It's so much easier to do office wear when it's cold outside. Rubbish weather gives you an excuse to cover up, skirts over the knee (to keep warm more than anything), legs hidden in opaque tights, and cardigans under blazer jackets. I suppose I'm typically British in that as soon as I see even a sliver of sunlight, my natural impulse is to strip off and run around outside singing Halleluiah. However, the summer sun does not cause production to grind to a halt. We still have to go to work, and manage to dress professionally without overheating in a polyester suit. When I realised that I would be called for interview several times between June and September, I had to face up to the fact that denim shorts and a bralet were out of the question. Certain summer looks cannot be rocked in the office (unless you work for VICE or some equally cool publication). This list includes crop tops. Not even with a high-waisted skirt. Just don't do it. This also goes for teensy short skirts, anything that looks like sportswear and garments with large, flesh-revealing cut-outs. If I was on a slightly more generous budget, I'd go straight to Ted Baker for their pastels and neat tailoring but one must work with resources available (also there's nothing like the feeling when you nab something in the sale that you've had your eye on for months). I want to look summery and stylish and still be considered as a serious candidate, without overspending. This guide to high street buys is for anyone in an office, on an internship, or braving interviews this summer.
The Jacket: Every girl needs a well-tailored blazer jacket in her office wardrobe, and these can be quite pricey. I was initially attracted by Topshop's Tailored Crepe Blazer in soft ivory, but on closer inspection it turned out to be 100% polyester. H&M's summery, white blazer jacket with herringbone texture is equally well-fitted, less than half the price at £30 and made of a cotton/linen mix with no man-made fibres.
The Blouse: I particularly like River Island's White Floral Chelsea Girl Shirt, £20. The subtle, vintage-inspired print is like the wallpaper my grandma has, but in a good way. It's collarless, neat and guaranteed to keep you cool at your desk.
The Shorts: I was always adamant that shorts couldn't be worn in the office, unless you work for some kind of fashion-forward artsy organisation, but I'm beginning to see the error of my ways. I'm now warming to the idea that shorts can be smart, as long as they're styled properly. Keep them tailored and of a modest length, team with a matching blazer jacket and you have an unusual (but not crazy) office outfit. ASOS' High Waisted Shorts with Notch Detail, £20, are wonderfully chic and available in a versatile stone colour.
The Dress: Miss Selfridge's Lilac Stripe Smock Dress, currently reduced to £15, is a wonderful example of a garment that looks fresh and summery without being too casual. The dip-hem skirt finishes just above the knee at its shortest point and the colours are classic summer pastels. There's no reason why you shouldn't bring ditzy summer prints into the office, when teamed with a sharply-tailored blazer jacket.
The Heels: I'll come clean and admit that I'm really bad at wearing heels in the daytime. They hurt too much without the anesthetizing effects of alcohol and aren't particularly practical when you're late for a meeting. However, ASOS' Spirit Heels £32, have a delicate pointed toe and thin ankle strap, and are a medium-height of 3 inches. In a fresh turquoise, they look dainty and feminine whilst still maintaining a business-like edge.
The Flats: John Rocha's cream lace-trimmed brogues for House of Fraser, currently £26.25 online, are the most beautiful flats I've seen on the high street all season. I really can't fault them for colour or design and the lace panels bring to mind pre-Raphaelite dresses and summer weddings.
Fantasy Item: Burberry's Contrast Trim Silk Shirt would be my I-have-real-money-to-spend choice. At £335, it's pretty pricey for a shirt, but the monochrome colours keep it firmly up-to-date with Spring/Summer catwalk picks and also lend the garment an air of eternal classiness. It's a staple item that can be worn again and again.
Follow Harriet Williamson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jazzplayhaus