New job dressing – your smart casual capsule wardrobe


I got a snap the other day from a follower who asked if I could give her some suggestions for what to wear to a new job. It's not a formal office, so suits aren't mandatory, but jeans are a little too casual and – I quote – "I don't want to end up wearing shitty black trousers and the same faded shirt every day." I consider myself the modern equivalent of Aladdin's genie – y'know, granting wishes left, right and centre – so I said, sure, I'll help you, as long as you use all of my affiliate links*. (I drive a hard bargain.)

New job dressing – whaddya need?

New jobs are a tough slog. I know, because I've had about six of them over the past decade. (No wonder I now work for myself, and can sit at my desk in my PJs all day if I see fit.) There's such a huge swathe of things to get to grips with – how things work, the systems, the team, the interpersonal relationships... And that's before you start worrying about what to wear every morning.

I would also point out that, in this – if in nothing else – men don't have it much easier. At least in a formal, suited environment, men can rock up in their two-piece; when it comes to smart-casual, they're as snookered as the rest of us. But enough about them (always: enough about them), let's get back to us: what can a smart woman with relatively good taste wear to work that won't make her look like a frazzled office worker in a Diet Coke ad?

Block-coloured tapered trousers

new job dressing tapered trousers

Pic credit: Diego Zuko for Harper's Bazaar

There are so many clichés I could waffle on about here – pops of colour, "brighten up any outfit!", an instant pick-me-up, yadda yadda. Instead, what I will say is that a nice pair of coloured trousers – however bold you wanna go, or even in something more neutral like khaki or navy – looks really smart with flats or heels (as long as you don't get them too long) and can be mixed and matched with a whole variety of outfit combinations. My faves are from Zara; they currently have this gorgeous bottle green pair on sale.

A pussy-bow blouse

new job dressing pussy bow blouse

Pic credit: Vanessa Jackman

Ah, the pussy-bow blouse – I can't even hear the name except I snort laughing like a grown-up, female Beavis (or Butthead). But I feel like it's a really nice nod to formalwear without going OTT on suiting. It's just a few steps before the trouser suit, and is nicely flexible – wear it tucked into trousers or high-waisted jeans, with a skirt or under a dress. I tend to prefer it in a less structured silhouette, as I think often if it's in stiff cotton and very fitted, it can look a bit cheap – and I'd tend to err on the side of going slightly up in size, rather than having it strain over the boobs (my eternal shirt dilemma).

A nice blazer

new job dressing blazer Olivia Palermo Vogue Mexico

Pic credit: Vogue Mexico

Any time I say "a nice" anything, I feel like my Mum. "You know what that needs? A nice blazer." But she's right, of course – a nice blazer really will go with everything. Olivia Palermo is queen of the nice blazer; I've honestly seen her wear 'em with everything from jeans and a cami to a ballgown (well, almost). Just make sure it fits perfectly – too tight on the shoulders and it won't be comfortable, too loose and it'll look shabby.

Now, before we get carried away – that's not to say that your new job dressing dilemmas will be put to bed with the purchase of a pair of block-coloured trousers, a pussy-bow blouse and a blazer, but they can't but help, right? Combine the three and you have a deadly outfit; mix 'n' match them with what you already own and you have a huge number of combinations that are neither boring nor "office"-y.

*This post contains affiliate links. What does that mean? If you click through one of the links above and buy something as a result, I’ll get a small percentage of the sale. It won’t cost you anything extra, but it will help me continue to create content on and beyond. I will always disclose if a post is sponsored or contains affiliate links; for more, check out my disclaimer.