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Cutting a dash with workwear

This season’s fashion moves away from the casual to a more formal, tailored look

This season’s style is more tailored, influenced by looks such as Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, in TV drama ‘Scandal’.

If you thought you could wing it and look the business without updating your wardrobe this season – you are sadly mistaken. Last year’s leftovers will look as stale as yesterday’s pot noodles as hemlines descend, floral prints wither and baggy pants return. In fact, there are such distinct styles trending in both men and women’s business wardrobes that you’d be better off taking a sabbatical than ducking the trend.

However, it’s relatively cheap to inject a fresh feel to old tat. If you invest in a few quality pieces, you can transform the overall look without splurging out on expensive designer clobber or purging your wardrobe of past purchases.

One of the main transformations is the swing back to tailoring for men and women. Cue blazers with gold buttons, classic red coats, smart tartan suiting and well-cut camel jackets making a re-appearance in the boardroom as the influence of TV shows like Suits and Olivia Pope in Scandal convert the casually clad clique.

For men, double-breasted suits are given a twist with fine-knit turtleneck jumpers. The best menswear boutiques have capsule collections for men who dread wading through an ocean of suits in larger stores. Check out their jeans by Bugatti and Tommy Hilfiger. Massimo Dutti carries wool-blend jackets and crisp cotton shirts.


Power suits and red ankle boots dig their heels into the corporate ladder for women, with box-shaped shoulder pads and wide-pleated trousers, sweeping puddle pants or cropped Capri cuts worn with low-heeled sling-back shoes.

Ben de Lisi and Jasper Conran deliver the workwear essentials at Debenhams, with vibrant red trouser suits and hot pink cerise jackets and soft silky blouses bearing cowl necks or flamboyant bows. Checks and Prince of Wales tartans are also squaring up to the competition in male and female wardrobes in shades of steel grey and charcoal coordinated with slim-fitting knitwear.

In Zara and Next, you can find a lot of classic midi-length skirts worn with short ankle boots and textured tights. Corset belts are optional for those boasting a teeny waistline. Fantail skirts and flared hemlines make a change from prissy pencil skirts. The two-tone print dress looks savvy in navy and white or pinstripe. The wrap-around dress favoured by Kate Middleton is figure-flattering. Orange actually is the new black for jumpers and blouses, with hot coppers at large for coats.

Vibrant colour

Zara Men has a well-priced range of double-breasted jackets for wearing with baggy pleated trouser and belts. The skinny leg style is still shinning up the greasy pole but lengths are shorter and neater. If you inject a dash of vibrant colour into your workwear – reds, blues, pinks – you can get noticed without losing your shirt.

Red coats from Jasper Conran and two-piece cerise suits make a loud and clear statement, taking their cues from powerful leaders like Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon. Trench coats for men and women provide a lighter investment than wool – Penneys and Mango have strong coat collections with classic styles for the rainy days ahead.

Caroline Kilkenny, an Irish designer with a unique approach, has an elegant selection of dresses at Arnotts for special office occasions. Corduroy is back for men but if you’re not mad about cords just settle on a pair of camel or navy double cotton chinos. Quilting is back and M&S has a zippy number that can be worn over a turtle-neck and black trousers.

On the accessory front, men and women can belt up for the season. Man bags are also trending, with satchels and shoulder bags selling like hot cakes. Snap up a pair of patterned novelty socks with Leo the lion motifs or Canadian maple leaves for conversation distractions when negotiating dwindling dividends with shareholders. Big Thatcher-style handbags thrown over the shoulder give women room for work files, laptops and gym gear.

The beret is also trending and replacing the bobble hat for that elusive French finish that women like Brigitte Trogneux display with such effortless panache.

Flat caps in the Healy-Rae mould will give the business buachaillí a head-start in the morning and keep any thatched hair in place.

Finally, lightweight loafers are demoted to the lower shelf while the classic brogue is snapped up by the well-heeled Harry beating a positive path to the boss for promotion.