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Fiona Reith, associate career coach

CheekyLittleCareer.com’s associate career coach Fiona Reith and self-confessed shopaholic discusses why now’s the perfect time to re-invent your working from home attire. Read on to find out what’s in and what should be donated to the charity shop.

“Going out is back in”. So, declares an email from Selfridges in a shameless bid to lure me into splashing some cash on new season purchases.

Admittedly, as we finally entered British summer time and with parts of the UK having experienced the hottest March for over 50 years, I did feel tempted to treat myself. Particularly, as we re-surface from months of lockdown misery when, for most of us, comfy became the new black and our stay at home uniforms comprised yoga pants, hoodies, and the occasional smart top for those all-important Zoom video calls. And besides, the high street needs us, right?

Emily Sheffield, editor of the Evening Standard, maintains that she dressed up every day during lockdown (even to sit in an empty office) in her bid to combat Covid19 blues. Husnara Begum, CheekyLittleCareers.com’s associate editor, tells me she’s been doing the same. For Husnara, as well as making her feel good, she says dressing smart helps her create a psychological boundary between home and work. She tells me that wearing a chic but casual outfit gets her mentally ready for a day in the office – albeit virtually – and then slipping into her loungewear at clocking off time enables her to switch off from work mode.

Emily and Husnara both make very good points. Not only can some outfits make you feel on top of the world, making a concerted effort in the wardrobe department also impacts on your mindset and confidence levels. What’s more, though I fully acknowledge that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, how we dress does inevitably affect what sort of impression we make on both colleagues and clients alike.

And trust me, the team at CheekyLittleCareers.com have in recent months witnessed some absolute howlers, including someone standing up to plug their laptop in and forgetting they were wearing PJ shorts. And then there’s the flatmate wandering around wrapped in a duvet!

I was perhaps slightly ahead of the curve in creating a wardrobe for flexible working when, two years ago, I moved on from my corporate role into a solo-preneur mix of coaching / consulting work and starting a social enterprise. In a rare escape to Oxford Street, I searched out smart, comfy joggers and Zoom worthy tops with a cardy for cooler days. Dark jeans and a blazer were my go-to for meetings around town. The dresses and jumpsuits I threw in for ‘in between days’ saw little use, even pre-Covid, and at the moment they, along with my blazers, have been consigned to the back of the wardrobe.

But if the endless predictions are correct, and ‘extreme flexibility’ at work becomes the new norm, does that mean the days are numbered for all of our blazer collections? Indeed, with more of us than ever before planning to work from home longer-term, should we also be thinking about ditching our favourite high heels in favour of comfier pumps? And what will become of the ultimate female professional’s accessory? I am of course talking about our beloved Mulberry handbag..!

Wait, before you go all Marie Kondo and start de-cluttering your wardrobe (or in my case wardrobes) why not have some fun with your existing ensemble of tops and bottoms? Experiment with different combos and see what works well both in terms of look and comfort. If you’re anything like me, you’ll most probably be pleasantly surprised by the many different fresh looks you’ll be able to create simply with the stuff you already have tucked away.

But let me offer you one simple health warning. With regard to the glamour stakes, pay close attention to what an outfit looks like when you’re sat in front of your computer screen. On trend baggy tops paired with skinny jeans look great when you’re stood up but, sat down, such tops can look shapeless and unflattering. As such, you may find your blazers prove to be very useful after all. Even if you pop one on for the duration of a meeting and then switch back into a cardy immediately afterwards. Another point to consider regarding video calls is what colours to go for because depending on your skin tone, office lighting and background, some look much better than others. For more tips on how to look good on video calls check out Husnara’s blog Lights, Camera, Action & Zoom.

I can’t imagine the true corporate giants fully doing away with their formal dress codes, be it implicit or explicit. I know from my days spent working for luxury brands that what you wear, even on dress down days, does matter. And that’s even more so during any internships or vacation schemes you you have coming up and of course job interviews.

There you go – yet more reasons to cling onto our blazers and indeed killer heels. Saying that, I’m not sure any of us will ever again be able to convince ourselves we’ll ever need all the workwear items we’ve acquired over the years.

With that in mind and in the words of Marie Kondo if a work outfit no longer brings you ‘joy’ how about donating it to a good cause like Smart Works or Suited for Success? Both support unemployed job seekers through careers advice and the right clothes to help them to succeed at interview.