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Our style columnist Esther Walker reveals the main thing she misses about office life: the workwear outfits


Why did I never take advantage of the opportunities to dress fabulously when I worked in an office? Why did I slop around in jeans and mulchy-brown tops? Why was I not wearing obi belts and little pixie boots, trilby hats and waistcoats? Why did I never once wear red lipstick?

If the saying holds true that you should dress for the job you want not the job you have, I clearly did not want to be an ace journalist and was desperate for a career selling flowers by the side of the A40.

I remember once going to interview

Julian Clary – Julian Clary! – and he arrived wearing a crushed velvet suit and silk shirt and I felt so drab and ashamed of my dowdy clothes.

Of course, I did nothing about it and resigned the following year (nothing to do with Julian) to begin my glittering new life as a penniless freelance hack who had no money for clothes but would write in exchange for food or a compliment.

That was 12 years ago, and I often forget – usually when tipsily shopping for clothes online – that I don’t work in an office. Rightfully, the only work clothes I need are a single black trouser suit, white T-shirt

and white trainers, which I wear when I very occasionally need to interview someone in person.

And yet somehow in my wardrobe there seems to be hanger upon hanger of clothes belonging to a completely different woman, leading a life that doesn’t involve standing about watching a five-year-old boy playing football in the mud.

Long, patterned dresses; Seventies-inspired knee-high ruched boots with a heel so high I’m not sure I’ve ever left the house in them; a Prince of Wales-check blazer that is absolutely terrific and yet does not leave the wardrobe, because who am I kidding?

These are not clothes I bought when I had an office job, my friends – these are clothes bought quite recently, in full knowledge of my daily life.

Oh, the fun I would have if I still worked in an office! Along with colleagues to talk to, a proper Christmas party and free stationery, having a reason to put on smart clothes could convince me to go back to having a commute – if anyone would ask me. That’s not a hint! (It is.)

[Continued below]


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“I would wear all sorts of dresses: shirt dresses, wrap dresses, prairie dresses”


For me it would be like being Ebenezer Scrooge, waking up on Christmas Day and realising I’ve got another chance to legitimately buy and wear an entire selection of outfits. Top of the list: white boots. Hear me out! You wear white trainers, don’t you? Why not white boots? With some cropped checked trousers and a lovely crew-neck sweater, they make so much more sense than you might think.

And dresses. I never wear dresses because they seem so over the top for a day pretending to work, while actually watching Queer Eye on my laptop. But at work I could wear all sorts: shirt dresses, wrap dresses, prairie dresses! And skirts – I could wear midi skirts and slip skirts and pencil skirts (I think the ship may have sailed on mini skirts, alas). I would also wear proper trousers – perhaps a slim, black cropped pair with a kitten heel and a chunky, colourful sweater.

I would wear platform-sole loafers and brogues, because us glass-ceiling busting corporate boppers need to move fast and can’t be hobbling about on high heels. Although obviously, those Seventies knee-high boots would make an appearance – maybe on a quiet day in the office when everyone could come by my desk and admire them. On the commute I would slip them into my giant busy-woman’s tote.

As you can see I have given this a lot of thought. Alas, it’s all for nothing. The closest I will get to an office is re-watching the series of the same name, if I ever get fed up with Queer Eye.

So, if you work in an office and consider finding clothes to wear a chore, think of me at home in my jeans. Be happy that even if you’d never buy white boots in a million years at least – unlike me – you’ve got somewhere to wear them.



Shirt dresses flatter every figure
Esther loves the white boot trend
Match your boots with your bag
Smarten up with a checked blazer

Photographer: Jonty Davies / Stylist: Chloe Forde / Make-up: Kim Jaco
Hair stylist: Ben Cook / Manicurist: Joanna Newbold

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