Though the biggest names in fashion have their lips sealed as to why super formal is on a comeback tour this season, it’s definitely doing so in a big way—big enough that it has leaked from the shelves and storefronts of Barney’s and the catwalks of Milan to hit your local retailers, including Target and mass online retailers like Overstock and Amazon.
So what exactly does it mean to be highly fashioned and well dressed? To begin, you don’t have to look like you’re on your way to a formal charity dinner with $1000 plates, nor would you want to look like you’re prepped for a cruise on the Romney family yacht. The phrase “workplace formal” means something different for each work environment, and even for each different position within a given firm. For example, if you are the president or CEO of the company, suits and other formal gear are going to go without question—you have to look the part for meetings, luncheons, presentations, and other occasions. But if you are an intern or phone agent at the same firm, “out-dressing” the boss can sometimes breed the kind of attention you don’t want.
Here are some tips on buying and wearing the formal look to work:
Buy quality basics that never go out of style
When it comes to certain things like white button down blouses and shirts, a quality pair of black trousers in a straight leg cut that is never out of mode, and a pair of high-end black leather shoes, flats, pumps, or heels that go with nearly everything, every penny is worth it. Items like these will be staples to your haute look, but only when you buy the best. So invest wisely—rather than heading to the bargain bin for these pieces, save up and do it right the first time—when you buy the right brands made with quality in mind, they will last you a lifetime.
When purchasing seasonal pieces, the price needs to be right
Because fashion changes with such great frequency, it’s important not to invest in that $650 fluorescent pashmina shrug. Sure, it says Prada on the label, but that cut and those colors might not circle back until you’re ready to hand them off to your own children. Pick the stuff that you know is likely not to be in style again within the next couple of years from discount stores where you can get similar brands and/or similar quality at a much better price. Costume jewelry, scarves, belts, and brightly colored or very seasonal footwear are all things to bargain hunt for.
Do your research before charging potentially eccentric items
While some items may seem a little crazy to invest in at first glance, when you do some research you will find that some of these very formal pieces have a rather idiosyncratic crowd. For example, the Burberry print is a universally known pattern for scarves, bags, and even blouses and skirts. Of course you don’t want to waltz into the office looking like Burberry wallpaper, but a Burberry piece is a must-have for the formal wardrobe seeker.
Pick the item you think is worth it and research to ensure it is in fact a decades-old staple. Once you have done this and have fallen in love with your one eccentric item, scoop it up—you won’t regret it!
Don’t fake it
When it comes to certain things, especially those that are very visible like bags and blouses, never go the knock-off route. It’s absolutely fine to fill your closet with items like pants and shirts and even shoes that don’t boast a name. But when you’re going to rock a specific cut or pattern, like the aforementioned Burberry, for example, there’s nothing worse than sticking out like a sore thumb for buying a fake just to fit in. If your budget is too tight, wait and save, you’ll get there; until then, stick with the simplicity that is formal dressing with items that do so without boasting labels or obvious expressions of their brand.