working it in ‘workable’ wear

Hello, readers! So, recently I was asked to post about two interesting challenges from my readers.

The challenges:

1) School clothes that you can transition from school to a business casual work setting- the reader does not want to look overly formal in her PhD classes, and doesn’t want to carry a lot of extra clothes with her to school when she works later in the day at the hospital.

2) Work clothes that are appropriate for inner city work- the reader works in a hot location without much air conditioning in homes, and cannot have “flashy” clothing. No flashy clothing means no heels and nothing overly dressy that draws attention to yourself.

Wow, readers, you guys know how to challenge this Huntress! Okay, let’s get serious about identifying work clothes for both contexts. Interestingly, I think similar clothes will work for both challenges. You guys know my motto tends to be “go boldly,” but this does not work in all work environments, nor is it everyone’s personal style.  I did some research and Googled “conservative and trendy work looks” and literally found nothing that I felt truly met the needs of the challenges posed above- there were too many pencil skirts and heels! Again, I love both and they do work in many work settings, but that doesn’t really fit with what these readers are asking.  Time to get down to business about how to solve these fashion conundrums.
First off, I awkwardly approached people to be photographed for this post. Don’t worry, they knew me, so it made it less awkward.  My first lovely model is wearing a great relaxed look with a skirt and long-sleeve top. This is great for school or work because it’s casual, but still dressy. It’s also great for warmer weather because of the skirt, but still keeping the look “covered up” with a long sleeve top. She added a great pop of neon to keep this look updated and fresh, and then added flats.
My second lovely model is also sporting a look that would be great for school or inner city work in a warm climate. She kept the look “covered up” with a longer skirt, and then warmer weather appropriate with a short sleeve top. She added a touch of trend with both the nautical stripes and full skirt. She also was wearing flats.
Here are some of my own looks that I think would also be appropriate for both fashion challenges, though with some potential modifications.
20130709-161417.jpgphoto 2 (46)photo 3 (16)photo 3 (35)
Here are some general recommendations for either toning down an outfit to look less “flashy” or not looking too dressed up.
1) Go easy on the trends. I love prints, colors, patterns, and mixing them all together.  However, if you want a more toned down look, stick to just one trend (i.e. just one small neon accessory, one pop of color, one print). You could consider the pants below with a white or black top, and with black flats.
2) In warmer climates, stay covered up while also showing some skin. My thought is if you are going to wear a shorter skirt, then wear long sleeves.  If it’s very hot, wear a thin long sleeve t-shirt to stay cool, or a button down. Vice versa, if you’re going to wear a short sleeve skirt or dress, consider longer pants or a longer skirt. You could consider this dress without the leggings and neutral shoes (nude, black, navy).
3) Consider not piling on the accessories. While statement jewelry is very popular right now, consider wearing small jewelry versus big chunky necklaces,  You can also completely skip jewelry. You could consider this this t-shirt and cardigan look without the necklace and watch.
4) Try out neutrals. If heels are too flashy for work or school, consider wearing bold flats.  If bold flats are still too flashy, consider neutral colored flats in nude, black, brown or navy. If you want to wear a brightly colored top, consider black or navy colored pants.  Vice versa, if you want to wear brightly colored pants, consider opting for a solid color and wearing a neutral color on top with neutral flats. You could consider a sheer top and black pants, as seen below, but ditch the jewelry and swap out the sandals for neutral flats.
5) Take off one piece. In any of my looks above, consider ditching the brightly colored necklaces or shoes, but keep the rest of the look similar. In the pictures of the bold belt looks, consider opting for a thin, neutral belt (i.e. black, nude, brown, navy, etc), or no belt at all.  You could consider this look (denim top and black pants) without the big belt and with black flats.
Well, readers, I hope this helps those that posed the questions, but also those that may want to embrace trends in a more conservative style than what is seen on the runway and less conservative work environments.  Being in conservative environments definitely does not mean you have to suppress your love of fashion! It does, however, mean getting creative to embrace the trends you love in a small versus large way.
Other fashion challenges? Send them my way either via the comments on this blog, my Facebook wall, Twitter (@huntressfashion) or email: It may take me a bit of time to get to your questions because of how I draft my posts, but I will get to them!
What are your tips for embracing trends in a conservative work-friendly way? Thanks for stopping by, readers, and for keeping me on my toes!

37 thoughts on “working it in ‘workable’ wear

  1. My fave is “Go easy on the trends” with bright pants and amazingly color of the shirt! Awesome selection, I really think you’ve done great job, I don’t know why but when I hear conservative dress-code I think straight away about some elegant classic, base clothes like pants, pencil skirts in neutral colors (black, navy, beige etc) and blouses in different patterns but still classic:) but ye you’re right it can be overdressed especially for school or hospital

    • Definitely- I wear such bold and bright colors, it’s hard for me to solely think of neutral colors for conservative work environments. I love the idea of embracing trends while also being conservative work/school appropriate~!! 🙂

  2. Awesome series!! I love how easy and simple they are without a lot of layers. I especially love all the skirts you picked. The length and waist line totally showed the feminine side and appropriate for workplace. Thanks.

  3. I love the striped shirt with the skirt. I love skirts too! I haven’t been wearing them as often as I would like too ( you know always with the two little ones I just find easy to be in shorts, pants or leggings). But I love the way you styled them! Do you like maxi skirts? If yes, can you show us how do you style them? Thanks.

    • I hear you. Frankly, if I couldn’t wear my leggings with skirts/dresses, I would probably wear them less frequently. I have a number one rule that I won’t wear anything that isn’t comfortable for long hours!! I do like maxis skirt, but because I’m on the shorter side, I haven’t found any that don’t drag on the ground!! If I come across any, I will definitely show how I style them because I also love the way they look.

      I did show one maxi dress a few months ago here:

  4. these are great recommendations. I worked in an office once that made us wear a company shirt and khakis…I was seriously depressed that I couldn’t express myself through my clothing (work appropriately of course). At my job now, other than keeping things modest, they are pretty easy going with the dress code, to which I’m very thankful!

    • My current job is the same way. We have to keep it modest, but that’s about it! That totally works for me too 🙂 When I had my black and white dress code I felt the same way…it just wasn’t my personality. Luckily, now I can jazz it up in all sorts of patterns and prints!!

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