How to Wear the Corporate Aesthetic Without Looking, Well, Corporate

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(Image credit: @elizagracehuber)

If you're simultaneously obsessed with the latest micro-trends and too intimidated to test them out, you've come to the right place. This is Ways to Wear, a monthly series where editor Eliza Huber offers a dose of outfit inspiration centered around current trends that feel intriguing yet overwhelming at the same time. Consider it your guide to actually wearing the coolest items of the moment, no matter how puzzling they might appear at first.

Everything about getting dressed for an office setting lacks excitement—suits that don't fit, materials that itch in the too-warm cubicle-lined workspaces, and stockings that run after every wear. Rather, that all was the situation in the officewear department. But after the corporate look began trending on the runway post-lockdown, everything's changed when it comes to work attire. 

Pencil skirts, waistcoats, briefcase bags, and tailored blazers—many of 2023's most-wanted trends stem from the attire and accessories that we often associate with corporate settings thanks to labels like Prada, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham, Peter Do, and more, all of which have been emphasizing the office aesthetic in their recent runway collections. SFW ties, pinstripes, Oxford button-down shirts, pocket squares, and kitten-heel pumps have also made appearances. These items once could have been described as blasé essentials for your 9-to-5, but with input from Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons, Anthony Vaccarello, and more, new life's been blown into every last one of them, formally ending the notion that getting dressed for work is a mundane task that'll never result in a great outfit. 

For proof, see four looks below that are as chic as they are HR approved (mostly). 

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(Image credit: @elizagracehuber)

Wearing: Reformation Billie Vest ($168) and Stevie Pant ($198); Linda Farrow sunglasses; Bottega Veneta Cobble Intrecciato-Leather Shoulder Bag ($4600)

There's nothing boring about this Reformation suit—period. First off, the Billie Vest, a high-neck longline waistcoat that comes in two fabrics and multiple colors, is one of those pieces that just works with everything it's paired with, be it trousers or jeans, a tailored maxi skirt, or a sheer midi (for after work hours, of course). The way it fits the body makes it feel almost custom-made and so elegant, two traits that most standard workwear lacks. Then, we have the Stevie Pants, which look like plain black trousers when paired with the longer vest but actually feature a statement fold-over waist detail that adds just the right amount of style to an otherwise simple silhouette. With the duo, I added one of my favorite handbags for work, as it's able to be swapped from a shoulder bag to a crossbody with just a few easy adjustments. It holds all of my essentials, and these vintage kitten heels are comfortable all day but also chic and professional. 

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Wearing: Liberowe Cropped Nehru Shirt ($632); Nili Lotan Pippa Tailored Twill Pencil Skirt ($495); Prada shoes and Supernova Tote Bag ($2696)

Fine, so a crop top, no matter how tailored to perfection it is, might not be the most appropriate garment to wear to the office, but let a girl dream. Even so, the look is there, so to get the vibe in an HR-safe manner, I trade in my Liberowe shirt for a slightly longer poplin alternative that can either rest right at the waist of your pencil skirt or tuck perfectly into it. I particularly love this combination because of the green and gray together. I think what officewear often lacks is that touch of vibrancy that this bag brings. The same can come from a great pair of heels, a bright blouse underneath a blazer, or a scarf.

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Wearing: Boden sweater; Lafayette 148 Pleated Organic Cotton Poplin Midi Skirt ($798); Prada shoes and Re-Edition 1995 Carolyn Nappa Leather Bag ($3500)

The white A-line skirt is everywhere right now for fall, mostly because of how much the silhouette was featured in Prada's F/W 23 collection. While it isn't one of the most stereotypically corporate items of the bunch, it no doubt adds a touch of freshness to the office wardrobe, which mostly consists of gray, black, and navy hyper-structured garments. Here, I styled mine with a cashmere vest to add some more autumnal elements, but this same effect could be captured with a cashmere sweater or a fitted blazer. 

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Wearing: COS Oversized Tailored Shirt ($99); Gabriel for Sach skirt; Prada shoes and Re-Edition 1995 Carolyn Nappa Leather Bag ($3500)

No combo screams "I've just had a long day at work, but at least my outfit still looks good" quite like a tucked-in button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and more than one button undone paired with a pencil skirt, heels, and a briefcase bag. It has an effortless, lived-in quality about it that I've always loved to spot in films and TV shows from the '80s and '90s. Here, I re-created the aesthetic with a cornflower-blue shirt from COS and a charcoal pencil skirt from Gabriel for Sach that I've been wanting to break out for months now. Keeping with the '90s vibe, I carried my Re-Edition 1995 Prada bag and some extra-pointy slingbacks from the same brand. I ended up wearing this look from the office to post-work drinks and felt more like a 9-to-5 woman than I maybe ever have given how informal working in a fashion office tends to be. 

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Editor

Eliza Huber is a New York City–based fashion editor who specializes in trend reporting, brand discovery, and celebrity style. She joined Who What Wear in 2021 after almost four years on the fashion editorial team at Refinery29, the job she took after graduating with a marketing degree from the University of Iowa. She has since launched two monthly columns, Let's Get a Room and Ways to Wear; profiled the likes of Dakota Fanning, Diane Kruger, Katie Holmes, and Sabrina Carpenter for WWW's monthly cover features; and reported on everything from the relationship between Formula One and fashion to the top trends from fashion month, season after season. Eliza now lives on the Upper West Side and spends her free time researching F1 fashion imagery for her side Instagram accounts @thepinnacleoffashion and @f1paddockfits, running in Central Park, and scouring eBay for '90s Prada and '80s Yves Saint Laurent.