August 18, 2022

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Heading back to work? Update your office wardrobe with these must-haves

Suit up for your first day back in the office with dresses, jumpsuits, shoes and accessories to make going back to work a stylish affair: The Independent
Suit up for your first day back in the office with dresses, jumpsuits, shoes and accessories to make going back to work a stylish affair: The Independent

Although key workers and healthcare providers have been going into work as normal during the pandemic, other industries have spent the last few months working from home, as per government guidance during lockdown.

However, these rules are set to ease, as Boris Johnson announced on 17 July that restrictions would be lifted next month so that other firms could bring employees back to the workplace.

From August 1, companies will have more discretion to bring staff back to the office, but only if its premises are “Covid secure”.

If for you that means a return to the office, you may be dreading reuniting with formal clothes, especially as your work attire has probably been sat at the back of your wardrobe untouched for the past four months.

As a result, you may be in need of some new clobber, whether you work in a corporate or more relaxed environment.

So we’ve done the hard work for you and picked out the modern yet functional pieces to see you step back into your office in style. Whether you’re after wardrobe staples or statement looks, here’s the only shopping list you’ll need.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Dresses and jumpsuits

One-piece items, such as dresses and jumpsuits, are the perfect opportunity to play with colour in your wardrobe, and when it’s warm enough to forgo a jacket, you can just throw them on a go, with little forward planning needed.

A comfortable and simple outfit will make the earlier mornings that much easier too; an important factor given we’re currently used to rocking loungewear while working at the kitchen table.

For a bright pop of pink, this Kitri Irina pink shirt dress (Kitri Studio, £145) is a contemporary, utilitarian take on the classic shirt dress.

This bright pink dress will brighten up your first day back in the office (Kitri)
This bright pink dress will brighten up your first day back in the office (Kitri)

With oversized pockets and ivory shell buttons, it still keeps a retro feel, while being a fun piece to add to your work wardrobe.

For an all-over print, this Rixo mimi smudge print dress (Rixo, £255) offers a rainbow of shades that are bold enough to make a statement without overwhelming your figure.

The pretty print and fitted waist makes this an easy throw-on-and-go piece for work (Rixo)
The pretty print and fitted waist makes this an easy throw-on-and-go piece for work (Rixo)

The long sleeves, high neck and fitted waist are feminine but conservative enough for a strict dress code and the viscose fabric will keep you cool, even if temperatures rise.

This Komodo trapeze jumpsuit in coal (Wolf & Badger, £145), is an easy-to-style piece that will help you transition from pyjamas to office-appropriate attire. It has a loose, but not baggy, fit and an adjustable tie waist.

Stay comfortable and stylish with this linen-blend jumpsuit (Wolf & Badger)
Stay comfortable and stylish with this linen-blend jumpsuit (Wolf & Badger)

Designed with the environment in mind, the fabric is a mix of Tencel, which is sourced from natural wood, and breathable linen. It’s a piece that will not only look good, but will also feel good while you wear it.

If you prefer a more minimal style, try this H&M cotton satin shirt dress (H&M, £34.99).

A shirt dress like this one is a versatile, no-brainer buy (H;M)
A shirt dress like this one is a versatile, no-brainer buy (H;M)

It has a collar and button-down front which adds a formal touch, but the tie detailing on the sleeves and relaxed waistline stop it from feeling stuffy.

Shirts, skirts, jackets

Layering pieces like shirts, blazers and skirts are easy to dress up and down, depending on the formality of the occasion, and can be worn on your off-days too.

This Reiss drape shoulder sleeveless top (Reiss, £95) is a contemporary take on a classic white T-shirt. It will match with everything but is formal enough for even the strictest of dress codes.

Minimal and understated, this top is easy to dress up and down (Reiss)
Minimal and understated, this top is easy to dress up and down (Reiss)

The high neck makes it demure enough for the office but the slight asymmetric neckline keeps it interesting while being bang on trend.

Throw on this Zara rustic blazer (Zara, £59.99) to instantly smarten up your outfit. This versatile piece can easily be taken off the office gets too hot.

Add a layer of formality with a smart blazer (Zara)
Add a layer of formality with a smart blazer (Zara)

Ditch the dark colours and instead opt for this cream linen blend to add a summery touch while keeping cool.

A midi skirt like this pleated midi (Arket, £69) is another staple piece worth adding to your basket.

Team this midi skirt with a blazer and gold jewellery for a go-to look (Arket)
Team this midi skirt with a blazer and gold jewellery for a go-to look (Arket)

Ditch black for navy, which is brighter but just as smart, then team with sandals and a simple top, and use your accessories to add a pop of colour.

For when it’s too hot to wear a blazer, but you still want to look smart, this H&M short-sleeved jacket (H&M, £34.99) is perfect.

This jacket is the perfect compromise for warmer days in the office (H&M)
This jacket is the perfect compromise for warmer days in the office (H&M)

Layer it over a white camisole top and a gold necklace or pair with the matching ankle-length trousers (H&M, £19.99) to create a summery suit.

This Cos organic cotton silk relaxed top (Cos, £55) is ideal if you want to wear a classic T-shirt style top on its own or under a jacket, but are looking for more structure.

With neutral pieces, use your accessories to add colour (Cos)
With neutral pieces, use your accessories to add colour (Cos)

Made from Mulberry silk and organic cotton, it’s designed with a drawstring waist, but this is only visible at the back to highlight your silhouette.

Footwear and accessories

Having spent the whole of lockdown in slippers, we’re not quite ready to wear heels, so we’re plumping for these Clara vegan loafers (Grenson, £285) that are far more lightweight than they may look.

Up your footwear game with these tasselled vegan loafers (Grenson)
Up your footwear game with these tasselled vegan loafers (Grenson)

While Grenson is known for its handmade leather footwear, it has a whole collection of vegan shoes to shop so you don’t have to compromise. This pair is made from microfibres that mimic cowhide, but they are recyclable and naturally antibacterial.

With fun tassels and a chunky platform sole, they instantly elevate any outfit while still keeping feet comfortable.

If however, you want to dress up and make more of an effort than you have during the whole of lockdown, slip into these & Other Stories heeled leather square toe sandals (& Other Stories, £85).

A high heel will take a casual outfit to more formal heights (& Other Stories)
A high heel will take a casual outfit to more formal heights (& Other Stories)

With a square toe and mule design, they’re on-trend but are classic enough to last you long into future seasons.

Simple jewellery pieces like this Astrid & Miyu sun necklace charm in gold (Astrid & Miyu, £35) are perfect for layering with minimal outfits.

Layer dainty gold jewellery to add a touch of luxury (Astrid & Miyu)
Layer dainty gold jewellery to add a touch of luxury (Astrid & Miyu)

Keep the sunny charm close, as scorching temperatures seem fleeting this year. You can add it onto an existing gold chain, or pick up the coordinating link chain necklace here (Astrid & Miyu, £65).

Embrace the rainbow jewellery trend with these Stellar79 spectrum huggie hoops (Stellar79, £165) that will add pops of colour to your earlobes and make a small, but striking impact to your look.

Brighten up your look with these colourful huggies (Stellar 79)
Brighten up your look with these colourful huggies (Stellar 79)

If you have multiple piercings, stack them with clashing designs and styles or wear them on their own with your hair tucked behind your ears to make them stand out and catch the light.

Chances are, on your first day back, you’ll have plenty of belongings to bring to the office, so make sure your handbag can hold everything you need.

We love this Matt & Nat spen satchel (Matt & Nat, £87.50) that will fit a 13in laptop, has a smartphone pocket and is made with vegan leather and 100 per cent recycled nylon lining.

Love the look of leather but don't want to wear it? Pick up this vegan satchel instead (Matt & Nat)
Love the look of leather but don’t want to wear it? Pick up this vegan satchel instead (Matt & Nat)

There’s also an adjustable shoulder strap in case you need to carry heavy hardware on your commute.

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