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By Carolina Benjumea Rúa
The 90s was a decade of change. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was signed into law, and the Internet made its public debut as a worldwide service. Social, economic, and political changes made the world start thinking differently. People were able to be more open in ways they couldn’t be before and the U.S. population began to take on a more socially liberal attitude. Teens influenced by pop culture adopted a rebel attitude that was complemented by a rebellious wardrobe. Models in “grunge” and Calvin Klein’s minimalist “heroin chic” look dominated the front covers of fashion glossies everywhere screaming “I want something else!” to the semi-charmed lives of the generations before them.
Flash-forward about fifteen years and the teens and revolutionaries who rocked out to Radiohead, danced with the rhythm of the Spice Girls and cried out their first heartbreak with No Doubt are now the professionals running the workplace. With millennials surpassing Gen X as the largest generation in the workforce (making up 36% in 2014 and about 46% by 2020), it’s no wonder the style trends of the 90s have made their triumphant return.
We know you would like to go back to the decade of freedom, but how can you do it in a way that’s work-appropriate? Well, you’re lucky you have SS to give you some tips on how to do it! And to those of you who think your office dress code is too “buttoned up”, we say “What-ever!” You don’t have to miss the opportunity to go back to your teen years- minus the angst.
Here are some trends that will adapt perfectly to any office environment and let you revel in your 90s nostalgia.
The Slip Dress
This trend made a major comeback in 2016, with bloggers, celebs and designers interpreting it in many ways- ranging from casual to formal. Celebrities like Rihanna and Hailey Baldwin and designers like Paco Rabanne and Victoria Beckham are embracing this trend as their favorite for the season. Turning this into a workwear trend, can be difficult to pull off, but with the right styling and accessories, it can be done! The most important thing to keep is mind is to make sure the dress is not too tight or too short, leaving you looking more “boudoir” than “boardroom”. Once you accomplish that, next comes the complementing piece to cover those bare shoulders. One option is to layer the dress over a tee (if you’re in a more casual work environment) or a long-sleeved turtleneck (nothing glossy or embellished) if your work environment is more conservative.
Not into that kind of layering? A good moto jacket (for you riskier careerwomen), or an oversized blazer or long coat (for those who need to be a bit more traditionalist) can create the perfect work look. When it comes to your accessories, make sure they’re simple and classy- this trend is all about minimalism. A neutral shoe, in a pump or ankle boot will fit just right and feel free to pair them with a pair of opaque black tights for a more covered-up look on those chilly winter mornings. Throw on a pair of simple stud earrings and pull back your hair in a sleek low pony and you’re set to “Carpe Diem”, or like… whatever.
Leather MOTO Jacket
If you’re the kind of woman who can’t give up her Nirvana concert tee (we miss you, Kurt!), a leather jacket is already a staple in your wardrobe. However you don’t have to save it for the weekend! The moto jacket is a perfect piece for a casual day at work- properly styled, of course. An all-black look is never out of style- chic, classy and powerful. Pair your jacket with a black ribbed mockneck and black skinny jeans with booties or simple pumps, and you have a look that commands attention in even the busiest of creative environments. Add a swipe of berry-colored lipstick and you’re a 90s professional queen!
To step-up the look for more business causal or formal work environments, pair the jacket with culottes or wide leg trousers for a contrasting look- professional with a bit of edge. Even a sleek pencil skirt with a simple blouse can take the look from “concert” to “corporate”. Whatever you pair it with, style your look with ankle boots for an edgy, modern look- just make sure they don’t scream “biker chick” (i.e. moto boots). If you want something and subdued, a pair of Oxfords will give you that refined confidence. Feeling adventurous? You don’t have to stick to a black jacket- there a plenty of colors that look good with this trend: burgundy, brown and navy are all wearable as well. And of course, the bag: a statement bag, tote, or satchel are all excellent options to compliment this look.
This versatile accessory has taken the spotlight, changing simple looks into daring styles. A colorful bandana around the neck with an otherwise monochromatic outfit can make your look fun and creative. With bandanas, the fabric and print are essential to making the trend acceptable for your workplace- it’s no longer all about the “bandana print” on cheap, stiff cotton. Bandanas in silks, satins, and other high-quality textiles peppered the runways, making them easily adaptable to your career wardrobe. As for prints, you can coordinate the print of the bandana to your outfit; tribal prints and stripes or florals stand out as statement-makers against an otherwise solid look. Want something more subdued? A solid-colored bandana will sit nicely against any work-chic outfit- just remember to tie it in a manner that doesn’t make it look like a simple silk scarf. The great part about this trend is its versatility. Pair it with a classic long sleeve blouse and blazer (with some killer heels) or a classic blouse and skinny jeans. Either way, be sure to not overwhelm the look. Center all the attention on the bandana and let the other garments complement it.
Can’t quite pull off the bandana look? Try its more elevated cousin, the choker. A simple black velvet band around the neck will channel your inner Cher and Dionne and still keep your outfit professional and proper- even in a more business formal work environment. The minimalism of this accessory makes it the perfect adornment for any outfit!
Any 90s girl will remember “totally identifying” with Angela Chase on “My So Called Life”. So why not channel your inner Angela- the “grown-up” version- by incorporating some flannel into your work wardrobe? While obviously suited for a more casual work environment- a plaid flannel button down worn over a solid fitted dress, black tights and booties (throw in a black choker while you’re at it!)- this trend can be adapted for more formal workplace dress codes as well. Paired with a solid pencil skirt and pumps or ankle boots, a plaid flannel button-down adds some cozy texture to an otherwise flat ensemble. Throw on a bold necklace that will get noticed amidst the “noise” of the plaid and you have a combination that’s sure to command respect. There’s more to this fabric trend than a simple button-down, however. Try it in an a-line midi skirt with suede boots or a tailored, oversized blazer and black slacks for a different, more sophisticated take on the trend.
photos from vogue.com
With the athleisure trend on the rise, leggings have become the new jeans. Thus, many big time denim companies have adapted to consumer trends, investing heavily in active wear. For example, Gap has it’s own active wear line, Athleta, in efforts to keep up with consumer wants.
The “leggings” category is pretty varied, from plain cotton leggings to Lululemon yoga leggings and haute designer styles. Though, investing in a good pair of black leggings can make for chic gym wear, serve as a perfect layering piece, or provide a way to wear a sheer dress. Ultimately, leggings have a multitude of uses. The big question is, do leggings belong in the office? There are many mixed feelings surrounding the answer to this question. However, here at The Stylish Sophisticate, we are pro leggings, but with a few provisions of course.
First being, how formal is the dress code in your office? If you work in a corporate environment, leggings are probably not an appropriate outfit choice for you. Second, it has to be the right legging. Absolutely No yoga or cotton leggings in the work place! Third, the fit of your leggings is important. Your leggings should slightly sculpt, creating a silhouette. All in all, pulling off the look entails very considerate styling. If you can reimagine leggings in a fashion context, then yes, by all means wear them! If your sole intention is based on comfort or providing an easy way to hit the gym on your lunch break, then skip the leggings. To help ease your style woes, we have put together some office-appropriate legging looks for you.
Paired with a Slouchy Knit or Oversized Sweater