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Spring into workwear

Corporate dressing down is very much out this season

The trench coat is the best way to travel light and stay warm in the spring.

The trench coat is the best way to travel light and stay warm in the spring.


The fashion trend for office scruffy-casual has had its day. Sagging, ripped denims, TGIF tee-shirts, beach sliders and hoodies can be reassigned to music festivals. Bushy beards flecked with granola are facing the barber’s blade. Dress-down Friday has had its day. Makeover Monday is on the way.

Workwear fashion for women is also going uptown in style. “Working 9 to 5”, as Dolly Parton sang, used to entail jumping into a skirt suit and court shoes. However, cotton shorts, leggings, blouses and gym gear flip-flopped into meetings while the proverbial “good suit” became a relic of corporate oppression.

Fortunately, the looks for spring 2019 are more smart than fussy formal. Cotton chinos, the stand-alone jacket and easy-wear polo shirts make an attractive alternative to structured suits for the men. Biz casual is now office smart.

“Business-casual is one of those nonsensical dress codes, like smart-casual, that created bewilderment before it did anything to make people feel more at ease,” says Josh Sims, author of Men of Style. Office managers are now tiring of the overall slovenly style and shaking up their sales teams by introducing certain dress codes for office scruffies.

High-street shops are hot on the office trail with Topman, Debenhams, Zara and Marks & Spencer decking the rails with styles that will bypass the corporate posture police.

Blazers are back – not the one with brass buttons and yacht club crests à la Alan Partridge. No cravats or pocket squares either. Choose a single-breasted fine wool version in a flexible shade like navy, tan or stone – simple and sophisticated. Collar a handful of elegant shirts in high-quality cotton that won’t deteriorate in the washing machine. Buy an iron and a few hangers. Well-structured chinos are hard to find – avoid the baggy-legged styles that conjure up Rat Pack crooners and side-step the narrow-piped legs that emphasis your shoe size. H&M has the perfect compromise with black and navy cotton jeans for €17. Louis Copeland is also the boutique for smart office separates at all prices.

Crew-neck jumpers over fitted cotton shirts are popular in Next outlets. A high-quality bomber jacket is still fine once it’s not in black distressed leather with Hells Angels’ badges. Brushed-cotton versions in black, dove grey and stone carry light and feel right for warmer days. Get on the footsie index with laced brogues or suede loafers for men.

A good compromise between a shirt and a tee-shirt is a polo shirt. Lean towards the less sporty types with long-sleeved versions in soft wool. M&S is particularly good at this. Softer button-down shirts are also cosier to wear under fine-knit jumpers.

Face piercings, nose rings and large stud earrings for men are not ideal business wear unless you’re running a tattoo hut or a circus. White sneakers can pass as smart, but only if they’re fresh and new looking. Fred Perry and Lacoste would be fine for example.

Spring trends

Spring trends for women’s workwear 2019 contain the following staples.

1. The boxy jacket with big shoulders and preferably double-breasted is a key look. Wear it over a long-sleeved blousy dress, or flared skirt and slouch boots. Mango has great blazers for €129. The colourful double-breasted jacket can also be teamed with checked pants with high waist and flared endings.

2. The essential fitted white shirt sits neatly under a sleeveless summer dress while it’s still a bit chilly outside or worn with high-waisted flared trousers and mid-heel shoes. Shirt dresses are also great for slipping over white trousers.

3. A ribbed turtleneck jumper is indispensable for avoiding the ironing board. Looks great worn with tailored trousers with signature belt.

4. The trench coat is the best way to travel light and stay warm in the spring and there are lots of choices in Next and Zara. Slip on a pair of oversized sunglasses for a front-row fashion feel.

5. Tan and rust are the new colours of the season, with refreshing pops of colour on lapels or pockets. Check out Kate Gaffney’s Diffusion.ie for super styles.

6. Slouch boots are making a comeback and the white versions are proving popular. The ankle ones are still a smart option.

7. Cropped chic trousers with high waists take an executive swing into the office. Team up with a pair of snow-white runners for a fresh spring clean image.