Sep 4, 2013

taking a wardrobe lesson from tv characters

Dressing appropriately for the office can prove as tricky as your next promotion. You have to maintain a business-like demeanor while remaining reasonably mobile and comfortable, somehow injecting a spark of personality into the mix. In today's tight job market, it doesn't make sense to take unnecessary sartorial risks that could put a damper on your office image. But is there life beyond the navy blue suit?

If the leading professional ladies on are any clue, the answer is yes. From the easygoing department store style of Leslie Knopes of “Parks and Recreation," to the straight-laced power suits of Jessica Pearson in “Suits," these leading ladies illustrate the spectrum of savvy office style:

Leslie Knope, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)

Start here to find the perfect example of an appropriately unremarkable workhorse wardrobe. Leslie Knope's character has assembled a wallet-friendly, work-worthy wardrobe of affordable pantsuits over silky tops and tie-front blouses, anchored by discreet accessories and sensible shoes. Perfect for a smaller organization or business casual environment, Leslie's clothes hit all the right notes so her personality can do the singing.

Creative Commons image by letsgoeverywhere

Robin Scherbatsky, “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)

Here's another accessible wardrobe, which is more representative of department store style. Robin Scherbatsky may often appear in jeans, but she always pairs them with noteworthy tops, sweaters and jackets that keep her looking neat and fresh — a bonus in the office and out. No, she's not wearing anything remarkable, but she always looks appropriate.

Creative Commons image by watchwithkristin

Olivia Pope, “Scandal” (ABC)

Olivia Pope's impeccable style is all about neutrals. Eschewing traditional but harsh navy and black, she reaches past boring beige to blend luscious shades of peach, cream and tea in an office-appropriate palette. The colors say "woman," while the styles assure "professional." Want clothes that keep the focus on your work, not your image? This is how it's done.

Alicia Florrick, “The Good Wife” (CBS)

In contrast to Olivia Pope, Alicia Florrick offsets her conservative legal outfits with crackling color. Her secret to success? Conservative cuts with cautious hemlines and necklines that set off her dramatic coloring. With little room for sartorial splendor in her workplace, Alicia still manages to make a strong statement.

Jessica Pearson, “Suits” (USA Network)

If your office calls for a traditional suit every day, look to “Suits” for inspiration. Jessica Pearson wears a whole new level of pantsuit than Leslie Knopes, and she's made it a specialty. This is powersuiting at its best for women who need to cultivate a strong professional image.

Mindy Lahiri, “The Mindy Project” (Fox)

Ready to loosen up? Mindy Lahiri's physician on “The Mindy Project” always seems to show up to work in feminine, colorful dresses tailored with just enough shaping. Invisible beneath a lab coat? With dresses like this, not a chance.

Keeping It Real

While Knope and Scherbatsky arrive at the office in clothes accessible to most working women, not all the small screen's office attire is so attainable. This is TV, after all, and these wardrobes are most definitely aspirational.

These clothes are often impractical, as well. In the real world, women don't wobble across the office in five-inch spike heels, sweeping back a high-maintenance coif with a perfectly manicured hand. Don't fall for these blunders by too closely following the work wardrobes of characters that were designed for TV:
  • Heavy make-up — Office-appropriate make-up means you look like you, only a little more awake and polished. Leave the smoky eyes and siren lips for after-hours.
  • Flashy manicures — Nail art is hot right now, but that doesn't mean the trend has managed to become work-worthy.
  • Sky-high heels — If you can't tromp up and down the halls for an entire workday, you won't leave your desk to take care of necessary business.
  • No bra — Yes, your co-workers can tell. If you're worried about it showing, you should probably re-evaluate how much your blouse is revealing in the first place.
  • Sexy attire — There's a time and a place to look hot. This isn't it. Give your co-workers a break and let them focus on taking care of business.
Today's matter-of-fact workplace calls for darker colors, conservative hemlines, sensible heel heights, and non-flashy jewelry, Laura Mannix, a fashion pro who works with both urban professionals and TV costume designers, told Financial Times. Her professional clients have been retreating toward more conservative shores in recent times.

Fortunately, that means you don't have to spring for designer pieces just to keep up. Place your trust in these six office basics. Make sure your suits and investment pieces are well-tailored. If you play it safe with your main wardrobe, you can spice things up with the judicious use of accessories.

What TV character do you find office fashion inspiration from? Tell us in the comments.

Rachel is a mom who spends more time than she would like to admit writing about celebrities and entertainment.

1 comment :

  1. I loved Robin's look from HIMYM. It's what I styled my work wear on.


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