By Fiona Ingham.
How best can you incorporate fashion trends into your business attire? Where to start in choosing trends to achieve maximum business impact?
Firstly I recommend decluttering and analysis of any bad patterns of buying to avoid in future. I hope your wardrobe is streamlined – here in the UK a recent study found that a vast 30 % of clothes hadn’t been worn in the past year!
Power dressing was used to signify one’s superior position in the business world. It is long gone and replaced by an even brighter idea called “professional dressing” which now propels the wearer not the outfit to center stage.
Being au courant requires a discreet fashion statement with just a nod to trends. A casual or business casual dress code, perhaps in professions such as media, PR or IT gives more leeway in respect to trends than sectors where corporate, formal rules of dress hold sway, such as finance, law or the civil service. But a trend also needs to work for your body shape, proportions, personality and lifestyle. It must be comfortable.
Since professional dressing propels the wearer to the forefront, let’s make a few observations on use of color. Daring to wear fashion colors shows we are in tune with the times. In this regard, Hollywood’s influence as ever is huge. Its glamorous red carpet dresses have spread not just scarlet fever but a rash of reds of all hues.
Cool pinks are deliciously clashed, from bubblegum and ‘le shocking’ to the fuchsia of Natalie Portman’s Chanel-copy suit in Jackie. La La Land has danced sunshine yellows in out of the cold, whilst cornflower blue, said to signify ‘reliability and strength’ as worn by Belle in Beauty and the Beast, is easy on the eye. Pantone’s Color of 2017, Greenery, sprouts everywhere, as predicted!
But back in the real world and our real topic, just pops of these colors might suffice, in scarves, tops, necklaces or even a jacket, with neutrals as your base. Navy blue, an elegant neutral, is hailed as the new black. Only time will tell, but this does chime with Christian Dior’s maxim ‘midnight blue is the only color that can ever compete with black.’ Going further and imitating the catwalk’s mad clash of colors and patterns needs courage, flair or a career in fashion!
Skirt lengths are conveniently optional with midi and maxi working well for the tall and shorter skirts giving better proportions for petites. Asymmetrical hems abound. ‘Hemline theory’ relating shorter skirts to boom times and longer to recessions rather amusingly relates these indecisive hemlines to financial uncertainty!
Anyway I suggest they are worn with care as they can distract so need a simple structured top and a heel or might be more appropriate for a party than the office. The same goes for the gorgeous ruffled asymmetrical tops which flatter the lucky who have sun-kissed shoulders.
Statement sleeves with ruffles provide an instant update but do ensure that the scale of the detail is right for you. Wrist fluting on dresses and blouses is a lovely touch but probably best kept for presentations to add emphasis to your gestures as it does rather hamper desk work!
If you love pattern go for it. Just be sure it reflects your body lines. Gingham checks work for most, whereas stripes are great for angular bodies. Take your pick from classic pinstripes or a quirky mix of colors and widths. Flower power’s return brings tiny sprigs for a delicate, pretty look or large cabbage roses for full-on glamour and are perfect for curvy women.
These patterns and of course plains can be found in the vast range of shirt, wrap and tie front dresses on offer. A comfortable dress is an easy one stop work solution to throw on this summer. Fabrics range from crisp cotton to luxurious silk jersey and the huge increase in the LSD (long sleeved dresses) available is exciting news to many of us! With just a change of footwear and accessories these dresses take you from desk to fine dining.
Happily denim has moved on from skinnies, best for straighter body lines, to a wider variety with something flattering for all shapes. Dark crisp denim is always more business-like than soft, faded or distressed versions, but many work settings still preclude denim, so the revamp of Ivy League type chinos and khakis, excellent dressed up or down, provides a smarter alternative.
The trouser suit’s return is fantastic news if you need to dress formally. Double breasted long jackets flatter the tall but petites look great in a shorter structured version, possibly with ankle skimming trousers.
Athleisure cannot be ignored even by late and timid adopters like me! Track suit bottoms upgraded to ‘track pants’ and track suits with structure or luxurious embellishment have sidled from sofa lounging to informal work attire. Speaking of lounging, do beware the silk pajamas trend particularly if styled with sliders, lest colleagues fear you have forgotten to dress!
A statement bag completes the look but the trend for micro bags is probably best kept for leisurewear as that cute elephant or smiley face might suggest you have raided your kid sister’s wardrobe.
The kitten heel’s return is my personal thrill. Unlike killer heels, aka taxi shoes, these shoes are made for walking! Alternatively search out the chunkier block mid heels if they work better for you. Chic comfortable flats abound in glorious colors; whether loafers, ballerinas, or sandals.
Your coat will determine your initial impact so do choose it with care. The trench coat marches on, now embroidered or with fluted sleeves. These fun versions will rapidly date unlike their classic relative, so buy with that in mind. In contrast a fabulous lightweight summer coat can be a brilliant long term investment and currently there are many around in colorful luxe fabrics and classic styles which you will enjoy for many seasons ahead.
First impressions do last so our outfit needs to immediately signal our intent. A relevant quote from Alexandra Shulman, departing editor of UK Vogue, states ‘Clothing is part of our life in so many ways, our uniform and armor for the day as well as a way of defining our identity.’
Have fun and express yourself by merging the trends into your own individual style rather than allowing them to overpower you. It often works best to wear just one at a time. When they add impact rather than dominating your look, the most important aspect in the professional setting, the wise words you say, will be heard loud and clear with no distraction.
This article first appeared in Turkish Airlines Skylife magazine.