Offices are starting to fill and bustle, meaning it’s time to get into character for work. Once the summer ends, the feeling of flowy, carefree clothing has to take a back seat to make room for professional pieces. The office can be a space that feels restrictive with its unspoken rules and politics.
Since it can be hard to figure out what to wear after months of working remotely and traveling, we recently caught up with three costume designers: QueenSylvia Akuchie, Jaclyn Banner, and Daija Milan to discuss how to get back into dressing appropriately for the office. Each of these creatives are sharing their go-to style archetypes that you can use as inpsiration for the months ahead.
Akuchie who is mostly known for her work on “Bel-Air” notes that the three characters she’d offer up as archetypes to copy include “The Hero,” “The Fashionista,” and “The Creator.” For “The Hero,” she would style this courageous character in a perfectly tailored power suit with a vital statement accessory, maybe a brooch, scarf, or pendant. “The Fashionista” is, of course, the main character. For this distinct persona she “creates intimate moments in fashion by connecting office attire to in-season ready-to-wear.” Think Jill Marie Jones’ perfect embodiment of Toni from “Girlfriends”—someone who was always wearing high-end brands while staying on trend. Akuchie would dress her in a Versace pink overcoat and a pleated A-line mini skirt.
Akuchie also shares that “The Creator” is an inventive and imaginative individual. Therefore, this character wears clothing ranging from cable knit sweaters to houndstooth prints paired with textured ties. “Every time this person gets dressed, it’s a theme, and they are sticking to it in the most professional way,” Akuchie says.
Differently, Milan who has recently worked on costuming for “Insidious” mentions her office archetypes are comprised of “The Alpha,” “The Slacker,” and “The Gossiper.” “The Alpha” is a buttoned up, Type A character that dresses as though nothing will stop them from climbing the top of the corporate ladder. For this character, Milan notes that a navy plaid three-button suit set gives off a confident look. For a woman who aligns with these leadership qualities, Milan points to dressing her in a tailored red suit with sharp padded shoulders for a dramatic effect. Maxine from “Living Single” played by Erika Alexander is the perfect example of “The Alpha.”
“The Slacker” is all about comfort. “Think oversized and carefree,” says Milan. This character’s last concern is what their colleagues think of them. Milan references an oversized suit worn with a crew neck T-shirt underneath.
Then there’s “The Gossiper,” whom we love or hate in the office. They always have tea, but sometimes if you’re not careful, they might spill yours too. Milan describes this character as “the neural magnet.” They catch all the office tea this way. She shares she’d style this character in a soft, neutral palette or a soft pink skirt suit.
Banner who has projects like “Kindred” and “Get Out” under her belt says the clichés including “The Exec” and “The Young Office Assistant” are what she thinks of when she envisions office attire. On these prototypes, she shares: “The similarities between television, film, and the real world are the clothes have to be specific to the role, the environment they’re in, and the work that they are doing.” She adds, “Corporate doesn’t have to mean conforming. Gone are the days of classic, generalized clothing.”
For “The Exec,” who represents vice presidents, lawyers, and CEOs, Banner would fuse pieces together like suits by power labels Alex Perry and Alexander McQueen. They’d also be seen in wide-leg pants, pencil skirts with scarf neck blouses, and tailored blazers with exaggerated lapels and structured shoulders. For footwear, they’d only don Manolo Blahnik, Prada, and Valentino pumps to top off their powerful look.
Elsewhere, “The Young Office Assistant” would be dressed in outfits consisting of high and low brands not limited to Zara, Veronica Beard, and Alice & Olivia. Banner mentions she envisions them wearing mock neck midi dresses with fitted blazers and high-waisted trousers with polka dot blouses. These pairings drive home the point that these ultra-busy office workers takes their job seriously while representing their boss.
These archetypes can help you get ready to start playing your role as an employee. As you shop around for additions to your professional wardrobe, think of them to give you a character to embody on your days back in the office.