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Dress For Success: Your How-To Guide On All Things Workwear

Have you ever found THAT dress - you know, the one that you put on and you immediately feel like you're ready to hit the runway, or suddenly break out into a musical number? Maybe it's not a dress... maybe it's your favourite funky hat, a pair of shoes, or your lucky denim jacket. Regardless of what your joy-inducing wardrobe piece might look like - at birdsnest we truly believe that every single piece of your wardrobe should be giving you that same buzz. Now, before you all start to roll your eyes, just think about it this way: if what you wear makes you feel something, that 'something' should always be good, or powerful, or beautiful, or confident (the list goes on).

Now that this is on your mind, let's shift our focus to our work wardrobe. What we all do for a living might look completely different - but the power of 'dressing to success' will always remain the same. You wouldn't pick an uncomfortable pair of pyjamas that would affect your sleep, so why would you pick an outfit that doesn't make you feel comfortable and confident at work - after all, the average person spends 13 years of their life at work! Ok, so maybe not all of us get to pick what they wear to work, or perhaps you don't work, or maybe your work prevents you from wearing anything nice at all - hold onto your favourite funky hats because this isn't just about putting on a cute little pencil skirt and pumps (although full disclosure, we will be including a pencil skirt and pumps here and there) this is about choosing something that works for you, while you do the work.

So if you're a stay at home mum, you own your own business, you work on a farm, you're studying, you're a CEO, you're in between jobs, you're looking for a promotion, you train dolphins or you're an astronaut and we didn't lose you at the mention of 'breaking out into a musical number' - congratulations, because you are about to find out EXACTLY how to take charge of those 13 years of your life spent at work, and look fabulous while doing so!

HOW TO: Dress for a job interview

Perhaps you're going for an interview and you want to 'dress the part' - first of all go-you, you got an interview, secondly if 'dressing the part' makes you feel like a little bit of an impostor, you might need to add something to your outfit that gives the look a little more 'you'. Since at birdsnest we love nothing more than giving style advice, here's some dot points we've put together for figuring out how to dress for an interview.

Be True To Yourself

What does that even mean 'Be True To Yourself'? Well, when you google that sentence, it comes up with something like this: "Being true to yourself means you don't stress about making other people happy or living by someone else's standards. You aren't worried about what other people think of you. Without compromise, you live as your true and natural self." What does this have to do with dressing for success? To put it simply, even if you have to wear a strict uniform to work, don't let that dim your sparkle! Be sure to still take pride in how you look, and wear at least one little thing that is undeniably YOU. *Please note, we do not advise wearing tap shoes, a tiara, a fake nose or tutu unless specifically requested by your workplace - and if your workplace does request you wear this we need to know where you work and why you're having so much fun.*

Take Pride In Your look

We will say it once and we will say it again, confidence is truly your best accessory. You can scream "don't judge a book by its cover" until the cows come home, but that's not going to magically save you from not getting the job because you forgot to iron your shirt. If you are allergic to ironing (a serious yet common condition) get yourself some crinkle-free pieces and use that extra bit of time in the morning to stare at yourself in the mirror and repeat 'I got this'. Here are some crinkle-free pieces to soothe your iron-hating hearts:

Not only is wool known for it's temperature regulating properties - it also is remarkably resistant to creasing! These wool pants by Natural for birds are great for those who travel for work, or those who would rather use the time normally spent ironing on other things (perhaps a second coffee). Shop these pants here.

Owning wardrobe pieces that can be thrown in a bag and thrown on without any fuss is a MUST when it comes to your work wear. This piece by our exclusive label boho bird is smart and stylish and you guessed it - crinkle free! Shop this top here.

This stunning and free skirt from boho bird will have you swirling and twirling into your work week with all the time you have saved on ironing! Shop the skirt here.

By choosing a piece with slightly heavier weight and a little it of stretch, you are choosing a piece that will iron itself for you! That's right, this gorgeous set from boho bird will have all it's wrinkles sorted in the morning if you just hang it out over night - if only we had the power to do that... Shop the set here.

Choose Comfort

As if sitting in a room with a stranger and answering questions about yourself isn't uncomfortable enough - when you add those slightly-too-small-shoes or that skirt-with-the-zipper-that-digs-in, we really aren't doing ourselves any favours! Of course - when talking about comfort you simply can not go past the comfort of natural fibres, and when talking about job interviews there's one piece that comes to mind that will trump all others. It's a linen shirt! To all of you who got super excited about the thought of crinkle-free earlier, we're deeply sorry about following that up with probably the most iron-able fabric - but we promise, that the time spent ironing/or steaming a good linen shirt is so, so worth the lifetime of professional style it will provide. Here are a few different ways to style a classic linen shirt:

The Linen Shirt

Linen shirts can come in many different shapes and sizes, but the idea is the same, it acts as a clean blank canvas and is super handy to have in your work wardrobe - no matter your career path. The Linen Blend Relaxed Shirt from our exclusive brand Natural for birds is a great example of the versatility of the linen shirt - see below how to style it depending on your career or occasion!

Shop the shirt here.

Shop the shirt here.

Keep it Simple

You know when you meet someone new, and even though you tried so hard to remember their name, all you can remember was the lobster broach they were wearing? Whilst we have nothing against a lobster broach (or any broach - shellfish related or otherwise) it's important not to 'crowd' your job interview look with pieces that might distract someone from noticing your supreme employ-ability. Keeping it simple is another great way to avoid being over dressed, or under dressed, for an interview and take the stress out of figuring out what to wear.

HOW TO: Change Up Your Work Style

Even if we find ourselves in a job we love - sometimes you might have those days where remembering just why you love your job so much is a little more difficult than others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a few 'off' days at work - but what if we told you that SHOPPING could help you to avoid these days? Do we have your attention now?

Whoever said 'change is as good as a holiday' must have known a thing or two about just how magic a little bit of change is to your day-to-day routine when it comes to adding a little bit of inspiration to your work week! Changing up your work style can be as simple or as dramatic as you like (this being said - we still wouldn't recommend a tiara, unless of course, you work as a princess at children's parties). Just like rearranging the furniture or getting a fresh new haircut, a new outfit or key wardrobe piece can put that little extra spring in your step required to really amp up your attitude for work and open up the flood gates of success!

Changing up your work style could look different to everyone, so we've narrowed it down to a few easy options for you to consider:

Adding a splash of colour to your 9-5

Injecting colour into your wardrobe is such an easy way to add some life and vibrance to your look - and since sometimes life and vibrance can be in short supply when we're busy at work, why shouldn't we try to do the same for our 9-5 wardrobe?!

If you work in an office, you might find yourself reaching for classic monochrome pieces for an easy and professional look. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with chic monochrome workwear - try adding a pop of colour to your look to really elevate your style!

Another great way to inject colour into an otherwise mostly monochrome style is to nominate a day of the week where you where a bold print - WARNING: suddenly popping on a wild print may attract some compliments and turn some heads - including your own when you walk by the mirror!!

Not sure where to start? Here's some inspiration we prepared earlier!

A colourful accessory can be grabbed at the last moment and thrown on with just about any monochromatic outfit to really brighten things up. This outfit that our gorgeous buying bird Sarah, shows us two things: work wear can be easy and comfortable, and adding a splash of colour makes things fun! Shop this outfit here.

This outfit modeled by our gorgeous shop bird Lorraine shows us how a loud print can be made easy to wear in muted colours and toned back with your neutrals! Muted tones are a great place to start when it comes to brightening up your 9-5. Shop the outfit here.

Need some more colour inspo? Take a look at some more gorgeous ways to incorporate colour into your wardrobe with some fantastic tips from some of our birdsnest birds here.

Pick a Day

It may not be an option for everyone to flip their work attire completely on its head, and we're not asking you to - just add a little style spice to your wardrobe wherever you can. A good place to start on 'adding some style spice' to your work wardrobe is to pick a day of the week (Friday is usually a great option) that you will freshen up your look.

"Casual Friday" is a widely accepted term that really means "today I am going to wear whatever I want" - and right now we are asking you to take that ball and run with it (we see you reaching for that tiara again, stop it)! It doesn't have to be Friday, but on your nominated day, wear something that puts a spring in your step! Not sure how? Here's some inspiration for you!

If you find yourself regularly reaching for 'safe' work wear options, adding a classy floral dress to your rotation could be just the ticket to your nominated day of fun. The best part about this number? It will take you straight to after work drinks with ease! Shop the dress here.

If you already work in a pretty casual work space and the term 'casual Friday' is lost on you - try adding a statement piece to your work wardrobe to help freshen up your look. This spotted blouse by boho bird is a perfect example of a subtle spotted statement that will have you turning heads and kicking goals all at the same time! Shop this outfit here.

HOW TO: Mix and Match Your Favourite Pieces

No matter the function of a good wardrobe piece, be it work wear or otherwise, versatility is key! We've all been there, you see an item that catches your eye and you just HAVE to have it - then your heart breaks when you take it home and realise you have absolutely nothing to wear it with, and it clearly does not have a place in your wardrobe like it has a place in your heart. If that's the saddest story you've ever heard, we have some good news for you because we are about to tell you how to avoid all that and build a wardrobe that will not discriminate against those eye-catching pieces your heart so desires!

Build on your basics

Go and look in your wardrobe, we mean it, get up and go look in your wardrobe. We'll wait right here....
Ok welcome back! Now, in your wardrobe did you see the following; plain white or black tee, plain white or black long sleeve tee, a plain blouse, a good pair of stockings, a nice pencil skirt (told you we'd mention it), a good pair of plain tailored pants, one pair of super comfy flats, one pair of super comfy pumps and a nice structured jacket? If you answered no to any of these - this is that eye-catching piece we talked about earlier has nowhere to go!

We're not asking you to go and buy all these things at once, and after all you know better than anyone what you actually need but a good variety of key basic pieces is the foundation of every strong wardrobe.

From your top to your toes here are some basics you should consider:

Work-wear or otherwise a basic white tee is a wardrobe essential! Perfect when layered up or worn on its own for a clean casual look. Shop this shirt here.

We challenge you to throw on a classic black blazer with anything and NOT feel professional. This best-selling blazer comes in so many colours and is a must-have basic when it comes to corporate style! Shop the blazer here.

A pair of black pants will help to fend off any 'I don't know what to wear' moments, and a nice tailored pair is a must-have for your work wardrobe! Shop these pants here.

This skirt shows us that basics don't always have to be black and white! By choosing a classic print in neutral colours, you are opening up so many outfit opportunities without restricting your work-wear basics to just monochrome! Shop this skirt here.

A pair of nude heels are truly your work-wear wardrobe bread and butter. They will go with just about everything and work really well if you've already got a lot of black going on in your outfit. Shop these heels here.

A good pair of slightly dressy flats will allow for corporate and comfort to come together in your work style. You'll find with any good pair of black flats, they will translate easily between corporate and casual. Shop these shoes here.

Choose a theme

Having a cohesive theme in your wardrobe is the easiest way to ensure you are getting the most out of each and every piece. Think of it like you're making a yummy pasta - you'd only throw in ingredients that taste good together, and the same should be said with your wardrobe! We may have touched on this before with 'build on your basics' but remember: each piece you add to your wardrobe should be able to be worn with at least three other pieces. The easiest way to ensure this, is by choosing a theme or style so that you know for sure it's going to work. Here are two great examples of super versatile capsule wardrobes that stick to a colour theme;

Choosing a theme like navy is a great way to open up your work wardrobe to endless outfit opportunities. Once you've decided on your theme you can expand on it by experimenting with different shades of blue or navy based prints! Take a look at how our styling expert Sandy puts together this chic and professional navy capsule here.

Here we have our styling bird Sandy, showing us how with a clever mix of monochrome, rust, plains, and prints, you can easily create countless looks and will surely never get bored of your office attire! Want to see Sandy bring this capsule to life? You can do so here.

How to: Dress for an after-hours work function.

I think we've earned a break from talking about work clothes don't you? Why don't we all slip into something a little more relaxed and talk after-hours over a cheese platter and some wine. Okay, so maybe technology hasn't advanced enough for us to share a cheese platter and wine right now (lucky for you cause we'd eat it all). We can however talk you through some great tips for dressing for an after-hours work function!

Be prepared

Being prepared doesn't mean you have to be ready to head out at any given moment, but by choosing styles that can easily translate between desk and dinner you'll never be caught out when after-work drinks are on offer! Here are some examples of outfits that speak both corporate chic and casual drinks.

By adding a statement boot to this monochrome outfit, you can easily head straight from the office to dinner without skipping a beat! Shop this outfit here.

Yes, a wrap dress absolutely belongs in your work wear rotation! This outfit has just the right amount of edge for work and play. Shop the outfit here.

Don't go overboard

It's crucial that when dressing for an after-hours work function, we still make sure that we are keeping it professional and practical! Don't forget to take into account the venue and the dress code when choosing an outfit for work-related events - in other words don't wear your ball gown to your co-workers farewell at the RSL. If you're worried about being over or underdressed to a work-event a safe bet is to try to aim for 'smart casual' . If you're not sure about what smart casual means, here's some great examples:

Still unclear about smart casual? Good news - you can shop all our 'Smart Casual' outfit options that the birdsnest girls have put together for you in one place. Take a look here.

How to: Dress for success when working for yourself/at home.

Since most of us now have had a little stint of working from home, we all know how tempting it is to spend your time in the home office wearing your pj's and slippers - and boy was it a real treat. After day 4, or 5 or 20 however, it does get a little dull. Getting up and getting dressed for the day is a great routine to get into to inspire and motivate you when you're working from home or working for yourself. This doesn't mean you have to sacrifice comfort for inspiration - just take a look at our blog on all things cosy here.

We are so passionate about dressing for success when working from home we even built some capsules on the matter. Take a look at how Steph, our styling savvy buying bird, has styled her at home picks!

How to: Dress for an important meeting

Not always, but sometimes meetings can be daunting! So why not take control of what you can and head into a meeting with your head held high feeling confident, ready and stylish. Here are a few things to remember when dressing for that important meeting.

Wear something that makes you feel good.

We all have those wardrobe pieces that lift us up! It could be that they fit really well, that they attract compliments, or maybe it was what you were wearing last time you kicked a major life goal (lucky socks and undies are included) - if you have this, then let it be your secret weapon to bring with you to a meeting for a little extra confidence.

Try (a little) something new.

You know when you wear your hair a little different and EVERYBODY compliments you and you sit there and question why on earth you've never tried it before? It's not because your hair looks any better (although, if it's the first time you've brushed it in a week - it might), it's because it looks DIFFERENT. We've said it once and we'll say it again, change is as good as a holiday - so for your next important meeting, why not add a little something new to your look?

Here are some examples!

A little lippy goes a long way! Chereen, our gorgeous marketing bird, loves a bit of lippy and looking at this gorgeous photo - you can see why! A bold lip is a perfect starting point to mix up your work look and invite confidence into your corporate style.

Leopard print, ladies, leopard print! A splash of animal print is a one way ticket to completely transforming your look with just one subtle statement. The best thing about leopard print is that the neutral colours will blend in with just about anything in your wardrobe. The stunning Sarah, one of our buying birds, shows us how to look lovely in leopard.

Look the part.

We can only hope that our fashion choices don't directly impact the outcome of an important meeting - but dressing for success is not about impressing others (that's just a cool bonus) it's about feeling empowered, and who doesn't want to head into that meeting with a little extra confidence? A great way to channel your inner 'Girl Boss' is to picture your most successful self, and choose an outfit that embodies that version of you - because newsflash, you ARE your most successful self already, and you deserve to feel like it!

Again, if dressing like a character from the Devil Wears Prada makes you feel like an imposter, don't worry. Keeping it casual and relaxed can is not against the rules. Here are a few examples of some corporate casual classics we think will have you feeling like the beautiful boss you are:

HOW TO: Add jeans to your work rotation!

Maybe your work attire is a little more casual than the office attire we have so cleverly shown you so far. Say, you have quite an active hands-on job where there is no place for a tailored blazer - don't worry we're not forgetting about you. When you don't have much wriggle-room in your job to be able to experiment with fashion, it just means you can pay a bit of extra attention to the pieces you really rely on at work - and what better place to put your attention than the way your clothes fit?!

Take for example the humble denim jeans - we can confidently say that almost all of you will have at least one pair of jeans sitting in your wardrobe, but maybe only a handful of you have 'work' jeans. If you're a part of that handful, please listen up because we have a thing or two to tell you about putting your jeans to work! Here are the three rules we live by when buying denim:

1. Pick your shape! Between boot cut, skinny, straight and wide-leg, there truly is a shape out there for every BODY. Make sure you try a few different shapes before deciding which you feel the best in - because at the end of the day that's what all this is about!

2. Get the fit right! Ok ladies, repeat after me: getting the right size jeans is just as important as getting the right size shoes! This may sometimes be a little easier said than done, but you can only get better at it so don't worry. Always remember if the denim has a little bit of stretch to it, size down - it may not feel right straight away, but when the denim gives they will fit you like a dream!

3. Treat your denim right! Finding the right pair of jeans is not a race, it's a marathon - except way less tiring and you don't have to run (PHEW). What we mean is, just because you've found the right pair of jeans, doesn't mean you're job is done - be sure to only wash your jeans if you absolutely have to, and when you do use a cold, gentle wash and NEVER tumble dry (seriously don't do it, I know it's tempting but just promise us you won't). Like us, denim can be a little sensitive, but if you give it the treatment it deserves it will last you a lifetime!

Still not sure how to find your dream denim? Why not browse through the different fits as a start:

Straight jeans are like that friend that says 'yes' to everything and is never ever a bother! They will make instant best-friends with all your wardrobe pieces will keeping you casual and comfy! Shop straight jeans here.

A good pair of bootcut jeans will easily take centre stage in an outfit, without offending the rest of your wardrobe! Shop boot leg jeans here.

Skinny jeans are pretty much perfect for pretty much everything - and they know it! Dress them up with heels and a blouse, or dress them right down with a knit and some slippers - we don't care, just get yourself a good pair of skinny jeans here.

Still not sure about the right style for you? Take a look at our blog dedicated to denim here.

Love, the birdsnest girls x

UPDATED: This article was first published on 5th June 2020