How women can pull off men's style for work // Style Counsel

Femal lawyers who wear men's style
How to borrow from the boys

By Emma Williamson

On Thursday July 31st, 2014


It’s almost that time, readers: the best time of year for fashion. Fall. (Remember the thrill of back-to-school shopping?) And as any fashionista knows, one of the big trends every single fall is menswear. Even though it’s quickly becoming a woman’s world, why not look towards our fabulous male colleagues for a little style inspiration? Relax, I’m not suggesting you don ties or start shopping at Harry Rosen. But here’s what we can learn from the boys. 

First, some ground rules: think comfort, structure, clean lines and perfect fit. And fabrics like tweed and wool, or patterns like tartan and pinstripes. Above all, you’re going for a classic and conservative look, peppered with feminine influences (silk blouse, great heels) to prevent you from looking too campy. Avoid detailing and embellishment, and focus on rich jewel tones and neutrals. Stick with retailers like Tommy Hilfiger, Ann Taylor, Michael Kors, Brooks Brothers and Hugo Boss. And try browsing blogs for menswear-inspired outfits

Now, work in some key menswear pieces — you probably already own a few! First, there’s the power player of clothing: the suit. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than a man in a suit (okay, other than my husband in a plaid shirt with vacation scruff, but that doesn’t happen often enough). Though I prefer separates, I have to admit that a suit conveys prestige and influence. It’s worth the time and money to find a perfectly fitting power suit in a traditional cut and shade — try Theory for great selection and quality.

And what’s more classic and infinitely wearable than the ol’ white or blue button-down? In my humble opinion, Pink Tartan makes the best shirts. Once you’ve got the suit and shirt down, indulge in tailored pants, smart cashmere sweaters and blazers (I love my vintage tweed blazer from a shop in Kingston, which has a very “gentleman grouse-hunting in England” vibe). And if you’re feeling especially manly, you could even try a vest — but please not a sweater vest. Just don’t.

Finally, accessorize like a dude. Yes, you read that right. Dudes accessorize. Try adding cufflinks to a crisp collared shirt, and invest in a sleek leather briefcase instead of that clunky shoulder bag that holds your eighteen chapsticks, pens, crumpled receipts and gum that’s like five years old (no? Just me? Alrighty then). Rock an oversized men’s-style watch; I love how these timeless accessories signal power by invoking images of swaggering brokers from the ‘80s. And for shoes? Try lace-up booties, loafers or oxfords (I’m loving Town Shoes’ “Boy Meets Girl” collection).

The bottom line is this: men know how to keep it simple, yet effective. No matter how smartly they’re dressed, you see them, not their outfit. While there are definitely some tricky sex/gender issues at play here, and while feminine dress is perfectly acceptable for the office, why not branch out and borrow from the boys occasionally? I promise you: worn the right way, menswear will make you feel like a power player — and what’s not to love about that? 

Work wardrobe

Photos by Alexander Scott Harris for the Classy Cubicle.

Emma Williamson (not pictured) is a fashion-obsessed corporate commercial lawyer at Dentons. Her mission is to inspire Precedent’s female readers to break out of a style rut while obeying obvious and not-so-obvious workplace dress codes. Follow her on Twitter: @EmmaWorkStyle.