How TV Changed the Rules of Business-Casual Dressing

June 23, 2018

Photo: People.com 

 

In the infamous film The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway's Andrea Sachs undergoes one of the most expensive and exhilarating movie makeovers in history. The movie contains a slew of branded Patricia Field-curated costumes, which accentuate Hathaway while incorporating movement, color, and style: Kate Spade! Rebecca Taylor! Calvin Klein! Chanel (the Chanel boots! Sorry, I had to)! Price points aside, many of the movie's looks have been re-interpreted into more wearable and budget-friendly versions, thanks to numerous working women. Yet, when this piece came to mind, Prada's fashion was not my first inspiration; that came from a different office-set Anne Hathaway movie-2015's The Intern. In this film, Hathaway (whose role is as boss rather than overworked assistant) has a style that's more polished, chic, and practical for today than her previous role in Prada. True, the high-end parade doesn't end in this film: her character, Jules, wears an endless stream of Azzedine Alaia knits, Louboutin pumps, Celine trousers, and Balenciaga belts. But when I saw Jules' style, I knew that was exactly the type of look that would work in an office environment today. It's modern and classic, but can be easily re-imagined with today's fast-fashion offerings. Costumes included a neutral skirt and knit sweater with patterned heels, a striped top tucked into trousers, colorful heels paired with a button-down, blazer and jeans, and a sheath dress. Add a few leather work totes and slightly smaller "day bags," and you have the perfect business-casual wardrobe for today's working girl.

 

However, this is not about movies - it's about TV fashion! Indeed, thanks to the wider variety of job settings and more flexible workplace environments, people have been given the opportunity to expand their work wardrobes, name-brands be damned. The general idea of adding some color and branded pieces to the generic business-casual gained influence through Hathaway's two films, but they weren't in 2018 - where the workplace climate is more open than ever, and set minimal standards are easy to follow. As far as current workplace fashion goes, nothing sets the standard more than television. Specifically, the female-led dramedies Younger and The Bold Type, which have had some of the most bold and fun looks I've ever seen in cubicle-divided spaces: the best possible inspiration for contemporary trend incorporations into office-wear.

 

Photo: Elle.com 

 

Let's start with Younger. The Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff-led drama, which centers on a middle-aged mom pretending to be 26 so she can re-start her life and a publishing career, makes great use of fun business style. While the character's looks might not always be consistent to a specific aesthetic, the show has been running for several years and tackled some of the best ways to wear on-trend items to the office. Block-heeled footwear, statement jewelry, cut-out tops, and some of the wildest 80's and 90's inspired-trends have all made their rounds in this show - but there's never a lack of color, texture, or unapproachability (aside from the wide range of one-off, designer-only pieces that book publishing assistants likely wouldn't splurge on). Think you couldn't wear ankle boots with plaid schoolgirl skirts and embroidered jackets, leather pants, military-inspired blazers, or sparkly baby-doll dresses to work? Younger would probably prove you wrong (though the overall outfits can sometimes be mismatched-too often there's a contemporary-meets-edgy-meets-party look each episode). While it mainly takes place in a book publishing office, not necessarily the most fashionably adventurous workplace one could think of, the show's costumes send a message of variety and encouragement. Almost anything can be worn to work today, and experimenting with your look-as long as it falls within appropriate guidelines-can be the best way to push the parameters of that.

 

Photo: TVline 

 

Now, The Bold Type -another female-led dramedy, several years, well, younger than Younger-has less designer-label oomf behind its' costumes. However, the character's outfits have pieces from cheaper retailers mixed with high-end pieces, resulting in easily replicable looks that are the perfect blend of different affordability levels. They're on-trend, but realistically wearable - and can be easily re-done with similar pieces from retailers like Zara and H&M. Many of the costumes contain trends - ruffles, puffed sleeves, sequins, corsetry - that could be cause for alarm, yet are shown in approachably wearable ways. Outfits like T-shirts worn with embroidered blazers, jeans paired with numerous statement boots, patterned blouses tucked into ruffled skirts, and long-sleeved rompers have all proved to be definitively office-appropriate on this show. Though its cast works in the offices of a Cosmopolitan-esque magazine (which would likely have more lenient rules when it comes to work attire), none of the outfits - even those veering on the most casual side of business-casual - are inappropriate or too intimidatingly trendy for the workplace. None of the costumes follow rules pertaining to traditional business-casual dress-you won't see a single skirt suit, blazer-with-button-down shirt combo, or single-color sheath dress on this show-but display less in-your-face outfits incorporating trends. They make me think anyone watching Bold Type could see a character's outfit, confidently think "Hey, I could wear that!," easily replicate it in their own wardrobes-and wear it to an office job. The show depicts a realistically fashionable way of dressing for a business-casual environment, without losing professionality or face - which is really the goal most should have when putting together work attire.

 

So, has TV changed the ways that people follow a business-casual dress code? That could be hard to say. However, one thing it has done - through programs like Younger or The Bold Type - is show how office-wear can be trendier and dressed-down without being too casual. Having more color, texture and even a designer piece or two (or the fast-fashion versions) makes for a more unique wardrobe that can still represent personality and professionalism in the workplace. TV may not have changed everyone's idea of the traditional business-casual dress code, since certain environments might not be as personality-friendly as others, but it's given fantastic examples of how the dress code can be reinterpreted for today's workforce. The media-hungry millennials of today can easily follow shows like these to draw inspiration and make their office outfits bolder, more colorful, and more relaxed - heels or not.

 

Aaron Royce, 20, is a student and journalist with writing experience for print and online publications. His journalism interest began when he started reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue before entering high school; he was a co-editor for the school’s newspaper and arts magazine. Post-graduation, he attended Christopher Newport University before transferring to NOVA’s Annandale campus, where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a Communications major. He recently completed a summer as Northern Virginia Magazine’s style intern, and now writes for online publications and interns with ArtJamz Creative Director, RMCI Senior Designer and fashion blogger Anchyi Wei.

 

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