Okanagan office wear

Our Valley is blessedly casual even when it comes to corporate wear. That said, you can distinguish yourself among the company crowd with some simple tips.
Revisiting balance:

The same big/small, fitted/loose, long/short, and bright/dark principles work for business attire, although they can be interpreted slightly differently when it comes to suiting.
Jackets that are fitted at the waist should be treated as a “small” and will pair best with wide- or boot-leg pants or A-line skirts.

Menswear-inspired jackets that are boxy look better with cropped, fitted bottoms or shorter skirts. Cropped collarless jackets, a look created and made famous by Chanel, pair great with almost anything.

Fit matters:
Absolutely nothing matters more for your work-wear wardrobe than proper fit. Baggy pants dragging on the floor or tight clothes showing every curve do not project a professional image.

Buy the best-fitting suiting you can, take care of it, and get it altered if you gain or lose weight.

Mix and match suiting:
Good quality suiting can be an investment. Instead of buying multiple suits in various colours and brands, apply the capsule wardrobe mantra of picking an all-season palette for your work wardrobe.

You could get various silhouettes of jackets, pants and skirts in the same colour, or choose complimentary tones to mix and match. Another approach is to get bottoms all in one colour with a variety of coordinating jackets.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune:
Though suits are typically one of the bigger investments in your work wardrobe, there are ways to save. While everyone’s definition of “affordable” is different, certain brands specialize in business basics at lower price points, such as RW & Co and Banana Republic. 

One great benefit of buying all your suiting from one brand is consistency of fit, colour and fabric. 
Just starting out? Don’t overlook second-hand boutiques. LC Fashions on Spall and Rosebuds on Kirschner are filled with excellent-quality, minimally-used suit ensembles.

Even if the fit and style is a bit off for you, it can be worth it to get items tailored for a custom fit and updated silhouette.

Watch for sales. Even suiting basics go on seasonal sale at most retailers when they sell off darks at the end of winter and lighter clothes at the end of summer. Stock up on classic pieces at these times.

If you think capsule suiting will look like a uniform, think again. Jewelry, scarves, coloured tights, belts, and under-layer tees add pattern and variety to even the most basic suits.

Jeans Friday:
Ah, those blessed casual days when you get to wear comfy clothes to the office. Just don’t treat it as a “get-out-of-professionalism-free” card.

If you are going to wear jeans, keep it classy. Skin tight, ripped, patched, baggy low-rise, and overalls are all no-no’s. Classic dark boot-cut is the go, or cropped for summer. Other options are nice khakis or linen pants.

Shoes you can wear all day:
Blessedly, the tyranny of the heel is over. Today, women have more stylish choices than ever for office footwear that won’t hurt feet after a few hours.

I’m a big believer in buying the best quality shoes you can afford. Leather uppers allow your feet to breath and will become form-fitting over time, whereas cheap synthetic uppers have no give and are more likely to wear out quickly.

Though not cheap, they will last if you take care of them and give you better cost-per-wear over time than plastic shoes.

Flat heeled loafers, wingtips and ballet flats have all become accepted office attire.
If you must wear heels, try to keep them below three inches Thankfully, two-inch kitten- and block-heels have become uber-fashionable again.

Some of my favourite makes for attractive and comfortable office shoes are Cole Haan, Coach, and Everlane. Strut shoe store in Mission Park Mall also carries many great options.

Work totes:
Nothing can ruin the look of a professional outfit worse than a casual or inappropriate handbag. If you carry a laptop or tablet with you, invest in go-with-everything sturdy tote.

Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull has become the gold standard of the designer work tote. Though I carried one 10 years ago when they were first introduced, I just cannot justify their current prices for what is essentially a coated canvas bucket.

For something in that shape at lower cost, most contemporary brands such as Tory Burtch, Kate Spade and Michael Kors create similar carryalls. Or stand out in the crowd with at tote from Liberty of London, an established European brand famous for their fantastical prints.

If you’ve reached the corner office and budget is no worry, there is nothing more down-to-business than a Prada Galleria Saffiano leather tote. Maybe a good purchase with your promotion raise.


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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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