Clothes that work

Getting the right look for business can be hard work, but it’s a job worth cracking if you want to be comfortable in and out of the office, says one young designer


E ver since Melanie Griffiths had to ditch the huge shoulder pads, the minis and the bouffant hair in Working Girl , women have faced the same problem at work: how to look good and stay professional. The answer, according to Claire Doyle is to wear well-cut, tailored pieces that enhance the figure, but don’t shout about it. The 27-year-old designer based in Smithfield’s Distillers building in Dublin who has been specialising in business tailoring for professional women since 2009. Many of her clients are lawyers and bankers where sartorial codes are strict, leaving little room for individual expression.

“My clients are often women at the top of their careers who place emphasis on investment pieces that are not seasonally driven and therefore more classic pieces,” she says. Devotees include former president Mary McAleese, Attorney General Maire Whelan and TV chef and author Rachel Allen. “When I sit down to design a collection, it is with clients in mind,” Doyle says.

Her current range, for example, consists of 12 styles that include high-waisted pinstriped skirts, plain and printed viscose jersey dresses in a variety of colours and wool suits, but she also offers a made-to-measure service that is becoming increasingly popular.

“Women like to be able to choose fabrics and their own colours and we can create any style they want for weddings or the races,” she says. Most of her fabrics are sourced in Italy and France, but everything is manufactured in two factories in Dublin where her sister Ruth, a fashion student at the Limerick School of Art & Design, is perfecting pattern-cutting skills. Dresses are her most popular items, particularly with sleeves for those working in offices, “because then you don’t need a jacket”. Demand for trousers is now rare, with most women preferring dresses or skirt-suits for work.

From Straffan in Co Kildare, Doyle worked with Louise Kennedy for six years, starting at the age of 16 while still at school. Though she has no formal training as a designer, her background in business combined with an artistic flair has been an advantage and working directly with clients “you really get to know what they want,” she says. Niki Andrews, a barrister in the Law Library, says that Doyle “completely changed the way I dressed. She made me try things I would never have worn before like a shift dress . . . Now everything fits so well.”

Prices for made to measure start at €240 for skirts, €290 for trousers, €380 plus for dresses (depending on fabric) and jackets from €450 with two to three weeks to complete. For further information, contact