— Isadora Duncan
Dress – Magaschoni (similar: 1 / 2) || Blazer – Smythe (a wardrobe staple! Also available in green, in camel, and in white) || Bag – Chloé Mini ‘Drew’ (budget options: 1 / 2) || Booties – Renvy (similar) || Necklace – c/o Bauble Bar || Bracelet – c/o Bauble Bar || Watch – c/o Daniel Wellington (use code ‘MUSHROOMSTEW’ for 15% off your order at DanielWellington.com)
Photos courtesy of Ali of Those White Walls
I worked for many years in a very conservative office before becoming a freelance photographer and blogger. A VERY conservative office.
The sort of place where trying out new fashion trends was considered vulgar and inappropriate. And where creativity was considered more of a burden than a boon.
Have you ever worked in a place like that??
For many aspiring fashionistas, the strict dress codes of the office environment can feel stifling. Suffocating. Oppressive.
It certainly was for me…
I can’t tell you how many times I got in trouble with our firm’s HR for sporting something too “low cut” or forgetting to wear pantyhose to client meetings — basically for pushing the fashion envelope in even the smallest way.
But I firmly believe that constraints can be the mother of invention and I eventually found ways to experiment and play around with my wardrobe that wouldn’t get me in trouble with HR (yet again…).
One of the best ways I found to exercise my creative wardrobe muscles in a conservative work environment was to mix and play around with prints. I found prints — professional prints like stripes, leopards, polka dots, and florals — to be my saviors. And so I learned to mix and match them with pure abandon!
Even in the most conservative office environments, you CAN have fun with your wardrobe WITHOUT breaking the rules. Prints are the ANSWER:
How to Wear & Mix Prints at the Office
1. Stick to one or two unifying colors
While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it makes mixing prints a lot easier. Keeping your prints neutral and tying them together with one unifying color (like my navy blazer in today’s look), keeps the effect from being too WILD for the workplace. One professional color can tie everything together and keep the whole effect from feeling “untamed”.
2. Pay attention to SCALE
When you’re mixing prints, you always need to pay attention to the size of the prints you’re mixing. If the spots on my leopard booties had been larger in today’s look, they would have competed heavily with the spots on my dress, creating a visually confusing effect. Since the spots are smaller on the booties than on the dress, they compliment instead of compete with one another. Always pay attention to the scale of your prints once they’re mixed together!
3. Play with textures
In today’s look one of my prints was silk (the dress), and one was calf hair (my booties). If you can, try mixing lighter textures and fabrics (like chiffons, silks, and light knits) with heavier ones (like velvets, wools, and suedes) to break up the prints in a sophisticated way. I’m always a fan of texture in outfits but especially in the office environment where it can be all too easy to wear the same fabrics day in and day out.
4. Keep it polished
Finishing a busy look with a simple blazer (my Smythe blazer was certainly an investment but I’ve had it now for years!) or another “business appropriate” wardrobe piece keeps the whole look from feeling too crazed. Tame the wildness with a simple jacket to maintain a polished finish that’s appropriate for the office.