Work style ruts are the fashion equivalent of “a case of the Mondays.”
It’s shockingly easy to get stuck in a cycle of wearing different iterations of the same outfit every day, especially when you’ve been working in the same office for a year or two. At most offices, you have some built-in clothing boundaries. You rarely replace “work clothes,” because they’re not incredibly trendy pieces and it’s harder to notice when they’re out of style. And once you start hitting that snooze button three times instead of one, your no-brainer ensemble gets handier and handier.
Just like an unconventional approach to a project is often the best one, re-imagining your look can help you harness confidence and personality in a business environment. Here are 10 ingenious ideas for breaking your work style rut and keeping the Mondays out of your closet:
Most style experts will tell you that we tend to leave our tried and true pieces, the ones we wear most, in the front of our closets. That means when we get dressed in the morning, we may only have a fraction of our closet in view.
Move stuff around and put pieces you like but don’t wear frequently in your line of sight. It will encourage you to don something different from your typical uniform and give you a better sense of what’s missing from your wardrobe.
2. Stash away old, out-of-style or ill-fitting clothes
For many people, especially those who work in “business formal” or “business casual” offices, there’s no impetus to replace work clothes unless you gain or lose upwards of 10 pounds. (And lots of people don’t even buy new clothes when that happens.)
But if you’re a woman hanging onto blouses with shoulder pads, a man insisting upon pleated trousers or someone a couple years out of college wearing hues that haven’t been in stores for a few years, donate those things to charity or stow them away if they’re high quality. For cardigans that are pilled or pants with unraveling hems, donate them if a tailor can’t fix the problem.
3. Try different shapes
If you’re always in a pencil skirt, try an A-line or a silk skirt with pleats. If you wear blazers every day, try a boxy style with three-quarter sleeves or even short sleeves.
Just because something isn’t in the “wear to work” section of a store doesn’t mean you can’t, in fact, wear it to work.
4. Play with color
Most offices are color-friendly these days—a result of more casual business environments—and since color is so important in the fashion landscape right now, it’s a great way to jazz up your work outfits.
For fall, look for jewel tones and muted versions of tangerine, chartreuse and fuchsia. Even if your office environment favors neutral colors, you’ve got more options than just black, navy and khaki. Titanium gray, coffee brown and muted rose are three to look out for. Guys can wear color in their dress shirts, chinos and blazers in a more casual workplace.
When your outfits all start to blend together, punch them up with a statement necklace, colorful belt or bag (or tie for the guys) or even a printed scarf. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget when you get in a style rut.
6. Look for unexpected touches
On a shopping trip this weekend, I found a red schoolboy blazer with navy-and-white-striped silk inside the sleeves, visible only if you rolled them up. As a bonus, there was also navy fabric under the collar.
I love pieces with funky buttons, patterned linings or unique embellishments—I consider them built-in accessories.
7. Shop with a friend
Sometimes, a friend hands you something to try on that you would never have picked out for yourself. And sometimes it works.
8. Combine pieces in new ways
I guarantee there are at least 10 different outfit combinations in your existing closet that you haven’t worn. The other day, in a moment of audacious whimsy, I paired a dark rose pencil skirt with a light mint-colored cashmere tee. Later, I met my friends, who didn’t even recognize the skirt and assumed it was brand new.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
9. Choose your outfit the night before
This ensures you don’t run out of time in the morning and end up wearing the same old thing out of desperation. (And it gives you more time for coffee!)
10. Iron and dry clean
If I had a nickel for every time I couldn’t wear an item because a) I had no time to iron it, or b) I forgot about that pesky stain on the front, I’d have at least enough money for all that dry cleaning.
Get full use of your closet by getting everything clean and pressed—before you want to wear it.
Kristyn Schiavone is the author of “Career Chic for Young Professionals: A Simple Style™ Guide,” which helps men and women starting out in their careers navigate the challenging world of workplace attire. Learn more about Kristyn at www.SimpleStyleGuide.com or connect on Twitter at @KKSchiavone.