How to Dress Professionally in Winter

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Tips and hints from the Hound!

When dressing for the office or business arena it can be difficult to strike a balance between dressing for the office environment and not freezing when you leave the building. But more and more companies are understanding that we desire both, and a range of options is now available that allows us to be both practical and comfortable.

Although during severely cold winters, we have to compromise style and stick to warm clothing. And that’s alright! But some days, wearing a puffy jacket just doesn’t cut it, especially when you are required to show up formally dressed to your workplace or have to attend business meetings.

But don’t worry, in this article we’ve pulled together some ideas for both men and women, we hope will help you to bridge the gap between staying warm and still looking professional.

What should I have in my wardrobe?

The secret to staying warm whether you are hitting the ski slopes or the boardroom is layering. Get it right and you will achieve effortless dressing that enables you to sit comfortably in a heated office and still not freeze when you leave to catch a cab at the end of your workday.

And don’t worry, it needn’t cost a fortune.

When you are putting together your winter work wardrobe limit the number of clothes you buy but ensure that those you do are good quality, stylish, pieces that will not go out of fashion by next year. The same goes for your layers, you need enough to ensure you have enough for your work week. You don’t need a vast closet full of clothes to pull off a great look.

Keep in mind that you only need thin, yet warm clothes which are mostly made of merino soft wool or lambswool for the outer layers, topped with a coat. That will prevent bulking up.

Upper Body

Thermals or undershirts

Another tip if you want to avoid the puffy or overburdened look that often occurs during winter, is to choose layers which are thin. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need heavy, thick sweaters to keep warm. With modern fabrics and technologies, this simply isn’t the case. Again, it goes back to dressing smart in multiple layers.

Start off with a synthetic polyester or woolen long-sleeved undershirt that absorbs sweat, but still keeps your body dry. A firm favorite is Merino wool, this has been used by sportsmen and women for years and offers superior comfort and warmth. Note – Merino wool requires delicate handling when it’s cleaned or it will quickly lose it’s lovely softness so ensure you follow the washing directions.

We would advise that you do not wear shirts made of cotton as although it will absorb sweat, it leaves the body cold and once your skin is cold you will start to feel uncomfortable and may begin to shiver – never a good look in the office!

Having multiple layers enables you to add and remove items so you are comfortable in a range of different environments from traveling to work on the subway to attend a board meeting in a heated office block.

Shirts and blouses

Right after the base layer, put on a long-sleeved shirt or blouse, this creates another layer in which to trap warmth plus you’ll look smart and professional.

A cotton shirt for men or silk or satin blouse for women, will do just fine. We have to keep in mind that we are aiming for the right professional look.

Because this is the second layer, there is no need to put on thicker shirts. The other outer layers will maintain the right temperature for your body. But if you really do struggle with the cold choose a heavier weight shirt in a neutral tone.

Depending on the style and how formal the environment, you could also consider wearing a cashmere sweater either alone (this works well for women, but not so much so for men) or over your blouse or shirt. Another layer equals more warmth. And because of the beauty of the fabric and the way it hangs, you will still create an air of professionalism in your look.

Ribbed turtlenecks

Another option is a ribbed turtleneck in place of a blouse for women. Choose a neutral color that coordinates or compliments your business suit, skirt or pants. This will be warmer than a blouse but might not be smart enough for some establishments and offices.

Long-sleeved full sweaters

There is an enormous number of sweaters out there which are suitable to wear to work.

For men choose either a v-neck or crew-neck full sweater in a neutral tone that compliments your pants or business suit.

Tight-knitted sweaters and short cardigans with buttons are also great options for this layer.

We would suggest you avoid wearing long cardigans and textured blends because they give away that professional look we’re after. Even if you do choose to wear a long cardigan, make sure you select one which is plain, straight, and not too flared.

Blazers, coats and jackets

A fine blazer or a coat will compliment every other inner layer you have on. Find one which traps heat and resists wind.

Long overcoats have their way of making you look both professional and elegant at the same time. Besides, it keeps the lower part of your body warm as well.

Another excellent option for the outermost layer is a thick dark-colored jacket.

Don’t be afraid to wear more casual jackets such as ski jackets or parkas for traveling to and from the office. If the temperatures warrant wearing such jackets it is likely that most people within your office will be similarly attired. As long as the clothing you wear beneath your jacket is office-appropriate that’s fine. After all, you will be removing your jacket as soon as you reach work anyway and no one will see it.

Keeping warm is essential to a healthy body and a productive mind. Ladies, you can always keep a tote bag by your desk and neatly fold your gloves, hat, scarf etc. into the bag to keep it tidy and out of sight and reach while you work.

Lower Body

Keep in mind the dress code of your workplace before you decide which items are suitable and which might make you either over-dressed (not a good look if everyone else in your office favors a more casual look) or worse, under-dressed.

Your clothes need to be comfortable enough to sit in for long periods, crease resistant and hit the right note with the rest of your colleagues so you feel as if you fit in, not stand out!

Slacks and leggings

Leggings won’t typically be smart enough for the majority of offices but this will depend on the sector in which you work. If you are allowed to wear leggings ensure they are good quality. If you feel the cold a pair of leggings are a great addition beneath a long skirt or even a mini or mid-length skirt. They are excellent for heat retention and offer protection to your vulnerable knee joints which can become achy if cold.

If you can’t wear leggings invest in a good quality pair of thick hose. There are an amazing array of different pantyhose available including knitted and thermal which can offer another layer of warmth for the working days during winter.

Pants and skirts

Choose a pair of pants or a skirt made from a thicker wool material for the winter months. These will give you the warmth you need and still have a professional feel to them. Colors such as gray, blue, brown and black always have an air of authority and professionalism to them and are timeless colors which won’t date.

Remember you can always add a pop of color with your blouse, shirt or a cashmere sweater.

Whether you wear jeans will depend on the feel of your office or workplace. Some will accept a pair of neat dark colored jeans and these can look great teamed with a blazer or silk blouse. Ensure you don’t have any tears and they aren’t overly flared or frayed

For women, a woolen midi pencil skirt that isn’t too fancy and is perfect. But you can always choose skirts that are made of other fabric materials besides wool. Steer clear from see-through fabrics, anything too glitzy, too short or tight. Remember you need to be able to sit comfortably all day and not show too much leg or thigh as this isn’t very professional.

Team your skirt with a pair of thickly knit hose for a less formal look or high denier nude hose for a more formal feel.

Accessories

Mufflers and scarfs

A muffler or a scarf is one of the winter accessories that truly compliments the professional look. Plus, it protects your chest if tucked inside the coat.

So, this is actually a must-have accessory to wrap your neck with for the upcoming winter days.

Men, it’s quite acceptable to wear a scarf as part of your outer ensemble. A lovely wool or cashmere scarf will add a dash of color to your outfit plus keep you warm.

Gloves or mittens

Gloves or mittens are optional but typically not something you’ll want to forego. If the weather is freezing it would be silly not to protect your hands and could lead to some serious health complications.

But if you choose to get this, make sure they have a touchscreen finger pad (so you don’t have to take them off frequently) and that they are wind-resistant. Our best suggestion would be a pair of leather gloves that are furry on the inside. But again, there is nothing wrong with wearing a pair of ski gloves or mittens on your way to and from the office. You’ll be removing it when you arrive anyway. Simply keep them in a tote at work or in your lower desk drawer. If the weather is harsh and it warrants warm gloves, then wear them.

If you really can’t bring yourself to wear either gloves or mittens then place a hand warmer in each pocket so you can keep your hands warm without carrying gloves. These single-use or rechargeable little gems are lightweight and ideal for commuting or walking to your office building.

Hats

You lose the majority of your body heat through your extremities but in particular your head so it’s vital that you protect your head and keep it warm and dry.

There are numerous styles of hats available for both men and women so don’t imagine that you have to forgo this vital piece of winter clothing. Just because you don’t fancy wearing a knitted bobble hat doesn’t mean you have to forgo a hat altogether.

Again, this is an item you will most likely be wearing either to or from the office and removing as soon you get in so it really doesn’t really matter what it’s like. Just ensure you pop to the bathroom before you sit down to tidy your hair!

Your hat can be kept in a tote by or beneath your desk or in one of your drawers. If it’s wet though it’ll need to be dried before storing so it doesn’t smell and it’s ready for your trip home.

This is a time when you can experiment so why not try a classic Fedora or a quirky beret perhaps? Failing that go for a traditional woolen hat that’s small enough to put into your bag when you get to work and won’t take up too much room.

Your hat can, along with your scarf and gloves or mittens, be a great way to add a dash of personality and a pop of color to your outfit.

Footwear

Shoes and boots

The type of footwear you choose will depend on a number of things such as the climate, whether it snows, how cold it gets and how far you have to walk to and from your office. If you face a long walk then a pair of good-quality sneakers is ideal for the walking but may not be smart enough to wear around the office. Keep a pair of neutral mid-heel shoes at work to change into and then you get comfortable feet for the commute and professional feet for the office.

Sometimes the weather dictates that only boots will do and that’s perfectly acceptable, in most instances, for both men and women.

Men choose a pair of structured, Chelsea style boots without a thick sole, the actual boot will likely be covered by your pant leg anyway leaving the impression you are wearing a slip-on style shoe.

Women depending on your outfit you can pretty much select any style of boot and it will work though perhaps steer clear of thigh-high boots or those with a more casual vibe such as DocMartins, unless your office has more of a casual feel. A pair of boots teamed with a knitted hose and a just above the knee skirt in wool works really well and still provides some warmth and comfort.

Stick to neutral colors that compliment your outfit and you can’t go far wrong.

Avoid overly high heels and anything with a peep-toe as these will not only not be smart enough but also will be freezing in winter.

If you have to walk through thick snow, slush or ice then practicalities will dictate that your footwear must protect your feet from the elements and offer you sure footing to tackle the sidewalks. In this case, select a pair of boots that offers all this and change at work, it is better to be safe and warm in the freezing weather than risk a serious injury tottering around in five-inch heels in the snow!

Socks

How can we skip this vital item? If you have cold feet, you would want to wear warm socks such as those made of therma, merino wool, or cashmere. There are other varieties of warm socks out there to keep your heels and toes super warm and dry.

And as we mentioned to avoid cotton with the clothing, we suggest you do the same when it comes to socks so that there is no chance you’ll get frostbite.

It’s always a good idea to keep a spare pair of hose and socks at work just in case you get wet feet or a run in your tights (though less likely with thicker knit style hose). There’s nothing worse than having to sit the whole day with wet feet!

Final thoughts

Well, that’s it for today!

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need “thick” clothes to keep warm during winter. You can stay warm with just the “right” kind of warm clothing. Choose good quality, well-made clothes and dress in layers to keep an air of professionalism even in the coldest of climates.

Stay warm!

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