobe. Natasha jumps up to show us how a casual blazer and a long string of vintage-looking pearls instantly smartens up the dress she is wearing. By keeping dresses, shoes and jackets in easy-to-wear neutral colours you will have a very versatile working wardrobe. “Add colour to your outfits with handbags and scarves,” advises Natasha. “Outfits, even for work, shouldn’t be predictable.”
Laura’s style tips