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Make the right workwear choices to improve your professional life

February 13, 2020

No matter where you work or what you do for a living, your work clothes define you and impact your work performance, so making the right workwear choices matters


Whether you are back-office support staff, in a customer-facing role, or work as an independent freelancer, your workwear says a lot about you.  It tells the people you work with, including colleagues, clients and customers, how you feel about what you do. But your office wear can also impact how you work, and may even serve to enhance or impede your performance.

Female worker on Production of B 24_bombers and C 87 transports, 1942

Female worker on Production of B 24_bombers and C 87 transports, 1942

Making work clothes work for you

Choosing the most appropriate workwear doesn’t have to be a stressful experience – although for some of us it is! We often stress about brands and labels and designers and shopping outlets, though often needlessly. To make your work clothes work for you, all you need to do is follow a few simple guiding principles:


  • Never wear a specific outfit just because someone thinks it’s what you should wear. Choose clothes that you think are right for you. However, be conscious of what the dress code is (more on that later!), and pick your workwear accordingly

Women drill press operators working, 1942

Women drill press operators working, 1942

  • If you are new to a work environment, and afraid of asking someone what office wear to adopt – just look around. You’re bound to find lots of inspiration for the right type of clothing to choose just by observing what your colleagues wear. When in doubt though, ask your Human Resource (HR) contact for guidance


  • Who said everything must be from the same brand, label or designer – or else it just won’t work? So not true! Some of the best office wear ensembles are made up from mixing and matching – different brands, varying colours, diverse patterns – make your workwear as diverse as your working environment and your personality

A hydraulic mechanic at work, 1942

A hydraulic mechanic at work, 1942

  • Don’t be constrained by “brand reputation”. Just because Dickies has a great reputation for outdoor workwear, doesn’t mean you can’t wear that Dickies jacket for your casual Friday indoor office event


  • Don’t shy away from layering. Choose your work clothes with a view of using them in different situations. That light sweater under a thick coat might suit you well on an extremely chilly day. But that light piece of workwear can also become a chic outerwear on a cool fall day if you layer it under a light shawl or throw

A female lathe operator in chambre denim shirt and white cotton overall workwear works machining parts, 1942

A female lathe operator works machining parts, 1942

  • Live by the “code”. Your office clothes should never deviate too much from your office dress code. If it’s “corporate casual”, then choose workwear that’s less formal but not overly casual. But if it is a “Business formal” environment, then by all means, suit up!


Notice that we called these “principles” for office wear selection, and not “rules”, as some would. That’s because “rules” aren’t meant to be broken, while “principles” have a lot of room for flexibility. Use these principles to make workwear work for you. Bend them a little. Push them as far as you can, sometimes. But most of all, when choosing your work clothes, experiment with these principles and, above all, have fun!

Woman civil service worker riveting metalwork, 1942

Woman civil service worker riveting metalwork, 1942

Workwear Sourcing Choices

What you wear may say a lot about what you do and how you do it. But where you source your work clothes from often says much about how good you feel about yourself and your work.  Here are some suggestions on where you should go to find the best office wear:


  • If you are looking for that relaxed yet strikingly efficient look at work, then Blue 17 might be the place to source all your workwear. Their truly awe-inspiring mens and womens collections include trousers, jackets, boots and shoes and coats for almost any work environment

Woman works on cobnstruction at the assembly and repair department, 1942

Woman works on cobnstruction at the assembly and repair department, 1942

  • Women looking for both casual or professional work clothes will find everything they need at ASOS. Their original ASOS Design covers a wide range of mix and match pieces, including textured jersey’s, suit blazers, skirts and blouses


  • Workwear Express is yet another place for both men and women to source formal and after-office workwear. From dress shirts and blouses to trousers, bags and footwear, you’ll find it all under one roof. Pair them with other office wear pieces, or with existing selections from your closet, and you’ll still be able to pull off that professional look you are aiming for

Woman Aviation worker wearing red workwear in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, 1942

Woman Aviation worker in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, 1942

  • For women, working in a “mans world”, looking to establish a work place identity of your own, New Look is the place to shop for all your workwear. Choose from tapered stretched long trousers and frill tie front shirts, to roll neck tops, boxy peplum blouses and pleated Midi and Pencil skirts. You’ll find work clothes for every job or position here, from Boss Lady to efficient Analyst and helpful Assistant


  • If you are an outdoors gal or guy, and spend a lot of time bracing the elements outside, then your workwear should match the job you are doing. ScrewFix is one place that you can get durable, rugged work clothes for every trade, craft or work situation. You’ll have access to the broadest array of Work trousers, Overalls, Hi-Vis jackets and wests, Waterproof Clothing, Body warmers, Gloves, Trousers and Shirts

Two wartime workers in denim workwear bolt cutting in 1943

Two wartime workers bolt cutting in 1943

  • Looking for office wear that you need not just for work but for after-work casual or formal events? Then head on out to Dorothy Perkins. Want something more formal? Then try a Check Print Single-breasted jacket or a Ruched Sleeve jacket. For those “after work” workwear needs, go for an animal print slim-fit black dress or a textured pencil skirt


  • Ladies, if you’re tired of same-old, same-old work clothes, then why not spice it up a bit with the exquisite office wear choices you’ll find at Pretty Little Things. From subtle prints and minimalist styles, to sophisticated cuts and designs and transitional pieces – they’ve got it all for you. That Khaki Bandeau Contrast Buttons Belted Shirt Dress can make you look strong, powerful and business-like, without making your workwear look too sporty or overly informal

 Male factory worker Diecasting

Male factory worker Diecasting

  • If your workwear isn’t in tune with the weather, then you’ll likely not perform your best. That’s why Dickies work clothes are the go-to for rugged work clothing and accessories. From tops and trousers, to overalls and all-weather outerwear, safety and heavy-duty footwear, gloves, headgear and more.


Whether you are just starting to put together a curated selection of workwear, or whether you need to compliment your existing wardrobe with a few additional choice pieces, the sources reviewed above will get you started. Best of all, while many of the work clothes offered here are priced at the under £100 mark, you’ll also find high-quality office wear listed here in the £20.00-plus range.