Every woman’s journey to confidence starts in a unique space. Some women start with their health and physical well-being. Other women begin with education.

And for many women, the starting point is style.

I was one of the women who started with style. It wasn’t until I felt really great about the way I was presenting myself to the world that I was able to start building my confidence in all areas of my career. (And my life, for that matter.)

I’ve written before about the important link between style and confidence. However, in corporate office environments, the dress code can make it hard for you to feel either chic or confident.

While a great many women can rock a ‘power suit’, a lack of femininity, restrictive cuts and drab colours can leave an equal number of women feeling frumpy or invisible. Some women I’ve coached report that their conservative outfits restrict their creativity. And others have admitted that their attire has compounded any sense of ‘imposter syndrome’ they may have been suffering from, because they feel like they’re trying to dress like someone they’re not. 

Obviously none of these states are conducive to building confidence. And judging by the number of questions I’ve received on the topic recently, it’s clear that so many of us struggle to break out of that super conservative, dark suit only mode.

But I’m here to tell you that it can be done.

With a little imagination, it’s possible to feel both chic and confident in the corporate environment. Here are my top five tips to help you break through the restrictions and bring your personality to the clothes you wear 9 to 5.

Tips for looking chic and confident in the office

1. Split the suit

Mixing and matching your traditional corporate wear is one way to play with your office style. Team your favourite suit blazer over that sheath dress you’ve never felt was office appropriate. Or perhaps that cropped jacket which was originally paired with a pencil skirt could work perfectly with a pair of high waisted pants. Creating new outfits from your existing pieces brings a freshness to your work wardrobe, and helps you to stand out from the crowd.

2. Add colour

You don’t have to stretch all the way to neon (although you can, especially if you opt for classic cuts). But at the same time, don’t feel compelled to stick to the corporate standards – such as black or navy combined with white or pale blue. Do you love wearing red? Or mustard? Maybe turquoise features amongst your favourites? Inject colour into your workday look via all the ’S words’ – shirts, scarves and shoes.

3. Play With Fabrics

This strategy allows you to wear traditional shapes in a fresh way – because let’s face it, it is the structure of a garment that most often defines whether it is considered ‘corporate’ or not. And playing with fabrics can allow you to test something a little different without feeling like you’ve taken a massive sartorial risk. Try a leather pencil skirt with your regular business shirt. Or combine a rich jewel toned velvet blazer with dark, slim line suit pants.

4. Consider Cuts

Interesting (or even quirky) shirt collars and sleeves, cropped suit pants and refined jackets can all change the look of your office wear without necessarily startling your boss.

5. Details Matter

Even if you don’t feel like could get away with any of the above tips in your particular office environment, you can still inject some fashion fun via your accessories. Cute shoes, patterned hosiery and statement jewellery can all be used to liven up your traditional suit.

One Final Thought

It pays to remember that women’s corporate dress codes were born in a different era. When women were first trying to ‘compete’ with men in the office environment, I guess it made sense on some level to try dress like them. The words corporate, chic and confident weren’t considered in the same sentence (oh, the things we do to ‘fit in’ sometimes).

But the reality is wearing a suit doesn’t make you smarter or more professional or better at what you do. Don’t be afraid to bring both your personality and your femininity into your work place. 

After all, these factors are a big part of the recipe that will lead to both your confidence and your success – far more so than whether or not you wear a traditional suit.

Do you have any tips for looking both corporate, chic and confident in the office? How do you feel about the clothes you wear (or wore) to work? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warmest, Janelle

Photo Credit: Haute Stock

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