I wanted to write this for my female university friends who are going into the big wide world of work this September, who don't have a lot of cash but want to upgrade their look for a professional setting. Yes, it's time to ditch the tracky bottoms, slouchy leggings and ironic hoodies in favour of something sharper and more grown up. AW13 looks pretty exciting in terms of trends, so here's how to work them on a budget for the office.
The Dress - Checks, tartans and dogtooth patterns are everywhere this season, seen on the catwalk for Celine, Lanvin, Dolche & Gabbana, Michael Kors and Marc by Marc Jacobs. If you're willing to splash a little, my favourite pick is the Cooperative Pinafore Dress in Tartan from Urban Outfitters. At £52, it's a little outside my budget. For something more affordable, try Forever 21's Houndstooth Overall Dress in black and white, for £18.75.
The Coat - The oversized, womanly shape, as seen at Victoria Beckham, is my style of choice this season. There are some nice textures in Topshop, but for small purses my choice would be H&M's Reefer Jacket at £39.99. It's 50% wool and recycled fibres, oversized yet feminine and in a classy navy blue. H&M gets it right over and over again with coats and knitwear, in that they refuse to sacrifice quality whilst keeping it affordable.
The Skirt - In keeping with the proliferation of ladylike lengths this season, seen at Daks, Victoria Beckham, and Calvin Klein, the Tokyo Doll Red Jaquard Midi Skirt from New Look is an example of midi-cool. It's a snip at £17.99 and looks perfect teamed with a simple blouse and neatly-tailored blazer.
The Boots - If my grandma taught me anything, it was not to go cheap when buying shoes that you're going to wear every day. Your winter boots should really be the most expensive purchase of the season, unless you're looking for a new bag (in which case it's a different story!) The Shoe Cult Ramble Chelsea Boot from Nasty Gal, at £62.83 is my current favourite. They are 100% leather and boast a textured sole, updating the classic Chelsea boot and making it both tough and smart.
The Shirt - If in doubt, go with something simple on top, particularly if you're wearing a skirt with a busy print. Pussy bow finishes and contrast collars are pretty fail-safe in terms of adding detail without going overboard. I really like the Gathered Neck Blouse, £28, from ASOS in a tactile sheer chiffon.
The Blazer - Every girl needs an affordable, machine washable (trust me) blazer for the office and the simply titled Short Jacket, £7.99 from H&M, comes in colour-pop pink or classic black. Look out for wines and berry reds as seen at Gucci and Armani.
The Jumper - Winter pastels are just what the doctor ordered to brighten up dull autumn days and soften a grungy pair of boots. The Katherine Oversized Jumper, £15 from Boohoo, is an acrylic mix that comes in various shades, including pink and mint green. Pair with a pencil skirt and statement earrings.
Fantasy Item - If you ever fall into possession of a great big pile of cash, Harvey Nichols has a show-stopping Armani Collezioni Striped Wool Blend Crepe Jacket. It's more than several months of my rent at £670, but the peaked lapels and gathered front make this a truly special piece, guaranteed to elicit envious stares at the water cooler.