Friday, 20 May 2016

Transitioning for Work to Play mode, in Style.

Since fast-tracked from my third year undergraduate degree to a PhD student, my social life drastically changed. It has become even more important to develop a life outside of work and make the effort to mingle, hang out with friends late into the evening - usually straight after work so I have time to wake up early to start the work routine again.

Addressed in a previous blogpost, I initially found it difficult to accustom myself to the new working lifestyle a PhD offers. I was given a new social scene, more work responsibility, with a sense of loose freedom as I was completely responsible for how I spent my time. It was only a few months into my PhD when I made a new circle of friends, bonded more with my PhD colleagues, where I found my social rhythm again. Additionally, since my old coursemates and Universtiy friends are still roaming around campus socialising with their drastically different timetables, if I wanted to catch-up with them it  I have to switch from work-mode to play-mode before I leave the office. Fortunately, I can dress casually around my PhD office. The office attire still has a degree of 'appropriateness', but casual all the same. There will be times, however, where I am giving a presentation during the day and I choose to dress more formally than I would do otherwise. It seems that these are the times where something social happens in the evening! Whether it is drinks or an award ceremony. I believe that transitioning from day to night, especially if during the day you are at work, can be rather difficult if you are not aware of two things:
  1. The tone of where you are going after work
  2. What the weather is going to be like
These two things will dictate what you wear during the day and what you will pack in your bag ready to exchange with a few style items to play into the night. Using my experience, I am going to offer style advice (not necessarily purchasing instructions, just suggested pieces so you can get inspiration from them or use my style tips as we all have different tastes/budgets) on this topic - I know, it has been a WHILE since I have done this, but let the fun begin.

Examples of where I have had to transition from work to play mode were when I left the London office during my summer internship to meet up with friends for celebratory drinks, and left my University PhD desk to attend the Excellence in Volunteering Awards. Each represent a casual and formal evening event, respectively, that I had to transition my work clothes during the day for.

Funnily enough, I was chatting to one of my new PhD friends, Quantum Gravity PhD student, and fellow Science Outreach volunteer Zoë about this topic - how to transition from your work outfit to an evening outfit. This is what Zoë had to say, 
"If I have social plans after work, for example dinner with friends or perhaps something further afield like a concert in London, I tend to go home beforehand to change into something more appropriate than my usual office attire. I find it difficult to find clothes which are office-appropriate (which includes being comfortable!) and suitable for after work. On the rare occasion that I don't have time to change my outfit before my evening plans, I try to wear something simple to work, like a dark coloured cami with black skinny jeans, which I can then dress up easily with a long statement necklace and some earrings."

PhD students go through this numerous of times during the year, and especially if your social calendar features a blend of low-profile and high-profile events. In this case, you want your work outfits to be adaptable to those occasions. I think this can be done, by making some smart thought-out decisions on how to make your outfit choices multi-functional. It is all about using your energy efficiently - why change your outfit twice in a day with all the mental and physical energy that depletes with it when you can make a few tweaks to one outfit? To make this clear, we shall start with a scenario... *ahem*.

**To the male-readers of my blog, I have put suggestions of how I would style men's attire from work to 'Friday night drinks' or socialising after work near the end of this blogpost. So, if you want, you can skip what immediately follows until you see your section (**)!

Imagine that I am giving a technical presentation to a room of engineers (easy for me to imagine as I do this). For me, wearing something that showcases my acknowledgement for the occasion and sets the tone of the occasion is imperative. Wearing clothing that fits me, being comfortable, and makes me feel more confident are also important factors. If I was presenting in my University Department, I can afford to dress a little more casually. For the core part of my outfit, which will also be the keystone piece in the evening outfit too, I am going to use this blouse from the brand T.M. Lewin:
The Barnes Pleat Front Blush Shell Top.

I actually bought my first T.M. Lewin shirt around 5 years ago at Clapham Station in London. At the time (it might still be there), as you travel from the platform to the exit there are a series of underground shops and one of them was T.M. Lewin. There was a 60% sale (everyone knows I like a bargain) so I told my Mum that I wanted to have a look at their collection. I left with three shirts! I wore these shirts during my first summer internship two years ago, perhaps it gave me good omens as I got to go abroad to give technical/business presentations - which was a great experience. The reason why I chose this T.M. Lewin blouse compared to others on their wesbsite is because of its vertical, narrow, pleats which streamlines the torso and makes you overall look taller. It also has a simple elegance. The shade of pink, blush, would not necessarily suit my skintone - I prefer dusky pink - however as the shade of this blush pink is not strong it would not contrast as harshly with my caramel/dark skintone compared to a flamingo pink or fuchsia colour.

This is how I would incorporate this T.M. Lewin blouse for a technical presentation outfit:

The work/day outfit, details below. 

I currently use the Leather Satchel Company's black tote bag for work. Fortunately, I got mine for free due to my University's 'Entitlement Card' system which all undergrads attained to compensate the new (at the time) £9000 University annual tuition fee. This bag has been one of my best 'purchases' to-date. It is such a strong bag yet spacious enough to carry my largest laptop, my notebooks, umbrellas - I have really put it through it paces. Of course, you need a watch to always have time by your side *ooo a pun* figuratively and physically whilst you are presenting. I chose the Limit Ladies Vintage Watch available via Topshop and it suits the black outfit details of the casual Mile High black Levi jeans (worth the investment, trust me), the tote bag, and these sturdy black lace-up cleated chunky heel boot from New Look ( this shoe is most similar at the moment). The gold rim of the watch sparks attention to the contrast shape earrings I have selected from COS which add a touch of minimalist class. To add more formality to the outfit, but still a sense of smart casual, I have concluded the outfit with a grey pinstripe, sleeveless waistcoat from Topshop. Its dusky pink satin interior is similar to the blouse, but the dark grey colour softens the harsh contrast between the pink and black and creates a middle palette. Additionally, for the hourglass shape that I have, the drawstring waist of the waistcoat draws attention to the waist, encouraging the appearance of proportion and retains the balance that the shell-shape top of the T.M. Lewin would not offer if you were well-endowed. During the day, I would wear a classic Vaseline lip-balm on my lips, no mascara, but perhaps a black Bourjois winged eyeliner, and a natural make-up look.

To transition this work outfit into a casual evening look e.g. Friday drinks or dinner after work, I would make these simple changes:

Casual work-to-play outfit. 

In addition to a touch of mascara, one of my absolute favourites is Benefit's 'They're Real' Mascara, I would add three items to the already existing work outfit. The first is exchanging the Topshop pin-stripe sleeveless waistcoat for the IK Coat by the independent label Emin and Paul. I really like wearing items from independent designers too as it feels like you are contributing to a growing brand. The pieces are more individual, less trendy, and often inject personality and interest to any outfit. This IK Coat has a dark blue tessellating, geometric pattern that instantly makes it a statement piece. Its silhouette loosely categorises the coat as being a kimono jacket which is usually a style for a person with a bohemian or quirky aesthetic. It is the sort of piece that will make an outfit stylish by default, which is an essential type of piece in any wardrobe I think to make any casual outfit more special. Paired with the existing style choices, including the soft T.M. Lewin blush pink blouse, the outfit is instantly looking more casual and arguably urban  now. With the mascara, adding a neutral colour stain on the lips could make the appearance seem more dressy. Makeup on darker skintones can look very different on different kinds of skin shades. For 'caramel' and 'dark chocolate' skintones, a lipstick by MAC called '(Stay in) Touch' has been hailed the new nude for darker complexions. Even on the lightest of skintones this lipstick proves to be a complimentary choice too. I think the spicy dark pink of this lipstick will bring out the colour of the blouse which may otherwise get lost underneath the grandeur of the IK Coat. Finally, to make sure that the IK Coat does not stick out like a sore thumb, I have made the outfit cohesive with hybrid shades of grey and blue from this twisted turban headband also from Emin and Paul. I actually came across Emin and Paul whilst summer interning for a wearable tech start-up in London. There is an Emin and Paul shop a few seconds walk from the Second Home London office building in Brick Lane where I worked. I bought two headbands during my internship, and they comfortably tuck you hair away from your face. Whether your hair is down or in a up-do, and it gives and effortlessly relaxed impression. I like the African/Middle-Eastern compliment of the turban and the added convenience of putting this illusion that you tied the turban yourself, on a headband.

Sometimes an event after work can be very formal and there can be an added pressure when you do not have time to go home and change - or have very little time to change at home. There have been a few occasions so far during my PhD, when I was meant to meet someone or a group of friends and I am on the verge of being late due to doing overtime electronics lab work, helping a colleague navigate through using an impedance analyser, chatting with colleagues, or writing up notes.To me, I do not mind as I really like what I do, yet my friends probably would not appreciate my lateness. There was one time I was rushing home to get changed to attend a volunteering award ceremony and my bedroom looked like a clothing battleground it was so chaotic. It would have been so much easier if I transitioned my work clothes into formal wear. Using the same T.M. Lewin blouse, this is how I would do it:

Formal work-to-play outfit.

Here, I have swapped the pinstripe grey waistcoat for the Grey Rain Coat by Emin and Paul. It has fastenings at the top and drawstrings to add shape to the coat. To add extra colours to the outfit, whilst matching the T.M. Lewin top I have added the Cotton Silk-Print scarf by COS. The mustard yellow will bring out the colours of the COS earrings worn during the day and the gold gem-style belt by ZARA. The pink of the blouse should reflect of the gold belt, perhaps making the belt look rose-gold. I would tuck the blouse into the black Chelsea Lace Midi Skirt by Reiss and secure it with the belt around the waist. The length of the skirt, semi-sheer chiffon, and use of lace gives the outfit an opulence and sets the tone of the award ceremony occasion. I have added the Gold Metallic Box Clutch by New Look to this outfit - which will initially reside in the Tote bag used during the day but once sat down the clutch (holding phone, lipstick, compact mirror, watch) would be carried or worn throughout the evening. Choosing shoes for this outfit proved to be more time-consuming than I thought. New Look have a great selection of casual and formal shoes, and even better is that they offer student discount (which I still utilise as I am a PhD student ;) ). Any black, dusky or blush pink, and or grey shoe would suit this outfit - drawing colours from the largest items of the outfit: blouse, skirt, and grey coat. Personal preference, I would choose a chunky heel for more ankle support, preferably straps to prevent your foot sliding out, and for the formal occasion any cut out, metallic detail, or embellishment to decorate the feet. I shortlisted many shoes: [1], [2]. [3], [4], [5]. [6], [7], [8]. Yet, I decided to choose the Wide Fit Suedette Embellished Ankle Strap Heel. In addition to sparkly or shiny elements, the material of a fabric can elevate its luxury. Velvet, satin, silk, and suede are the types of fabric that can appear expensive when you have, or have not, spent a lot. Having a shoe in a suede material not only adds luxury but comfort, as leather or 'pleather' straps can rub against the skin and cause painful friction depending on the fit. The choice and smoothness of the suede reduces this possibility. To finish the formal evening outfit, I have chosen an oxblood colour lipstick. This particular one is a matte lipstick called Sin by MAC. Burgundy, oxblood, and wine red go with lighter shades of pink - surprisingly - and is evident via colour swatches or in an outfit. A darker lip always seems to add a grand appearance to a style look - which would suit this formal, evening, after-work event. For a dramatic eye look I would choose the Max Factor Voluptuous False Eye-Lash Effect mascara to lengthen and thicken the appearance of your natural eyelashes.

**Right, here comes style advice for the guys reading this blogpost. With the same assumption that you are giving a presentation when the usual attire is smart casual, like my scenario so far, I would start the outfit right with a tailored shirt. T.M. Lewin have a variety of different shirts for added comfort and convenience. Their Non-Iron shirts would be perfect if you were rushed for time in the morning but still want to look polished, professional, and feel the part. Alternatively, their Casual shirts can easily be worn at a presentation. Their colours, textures, and prints also add a hint of personality. Despite the words coming from your mouth, your listening audience will also be looking at how you dress, carry yourself, whether you speak confidently and full of enthusiasm, and look for any subtle signs of personality. They may not remember exactly all of what you said, but they will remember the impression you give them. Now, I have never worn a men's shirt before but given the types of fit men seem to have for different shirts. Choose the fit which makes you feel most comfortable, suits your bodyshape and makes you feel like your best self. To look professional, a classic white shirt with an added twist of colour or pattern to inject personality would set you on the charm offensive. The White Dot Print Poplin casual shirt or the Royal Oxford Button Down Shirt in white, navy blue, and blue with the sleeves neatly folded up the forearm to reveal more of the print shall do this effortlessly. 

For the guys... one of my T.M. Lewin Men's men shirt suggestions -
the White Dot Print Poplin casual shirt

Depending on your audience, I would wear a tie with the sleeves down if the stakes of the presentation are high and you are the one doing the convincing and not wear a tie with shirt sleeves rolled down if the tone of the presentation is more relaxed. I think I say this because I have some understanding of the unsaid balance of power that is expected to be abide by whilst presenting - from my time at The Netherlands. For the person doing the presenting and/or convincing, not to overstep but at the same time appear approachable, calm, and collected is the goal. Uniqlo do great basics which actually compliment the T.M. Lewin shirt. Uniqlo's trousers are an example piece of the clothing this brand do meticulously well at an affordable price. I would choose men's bottoms from their Smart Trousers Collection as the material seems breathable enough to be comfortable and tailored enough to suit a formal or casual occasion after work. For shoes - bluchers, oxfords, and brogues are great considerations. Although you could choose leather, and the weather is dry throughout the day, why not a different material like suede? These selections from Massimo Dutti [1], [2]. [3]. [4] are great examples of alleviating the concept of a classically crafted shoe by playing with different colours, decoration, and textures. To make this work presentation outfit more for a casual gathering after work I would potentially change any suit jacket to a bomber, jean, or leather jacket with the sleeves rolled up! A simple switch that completely changes the tone of the outfit. Zara have a great selection of all kinds of jackets that you can get inspiration from. You could even go one step further by switching the shirt for a crew-neck t-shirt to bring the formality down a few notches.
 Additionally, depending on the weather you could wear a hat - beanie, fedora, visor cap, volley cap - to make the look even more laid-back for social time after work. For a formal occasion straight after work, throw on a dinner suit jacket and add some personality by playing with colours and textures without compromising the shape/fit, add cuff links to your shirt, a tie if appropriate, and a handkerchief to tuck into your upper breast pocket. 

This was fun to write! It has certainly clarified how I put outfits together now as usually it is so automated that I do not have think about it. Also, writing about how I would style a male's outfit was super interesting! I find that men's fashion is really becoming more individual depending on the personality wearing the clothes. Although there are lots of trends about, which I appreciate but do not replicate myself, I think men's clothing is offering style diversity so it is possible to form your own aesthetic - which I think was difficult to do before, from observation.
Attending the Excellence in Volunteering awards was a great experience. Actually helping Zoë pick out a statement necklace for her outfit, prior to the event, made me realise that helping others by imparting knowledge which I have attained is a very helpful skill. Whether it is technical knowledge or style tips, it is good to help others to an extent that they can use your advice to form their own interpretation of it. 
Thanks for Zo
ë for her quote and for  T.M. Lewin for getting in touch and giving me the initial push to write a blogpost on this topic. As I am getting further into my PhD, I realise how knowing how to transition our work outfit into a night outfit is an important skill to have - as it is required a lot!

Take Courage,


This blogpost is done in collaboration with T.M. Lewin. Thanks again for your patience and for getting in touch!

1 comment:

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