The Ultimate Back-to-Work Style Guide

Dreading your return to a real-world workplace? Local stylists, shop owners, and other pros are here to make dressing for it less of a drag.

The time for returning to the office is upon us. And whether that’s cause to celebrate — or something you dread — you’ve most likely looked at your closet and wondered, What the hell am I going to wear? After all, your online purchases over the past year probably consisted mainly of cozy sweatsuits, fuzzy slippers, some outfits for working out, and maybe a dressy silk pajama-but-doesn’t-look-like-pajamas set for when you wanted to feel put-together-ish on those infinite Zoom calls. 

Back-to-work style may be the last thing you want to think about right now, so to make things a little easier on you, we’ve talked to several local stylists, shop owners, and other pros and collected their tips for getting your workplace wardrobe back in order. The consensus: Dressing for work in this post-work-from-home world doesn’t have to be a drag. Detroit-based wardrobe stylist and creative director Marv Neal summed up the new thinking on office attire this way: “I’m here. I’m healthy. I’m here to work. But I’m not putting on my St. John knit suit today.”


Level Up Your Loungewear 

Felis Bellz Pants - back-to-work style
Felis Bellz in Red, $135, at RocknRemix; rocknremix.com // Photograph courtesy of RocknRemix

The dream would be to wear hoodies and sweatpants to work. That’s probably not happening. But apparel should adapt to new ways of working. “The new primary charm of workwear is its functionality — workwear pieces should now allow for movement and versatility,” says Caitlin Riney, owner of Detroit-based menswear shop George Gregory. “We are no longer sitting at a desk for hours on end. Days are split up, weeks are hybrid, and business is done a lot more on the go.” Our experts shared a few ways to stay comfy while mastering back-to-work style. 

Yes, you can make a T-shirt work. 

It’s just all about how you style it. “I might wear a pair of jeans with a T-shirt, a linen blazer, and a great pair of loafers,” says Jon Jordan, WDIV Local 4’s style editor. “That’s a way that you can elevate something.” 

Jumpsuits are your new best friend. 

A top-tier, year-round item, they’re great for warm weather and easy to layer for the colder months. “Finding a jumpsuit that fits your body type or tailoring one to fit gives you that comfort of a onesie at work,” says Aarika Lauryn, a Detroit-based personal and editorial fashion stylist. The only downside is when it’s time to use the bathroom — but you can cross that bridge when you get to it. 

Try some relaxed silk trousers. 

“Paired with a blouse or fitted, sleeveless top, and a mule, they can be just as polished as a traditional trouser,” Lauryn says. Hey, anything that will look nice and feel like pajamas is a win in our book.  

Or try the Felis Bellz pants. 

Neal highly recommends these pants (pictured above) from online apparel brand RocknRemix, created by Detroit native and Project Runway veteran Char Glover. The shop’s signature pants are versatile, high-waisted, and stretchy. They’re also supermodel-approved — Tyra Banks sported a red pair in 2019.


Capsule Time 

capsule wardrobe - back-to-work style
Photo: IStock

Having a few quality basics is key to putting together effortless outfits. A great way to achieve that is by starting a capsule wardrobe, which is a small collection of essential garments that never go out of style. Jordan shares a few pieces you can’t go wrong with: 

• A black blazer 

• A white dress shirt or blouse 

• A black or neutral skirt 

• Black or neutral slacks

• A “convertible” piece of outerwear (“Think trench coat with a zip-out lining that works for both cold and warm weather,” Jordan says.) 

And what’s great about these items is they can be mixed and matched, and you can easily dress them up. “You can wear a beautiful white blouse with a black skirt and wear leopard print shoes or red shoes,” Jordan says. “There are ways that you can take those basic pieces and make them so interesting.”


Color of The Season 

While we’re not the professionals over at Pantone who annually announce the highly anticipated Color of the Year, a couple of our experts did agree: Lavender will be a hit this fall. It’s a great way to add color to your work wardrobe. 

tory burch lavender
Photograph courtesy of Tory Burch
tory burch lavender 2
Photograph courtesy of Tory Burch

Tory Burch Kira Patchwork Small Camera Bag, $428, and Tory Burch Jessa Pointed Loafer, $248, at Tory Burch at Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Road, Ste. 153, Troy; 248-458-1307; toryburch.com


Fabrics 101 

These are the fibers and fabrics to keep in mind while shopping for new threads or looking through what you already own. Fibers like polyester and nylon have wrinkle- and water-resistant properties, while linen, bamboo, and fabrics made of cotton blends are comfortable and breathable. To add some texture to your look, consider garments made with tweed, Merino wool, and corduroy. 


Dye and Go to Heaven 

Madison Reed color - back-to-work style
You can also use a Madison Reed Color Therapy Color Depositing Hair Mask (pictured here, $20 each) to touch up your color and condition your hair. // Photograph courtesy of Madison Reed

Are you itching to try a new hair color to amp up your back-to-work style? Shvonne Perkins, manager of training and education at the hair care company Madison Reed, shares colors you can try and tips for applying them. The company’s products are free of ammonia, parabens, phthalates, and gluten and feature such nourishing ingredients as argan oil, keratin, and ginseng root extract. 

Try underlit brunette.

“This warm brown shade is all about playing up natural undertones,” Perkins says. “We love how natural and effortless this light brown shade of hair color looks, particularly when
it’s casually tousled and not styled.” To achieve this shade, try Madison Reed’s Umbria
Light Brown 7.5 NNA
, which Perkins recommends for resistant gray hairs. 

Try babylights.

Perkins says this is the easiest way to have subtle, low-maintenance highlights. “We recommend asking your stylist for a few piecey pops of color threaded through mid-lengths and ends in a shade just slightly lighter than your natural hair color,” she says. To achieve this at home, you can try Madison Reed’s Light Works Balayage Highlights in Palmi Warm Honey.

Try a copper color.

“This is a warmer hair color look for medium and darker shades of hair color that really brings out a summer glow and adds brightness to your face while still looking natural,” Perkins says. Check out Madison Reed’s Color Reviving Gloss in Canella,
a semi-permanent color that adds copper tones to red or brunette hair. 

So, what if I want to try these products at home? 

DO protect your hair after dyeing. Washing, sun exposure, swimming, and tight hair ties can be rough on color-treated hair. “If you can, wait a full 72 hours after the initial post-coloring wash to lather and rinse your newly colored locks,” Perkins says. Use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to lock in color and prevent fading. Also, deep condition your hair weekly to keep your hair hydrated. 

DO wash your hair the day before coloring. Make sure you don’t have any products in your hair, such as root touchup powders, hair spray, or gels, which can block the color, Perkins says.  

DON’T color your entire head with permanent color each time you dye your hair. “This can eventually make your color look too dark and dull,” Perkins says. “You really only need to color your entire head of hair with permanent color if you’re coloring for the first time, or if you’re drastically changing your hair color. Otherwise, just color your roots.” 

If you need more help, head to the Madison Reed Mini Bar at Somerset Collection in Troy, where you can buy these products and chat with a colorist who’ll find the right shade for your hair and share application tips. Madison Reed Mini Bar, 2800 W. Big Beaver Road, Space S-216, Troy; 248-247-7188; madison-reed.com


Layer Up

layering - back-to-work style
Photo: IStock
Add a top. 

“Adding a blouse or lightweight turtleneck under your favorite sleeveless dress is a cute way to make a less office-ready dress more work appropriate and fashion forward,” Lauryn says. 

Add a duster. 

“I am obsessed with dusters and lightweight trenches,” Lauryn says. “Long dusters elongate your shape if you’re petite and create more balance for curvy or inverted-triangle shapes.” Wear one over a dress or with a top and pants.

Add a sleeveless blazer vest.

“They’re great pieces that don’t add bulk to your arms or hide the rest of your outfit,” Lauryn says. And when it gets cold, they fit well under jackets.  

Add outerwear. 

“Oversized outerwear leaves lots of room to get inventive with your base pieces, building plenty of depth with varying textures and tones,” Riney says. 

Add jewelry. 

“In my day-to-day, I like thin pieces that I can layer,” Lauryn says. “I think varying thicknesses can add texture and a chic style to your look.”


Everything Must Go! 

back-to-work style - shopping
Photo: IStock

Do you just feel like purging your entire closet and starting fresh? Go for it. Here are some tips to get you started. 

Do some research.  

Lauryn suggests looking at blogs, Instagram, or Pinterest for inspiration for your new look. Riney concurs. Start by “talking to your local small-business owners who study trends for a living, screenshotting images online of looks that inspire you, and talking to individuals on the street whose looks make you do a double-take,” Riney says. 

Work with personal shoppers.

Jordan recommends using personal shopping resources available at department stores, especially if you’re interested in creating a capsule wardrobe. “They’re a free service — no minimum investment, no tipping, no hassle,” he says. “The Somerset Collection has a complimentary personal shopping service.” (If you’d like to try it, visit thesomersetcollection.com/personal-stylist.)

Chat with local retailers. 

The options are endless, but Jordan recommends these shop owners for additional one-on-one wardrobe help. 

Deron and Tina Washington of Shops on Top 

2362 Russell St., Ste. 200, Detroit; 313-974-6898; shopsontopdetroit.com

Sharon Eisenshtadt of She

6400 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills; 248-385-5502; shestores.com

Jenny Ouliguian of Dolce Moda 

323 E. Maple Road, Birmingham; 248-399-6200; dolcemoda.com

Erik Miller of Untied on Woodward

223 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-792-6828; untiedonwoodward.com


Um…No

So now Crocs come as … stilettos? 
 balenciaga crocs - back-to-work style
Photograph courtesy of Balenciaga

There are limits to elevating casualwear for the office. Case in point: Balenciaga’s $1,000 Crocs stilettos from the brand’s spring 2022 collection. (This isn’t the first Balenciaga x Crocs collab; the luxury brand debuted platform Crocs during Paris Fashion Week in 2017.) Neal isn’t a fan, either. “I don’t know how that’s functional,” he says of the heeled clog. And as The Cut hilariously put it, they’re “either an atrocity to humankind or a very good prank on rich people.” Maybe you should stick to your trusty tie-dye Crocs — sans stiletto — and leave them at home. 


Face Facts 

back-to-work style - makeup
Photo: IStock

All those who spent endless hours watching makeup tutorials on YouTube this past year just to feel fabulous around the house, say, “Aye!” If that wasn’t your life and you need a little beauty refresher, Kori Fields, product development coordinator for The Lip Bar, shares some tips to put your best face forward. If you ditched the makeup during quarantine, start small and build your way back up. “Consider your beauty bottom line, and focus on things that will get you out of the door with minimal effort,” Fields says. “For me, that consists of a good, tinted moisturizer, concealer, brow, and lip.” 

Skin is in. 

Effortless makeup that keeps your skin healthy is what most people are looking for. “Right now, makeup has become more skin driven; even prior to the pandemic women were wearing less,” Fields says. “Makeup wearers are opting for lighter-coverage complexion products and are also more interested in beauty products that are ingredient driven.” 

Experiment if you like! 

Fields recommends deciding which feature you’d like to accentuate the most and having fun with that by, for instance, putting a pop of color on your lips or eyes. If you’d like to stay true to what you know, she suggests trying different textures of products. “For instance, if lip products and colors are your comfort zone, switch things up by trying a liquid matte versus gloss, or vice versa,” Fields says.

But you don’t need to keep up with all the trends. 

“Try to avoid going product-crazy as you get back in the swing of things,” Fields says. “Ignore all the TikTok beauty craziness and focus on what works for you.”


Shoes, Etc.

These are the pieces you need to level up your back-to-work style 
shinola messenger bag - back-to-work style
Shinola Canfield Relaxed Messenger, $595, at Shinola; shinola.com for locations // Photograph courtesy of Shinola

The man bag: “It’s essentially a fashionable way to give men the same convenience of a tote bag that women have had,” Lauryn says. She recommends Shinola and Tote&Carry for laptop cases and messenger bags.

The mule: “Open-toe or closed-toe mules are a comfortable and a chic style for the workplace,” Lauryn says. And you can’t go wrong with a flat or heeled pair. 

gucci basket sneakers - back-to-work style
Gucci Basket Sneaker, $950, at Gucci at Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy; 248-643-7630; gucci.com // Photograph courtesy of Gucci

The high-end sneaker: If you’re serious about your shoe game, Neal suggests going for a Louis Vuitton or Gucci sneaker. If designer shoes with logos all over aren’t your thing, a classic white Adidas will do the trick. 

The kitten heel: This shoe rose to popularity in the ’50s and ’60s and made a comeback in the ’90s. Since fashions always repeat themselves, the kitten heel has once more become a hot commodity. “It’s kind of back to like 1999,” Neal says. “A lot of little bitty kitten heels.” 

tory burch scarf - back-to-work style
Tory Burch Double Sided Hibiscus Silk Square Scarf, $198, at Tory Burch at Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Road, Ste. 153, Troy; 248-458-1307; toryburch.com // Photograph courtesy of Tory Burch 

The scarf: Virtual meetings will still be a thing in the office, and scarves are a nice accessory that frames your face and will keep you sharp for your video call. “Scarves can be year-round,” Jordan says. “They can be sheer in warm weather and have a little bit more substance during colder weather.”  

The Chelsea boot: “They continue to improve every look,” Riney says.

dolce moda loafers - back-to-work style
Suede Loafers with Tassel in Grey, $190, at Dolce Moda, 323 E. Maple Road, Birmingham; 248-399-6200; dolcemoda.com // Photograph courtesy of Dolce Moda

The loafer: “Men should stick to more of a loafer with elongated toes and not the short, square penny loafer look,” Lauryn says. “If you’re looking to incorporate more street style or loungewear, try a short creeper sole loafer!”

The Glam-Aholic Lifestyle Bag: These bags by Glam-Aholic Lifestyle founder and Detroit native Mia Ray have become a staple for the on-the-go woman, “if you can get your hands on one — they sell out pretty fast,” Neal says. It’s true — the brand made $700,000 in sales in less than 10 minutes during a travel collection launch in February 2020.


Lingerie Lowdown 

lingerie - back-to-work style
Photo: IStock

Well, being free to go braless as we hunkered down at home was fun while it lasted. If it’s time for you to buy more of these undergarments, Rebecca Aughton, owner of upscale lingerie store Bra-Vo Intimates in Royal Oak, is here to help with answers to some common questions.

How do I know if I’m wearing the wrong size? 

You’ll notice grooves in your shoulders from the straps sitting incorrectly, and the underband will sit uncomfortably. If your breasts are spilling out, you’re wearing the wrong cup size. But Aughton says the wires are often the main source of discomfort. “If your wires are popping forward, poking you, breaking in half, coming out of the bra — you’re wearing the wrong size,” she says, adding that the right size will have your bust sitting between your shoulder and elbow. 

Can’t I just measure myself from home? 

Probably not — if you measure yourself incorrectly, you’re just wasting money on the wrong size bras. (Studies show 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong size.) Aughton encourages women to get professionally fitted. “You’re worth the comfort,” she says. Wearing the incorrect size can cause pain in your breasts, back, and ribs as well as
poor posture!

What’s wrong with buying bras from a department store?

They carry limited options. “A lot of your Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Targets maybe carry 20 sizes,” Aughton says. “So, if you think about our population, we have the largest size variants in the world — and we think we’re going to fit into 20 sizes? No, we’re not.” In fact, she recommends going to a shop that carries at least 80 sizes. Bra-Vo carries cup sizes all the way to a U.K. size K, which translates to a U.S. size O. 

OK, so if I get fitted, is there anything else I should know before I go? 

Just a few more tips! Aughton says to see a professional who’s been fitting on the shop floor for at least two years. Bring two or three tops to your fitting that you regularly wear to learn which bras work best for your clothes. And whichever shop you go to, they will educate you on how to correctly put on a bra and properly care for it. 

Find Bra-Vo Intimates at 29732 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-582-7286; bravointimates.com.


This story is featured in the August 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.

Facebook Comments