Comfort Or Confidence? How To Nail Your Back-To-Office Style

Addicted to leggings but feel your best in a blazer? It's time to embrace the best of both worlds.
Vasyl Dolmatov via Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Normal’ clothes still feel a bit weird, don’t they?

From oversized hoodies to our go-to sweatpants, one unexpected thing the pandemic brought us was a renewed love for comfort-driven fashion. Overnight, loungewear morphed into workwear.

But as we settle back into office life, we’re realising that these lockdown looks don’t always leave us feeling our most confident. Sometimes, it feels good to get dressed up for work.

At the same time, not all of us feel ready for pandemic revenge dressing – the trend of dressing with a touch of melodrama, as a big f-you to Covid.

But don’t panic, help is at hand for those who’ve struggled to find the right balance. We asked Beth Goodrham, stylist and creator of the online styling programme Your Style Solution, for her tips on back-to-work attire.

Instead of seeing this as a choice – style vs comfort – we should instead be asking ourselves: “How can the clothes I wear to the office fit the desire to feel more comfortable?” says Goodrham.

“This approach aligns with my philosophy of styling yourself from the inside out,” she adds. “Rather than being dictated to by external factors – such as what you ‘ought’ to wear for work – it puts you, and your needs, at the centre of the equation.

“There’s no doubt that feeling comfortable leads to feeling confident, which leads to being less distracted and more productive – who else remembers dashing home to take off an uncomfortable bra, or too tight trousers?”

So how do you actually reach this perfect equilibrium? Here are six ways to confidently (and comfortably) brighten up your post-lockdown office wardrobe.

1. Shop your wardrobe

Before you embark on a hasty clear-out, try to approach your wardrobe with a fresh eye and trial different styling techniques to breathe new life into items you already own.

“There are most likely pieces that you’ve bought during lockdown that you can now mix with more traditional office wear that you owned pre-lockdown – such as a blazer or tailored trousers – to create new outfits,” says Goodrham.

Brighten up old pieces by adding an accessory, perhaps some minimalist jewellery or a splash of colour with your favourite mini bag. If you’re great at DIYs, another way to revamp clothing is reusing the fabric to create a whole new item.

2. Mine charity shops

Charity shops are a gem when it comes to finding one of a kind pieces that you can adopt into your style. Allowing you to time travel through every iconic clothing era, you can curate a wardrobe that is unique to you. Plus, you can thrift to your heart’s desire, whilst also donating to charity. What’s better than looking good and doing good?

3. Buy capsule pieces that have longevity

If you do want a new treat, buying a few staple pieces to create a “capsule wardrobe” is a great way to cut down on the amount of items you’re shopping for – saving money and the planet.

A blazer, monochrome tees, jeans and a good fitting dress are all key items that (if shopped cleverly in moderation) can be worn again and again. Goodrham advises: “A padded coat would be a practical but good investment for the winter and a new suit in a relaxed, slouchy style may give you the look that you’d like at the same time as offering the comfort you desire.”

4. Wear colours that make you happy

Many of us can fall into the trap of buying every item of clothing in the same shade, and while it’s good to mix it up, ultimately, wearing colours or shades that make you feel happy and confident is your best bet. “You might choose a couple of neutral colours but beyond that, wear colours that make you happy – that is by far the most important thing,” Goodrham says. Besides, they do say the best thing you can wear is a smile!

5. Discover slow fashion and sustainable brands

The fashion industry is more hot on sustainable clothing than ever before, and with a rise in slow fashion brands and sustainable collections, it has been made easier for us to access planet-friendly items. Research is key when it comes to sustainable brands, find labels that fit your morals and make sure to look at what each item of clothing is made from. Knowing your clothing is sustainable will add extra sparkle to any new purchases.

6. Prioritise comfort when buying new pieces

Instead of dropping loungewear completely, opt for a smart-casual look that still incorporates a relaxed aspect. Elasticated waistbands, breathable fabrics or thermal leggings for the winter are just some pieces suggested by Goodrham. She also recommends: “A dress that is fitted around your shoulders and torso but then flares out so it’s not tight around your middle - these items are going to make you feel more comfortable”.

For those who do fancy a new item or two, Goodrham recommends these products:

A silky scarf can update a simple knit and tailored trousers
Oliver Bonas
These wide leg trousers are a versatile option
Pair your shirt dress or tailored trousers with a chunky boot
This shirt dress nods to office attire without being too office-specific
Shirt dress, H&M, £17.99
This relaxed, oversized bag is made from recycled polyester
A bright, soft knit will brighten up dark mornings
Soft knit sweater, Zara, £27.99
These 'Joy pants' are stylish with an elasticated waistband
Joy Pant, Baukjen, £62
A jersey blazer is a great staple