Living Articles

Honest Work: what do you wear to work?

Every month we ask our anonymous panel of contributors a question about their working lives. This month they talk about the clothes they wear to do their jobs

The Technical Advisor

I work for the local government, in the environmental protection department. I live in Birmingham.

"I work in the kind of office where, if I wear a smart dress and a lipstick, I get asked several times a day what job I'm going for and what time is my interview. Even though it's fairly relaxed, the office dress code bans jeans (I know!), shorts, sports shoes and clothing and slogan T-shirts. That leaves me with a rather boring set of black or grey smart trousers with plain tops, smock dresses in muted colours, printed cardies and scarves. Layers are a must as the temperature in the office is a bit unpredictable. So it's dress to fit in, not dress to impress for me. Overall rating: must improve!"

The Religious Institution Manager

I am a charity executive director. I live in London and am married with two grown-up children.

"I have a 'uniform' for work - a dress ( so I don't have to bother with matching top to skirt or trousers) and jacket, with smart (mid-heel) shoes kept under my desk. I am the boss and so I have to look smart. I wore school uniform until I was 18 and then a nursing uniform for 4 years and so I have never got out of the habit of wanting not to have to think about what to wear for work."

The Diplomat

I work on global issues. I currently live and work in London. 

"With two children under five and a busy job, time is precious. For work, I tend to wear structured dresses that suit my pear shape in any colour but black. I am an atypical diplomat, so it's important that what I wear makes me feel confident and makes the person I am meeting with comfortable. Warmer colours help break the ice and build trust.

I'm not into fast fashion. Over the years I've learnt the hard way which styles don't suit me. Now I stick to the brands that work for me. Tailored pieces in good-quality fabric from Reiss, LK Bennett, Karen Millen, Cos, Finery and in the sale, Tory Burch and DVF.

But it goes beyond just clothes, the charm bracelet my husband has added a charm to every anniversary never fails to keep me calm in difficult situations."

The Surveyor

I value land and property for clients who aim to redevelop them. I live and work in London.

"My colleagues see me five days of the week, so I want to dress well and have options; I couldn’t wear the same item twice in a week! That said, every day is a combination of trousers (on the lookout for decent work skirts), shirt/ blouse and cardigan/ jacket. I like to be smart and enjoy colour, tasteful patterns and accessories. I have several pairs of heels under the desk to power up from the commute flats. I occasionally get complimented on my outfit which feels good. I do wear a hard hat if on a construction site."

The Comedian/ Receptionist

I am a professional comedian/writer. Like most artists, my chosen career path is not financially stable enough to support me, so I work full-time as a corporate receptionist.           

"I must admit that over the years my workwear has shifted from sharp and corporate to comfortable and smart-casual. This is probably due to a combination of getting older (aka giving fewer Fs), feeling more at home after eight years in the same office, and also becoming more feminist and realising that what women wear is political, so I can dress for myself and not be governed by all of those rules.

I don't even wear makeup most days, something 25-year-old me would be shocked by. (That's not feminism though, that's laziness.) My uniform is usually boots, black jeggings (I've tricked my office mates into thinking they're regular trousers), and a smart jumper. Today I am wearing that exact look, head to toe in fashion from Sainsbury's. When I'm on stage I try a lot harder to look cool - performing comedy sometimes feels like a social contract where I'm begging the mean girls, aka the audience, to like me. At my office job, the stakes are much lower."

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