A friend once asked what I would do if I had to wear a uniform for work, or if I was to find my self in an environment where corporate dressing was the norm. I was in the very early stages of my career life, but the answer seemed clear even then, that’s not somewhere I’d like to end up. Work life would be just another style to take on, but I could never see myself in a tailored skirt suit. My first office job saw a rotation of fairly safe for work casual outfits, replaced ever so often with a trend piece. Numerous jobs later, my style has never needed to be so versatile as it is now that I work freelance hours. Broken up between time in the studio, client meetings and good old screen to screen time. The first two have needed a little bit of a tweak, and the last is usually done in pyjamas, gym gear or whatever pieces of clothing were still hanging on my chair from the day before.
I fell into studio dressing fairly quickly, a few 11hr shoots in uncomfortable shoes, a couple of 7am starts where I probably should have washed my hair the night before and numerous studio spaces where air conditioning and heating seem to have been left out of the structure plans. All this meant I fine tooth combed through my essentials real quick and picked out a handful of items that were fuss free and still something I’d enjoy wearing without compromising; not a skirt suit in sight. After all, you'll spend more time in your work clothes than any other, you'll need to be happy with what you wear. Think functionality, with enough little details to keep the look interesting, natural materials for durability and minimal accessories.
Button up shirts: I’ve written countless bits of online copy over the years on why you should own one of these, and the most important reason is stylistic variability. Depending on the style of button up you chose, it can take you from casual to formal in a slight play with the buttons. Done all the way up, sleeves rolled down, rolled up or cuffed, unbuttoned to a modest V, unbuttoned further for a flash of your favourite lingerie for when you’re ready to leave work, thrown over a cami as a light over up, tucked into a high waisted skirt, worn loose over denim cut offs, twist tied for weekend ease. All in one shirt. I own the above chambray shirt from Topshop for studio and casual wear and a silk Alexander Wang button up for client meetings and formal occasions, but both cross over on occasion.
Cashmere sweater: I usually catch public transport to wherever I’m working on the day. If it’s a particularly early start, especially in autumn or spring, Sydney weather will vary 5-10’C during my travel time. An extra layer of warmth I can shed quickly is up there on my hierarchy of morning needs along with food and water because I can pretend I’m still in bed for an extra half an hr and then tie it around my shoulders when I start shooting and get too warm. It doesn’t have to be cashmere, wool is a great alternative with pretty much all the same benefits. Look for fine knits and skip anything with angora, the last thing you want to do is use the lint roller on yourself.
Denim: Denim needs no introduction, how casual you can go will depend on your work environment, but even the most dress code conscious person can substitute black pants for a pair of black fitted and nondescript jeans. At the moment I’m really into dark grey denim in a light wash, goes with just as many things as black does and adds depth to an all black outfit on the odd occasion you’re just too damn of wearing all black. Extra hot days have seen me change these up for a work length appropriate pair of light denim cut offs.
Flat-but-not-too-flat shoes: Photographers, stylists, production crew and anyone else on site will tell you sneakers are the go to staple. With sports luxe being on the fashion radar more often than not, its pretty much the norm to mix up sneakers with whatever it is you normally wear. Personally, I still err on this, I wear sneakers, but ankle boots are my go to piece for two reasons. An ankle boot with a small heel will give you better support for when you have to be on your feet for 10hrs and they just look so much more put together with just as little effort. No bigger buzz kill than having to turn up to a dinner after in sneakers. Leather doesn’t sweat so I have no problem wearing these when it gets warmer. Lace up brogues are another great option.
Hat: Hats are an absolute life saver and there’s no two ways about it. It’s one of those accessories that packs a whole lot of personality and functionality into one. Bad hair day? Want to hide from a co-worker? Seem to have covered every part of your body but still cold? Hats, to all of the above. Nothing says don’t talk to me until I finish this as clearly as glaring at someone from underneath a wide brimmed hat. That being said, I never wear them into meetings or any jobs that require extensive eye contact and conversation. A lot of people steer clear of hats, but take the time to find the right style for you and you’ll never go back. I mainly wear Rag & Bone fedoras with a medium brim in winter and a light panama in summer. I look horrid in beanies but if your head fits they double duty for holding up convenience stores after a not so great day at work.
Personal accessories: Most accessories just aren’t that functional lets be honest, especially when your fancy oversized necklace is getting caught in the hair of some model as you’re trying to zip up her dress. High heeled shoes are out of the question too. Jangly bracelets will drive your coworkers up the wall. So its best to keep these to a minimum, but make sure the ones you chose pack a punch. I wear a small selection of gold, silver and rose gold jewelry and a men’s watch daily. Mixing silver and gold tones is really easy if your jewelry is fine and you carry the colour combinations throughout more than one piece. I’ve worn my Russian wedding ring for over 8 years now, its small and sentimental and I can spend hours twirling it when in thinking mode.
And once you find your work staples, invest in them. Buy them in the best quality you can afford because they'll be working just as hard to keep comfortable and effortlessly well dressed.
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APC wool cashmere sweater
J Brand skinny jeans
Alexander Wang boots
Rag&Bone wool fedora
Cartier trinity ring