Work wear: The new power suit alternatives

If your corporate life requires the dreaded double wardrobe, don't be held down by black blazers and skirts. Our style team shows how you can reign supreme in the boardroom while maintaining your sense of style.

J.Crew pleated A-line skirt

5. J.Crew pleated A-line skirt

Gap printed wrap dress

4. Gap printed wrap dress

Pink Tartan contrast placket shirt and 60’s shiny pants

3. Pink Tartan contrast placket shirt and 60’s shiny pants

Jacob three-button blazer

2. Jacob three-button blazer

Banana Republic modern knit blazer

1. Banana Republic modern knit blazer

1. Well suited
It can be a challenge to navigate the waters of a professional dress code, especially if you work in a male-dominated environment and must keep up with the boys. Slipping into a sea of suits may seem like the answer to putting together an authoritative look, but you can quickly end up with a wardrobe that’s more ho-hum than haute. On the flip side, a closet built solely on t-shirts and jeans or frou-frou frocks can fail to earn you the respect you deserve. To look polished and pretty, stock up on the following pieces and get ready to receive a glowing reviews.

Try: Modern knit blazer, $160, Banana Republic.

2. Blazer basics
First things first, you need a good blazer, or three. Whereas a matching suit can look a bit stodgy (especially if the fit is off), a blazer on its own always looks sharp. One blazer is essential, but building up to a trio is even better. A collection that includes a black one, another neutral (say navy or grey), and a third in a bright colour means you’ll have something that works with everything from trousers to skirts, dresses and your work place jeans. Consider different textures, like lightweight knits or hearty tweeds, and fits such as a cropped boy-style blazer, and they’ll be the hardest working items in your closet. Promise.

Try: Three-button blazer, $129, Jacob.

3. Button up
The ol’ button-front shirt and dress pants outfit sounds basic, and, to be honest, a bit boring. But it’s one of those combos that if turned out with the proper pieces can be seriously chic. And this stylishly preppy look has experienced a fashionable resurgence lately as the go-to uniform for professional women. To get it right, a tailored fit is key. This look is all about clean lines, so take a pass on anything that’s too baggy or slouchy. Seek out rich colours and luxe-looking fabrics, nothing too wishy-washy. Try colour-blocking, or mixing bright hues and patterns. These individual elements will add up to a powerful look. And don’t forget about a belt in a bold shade or print (python, perhaps?) to tie it all together.

Try: Contrast placket shirt, $275, and 60’s shiny pants, $325, Pink Tartan.

4. Skirt the issue
Obviously, you don’t have to a have a ‘pants-only’ policy when it comes to looking qualified. Simple dresses and power prints can get the job done too. Look for details like draping or gathers to add interest to day dresses, and choose business-y fabrics like sturdy cotton, wool-blends or double-lined jersey. If you work in a conservative environment, it’s best to save those airy sundresses for the weekend. Skirts leave a little more leeway.

Try: Printed wrap dress, $75, Gap Canada.

5. Pleasant prints
You can have fun with prints, colours and textures, and pair them with either a dress shirt, simple knit or blazer. And whether you prefer a full circle or pencil skirt, the highest the hemline should be is just above the knees.

Try: Pleated A-line skirt, $242, J.Crew.

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