Figuring out what to wear to work every day can be tiresome, expensive and uninspiring.
Perth-based Gabrielle Leavesley and Melbourne’s Nessie Croft, of atypical workwear label Coreprêt, are challenging your Monday-to-Friday fashion sense with a range of sustainable quality contemporary pieces you can wear again and again.
Croft believes that because our workplaces are where most of us spend the majority of our week it's important to wear clothes that suit our needs and give us confidence. “We strongly believe in taking the time to invest in quality, timeless fashion pieces that don’t compromise your personal aesthetic or values,” she says.
The duo sits down with Broadsheet to decode dressing for work affordably and elegantly, with tips for getting the most value for money and where to shop for imaginative, high-quality office wear.
Be considered in your approach
Croft and Leavesley both agree that asking questions is important for putting together a wardrobe that caters to all seasons. “Where is it made? What is the fibre content? Is it natural or synthetic? How often will I wear it? Does it actually fit my body shape? Am I willing to commit to this piece long-term?” says Croft. “You want your workwear to tick a number of boxes; you need to decide what those are and then apply them to your shopping habits.” The more boxes you tick, the better value for money.
Learn to mend your own clothes
“If you’re really tired of your wardrobe, look for local workshops that show you how to re-invent key pieces through dyeing, mending or other craft practices,” Croft says. She believes it can completely change the look of an old, over-worn garment, giving it new life – particularly if something becomes ill-fitting. The duo recommends workshops held by designers in conjunction with larger events such as Melbourne Fashion Week, Fashion Revolution Week or Slow Fashion Festival. Alternatively, your grandma might have a skill or two she could teach you. And Patagonia has also developed online guides on how to mend.
Croft and Leavesley recommend shopping at local op shops, vintage stores and designer consignment stores to find stylish and affordable office wear. Some of their favourite second-hand shops include designer consignment store Bruce, Recycle Boutique (where you can also make money), Swop and local op shops in Collingwood and Abbotsford in Melbourne. “There’s a particularly good one on Gipps Street,” Croft says. They also recommend online platforms such as Everlane, The Real Real and Well Made Clothes.
Wardobe sharing and rental
“If you’re more inclined to partake in wardrobe sharing, then we recommend The Clothing Exchange, which offers a platform for people to come together both online and in person to swap their clothes,” says Leavesley. “And finally, if you prefer an ever-changing wardrobe, we encourage you to sign up to Glam Corner, a clothing rental service that also offers subscriptions for workwear capsules.” Other local rental services include Coclo, which offers designer capsule wardrobes on five-week loan for $149, and Tumnus, which allows you to borrow pieces by Gorman, Alice McCall, Scanlan Theodore and more.
Share clothes with friends and family
“We regularly swap clothing with our friends to create a shared wardrobe,” says Croft, excited by the prospect that wardrobes can double, or even triple in size. “If you’re lucky enough to live with friends (with good taste), then organising a shared wardrobe is easy. If not, it just takes a little more planning but it’s well worth it.”
Invest in quality, timeless pieces
“Quality, for us, means a great fit, impeccable construction, considered fabric choice and garments that transcend the seasons and generations,” Croft says, stressing it’s vital to take the time to invest in some versatile, high-quality pieces in order to save on your price-per-wear in the long-term. The pair suggests local designers Limb the Label, Lois Hazel and Kowtow.
You can’t go wrong with a two-piece suit
Croft and Leavesley believe a sharp two-piece suit, which can be worn together or as separate pieces, can be a staple for the office throughout the week. Think of it as three different looks for the price of one. The designers recommend UK fashion retailer Reiss, which offers an extensive range of smart suiting. Locally, labels including P Johnson Femme and E Nolan can tailor bespoke suits that are elegant, timeless, versatile and importantly durable. A two-piece suit is an investment piece not a budget option, but the cost per wear equation looks very good over time since a well-made suit in linen or wool will endure for decades.
Don’t be afraid to outfit repeat, and use jewellery to change things up
Don’t be scared to throw on the same outfit two days in a row, the duo says. “If you’re investing in quality basics, no one will notice but you,” says Croft. And she says if you’re looking to spice up a look, just add some jewellery, statement footwear or a bag. “Use your accessories to harness parts of your personal style, particularly if your work uniform is fairly understated,” she says. “We’re currently in love with CDG x Dr Martens in ivory – they’re stylish and give your outfit that little bit of edge.” There are also a number of local Australian footwear labels making timeless styles with high quality materials and price points that won't break the bank. For summer, try Nelson Made (which offers free repairs and sizing alterations within the first two years of wear), Maria Farro and A. Emery.
Croft also emphasises being playful with your accessories. You can elevate and lighten your look with pops of colour and texture in the form of Dinosaur Design's sculptural, colourful bangles or Valet Studio hair clips. Croft also recommends drawing upon typical masculine archetypes – like a necktie, a bold belt, cute socks – or jazzing up your lanyard. “Little details that help your personality shine through,” she says. The duo also recommends Ada Hodgson for your office-appropriate jewellery needs, Actually Existing for beautifully made accessories and Issey Miyake Pleats Please for a stylish splash of colour that you'll be able to wear for years to come.