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What to wear to work: Advice from 11 stylish Toronto women

Is there a daily challenge more exhausting than finding something to wear to work (other than how to get to bed on time)? Even women with an impeccable sense of style must run out of ideas—especially during the winter. But there are some who thrive even in the snowy months, and they’re profiled right here. Today, we speak to 11 of Toronto’s most stylish ladies of the working force. And while their workplace dress codes may vary—from buttoned up in the boardroom to laid-back on the stage—each of them know how to dress like a boss.

Do you have a go-to beauty look?

Face cream, eyeliner and my husband’s hair clay.

Face cream, eyeliner and my husband’s hair clay.

Audra Csak,
Audra Csak, 27 Studio Manager and Senior Stylist, Sweet Woodruff

How much time do you spend prepping your outfits for work?
I spend about 5 minutes in the morning deciding what to wear—perhaps longer if I have something going on that warrants more time. I think I’m usually distracted by where my first coffee is coming from.

How has your wardrobe evolved over the years and different rank in the office?
I’m definitely more relaxed now than I was when starting out. I felt I needed to make an impression aesthetically in the past, whereas now I just want to position myself to do my job as effectively as I can. I’ve also learned what works best on my body.

What is your go-to power outfit for when you need to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
I tend to choose outfits that are approachable and somewhat quirky. I love shape and textures. I think it’s more important to make people comfortable and at ease in your presence than on edge by using severity.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself in terms of wardrobe?
Simplicity will win for you every time. This doesn’t mean boring—regardless of how crazy the outfit is, be concise.

Is there anything you wish you could wear to work that you can’t?
Roller skates.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Anne-Marie Mediwake
News Anchor, CBC News

What’s your uniform, generally?
In my job, you want people to focus on what you have to say, rather than your outfit. I keep it neat and simple, with conservative hemlines and necklines. I might go for a bold dress and a single-tone necklace. If I choose a strong necklace, then I wear a subdued dress colour. I keep the rest simple and sentimental. For earrings, I mostly rotate between pearl studs from my dad and diamond studs from myself. I get asked about my necklaces. This was kind of a happy accident. I figured out that a necklace is faster to shop for than a new outfit.

How much time do you spend prepping your outfits for work?
In another life, I might have enough time to pre-plan. I have triplets and a job. To make life easier, I keep a rotation of clothes here at work and tend to grab whatever I am feeling later in the afternoon. I’ve been doing this long enough that I have pieces I know will work. The main questions are: Is it clean? And have I worn this in the last three weeks?

How has your wardrobe evolved over the years? 
I have been hosting for about 16 years now. At my first network job, I was out in the field, so comfort was the main driver. Once I came into a studio, I had to figure out what worked for sitting behind a desk and what fit my budget. Later, studios here at CBC posed another challenge: We stand and are often not behind a desk.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work? If so, why?
Flip-flops or ripped jeans. I grew up in a very conservative household (British mom and Sri Lankan dad). Even when ripped pants were in fashion back in the ’80s I was not allowed to wear them to school. I think for me it translates to work ethic. If I’m dressed too relaxed, my mind is too relaxed.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself starting out in terms of wardrobe?
How you dress makes an impression. What do you want yours to be?

How much do you spend on work clothes in comparison to the rest of your wardrobe?
My work clothes are definitely more expensive—the up-front cost as well as tailoring and dry cleaning. Needing a variety of outfits means needing to buy more. They are an investment in my job and brand.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Julie Clark, 32
Owner/Founder, Province Apothecary

Do you have a go-to beauty look? 
Moisturizer and lip balm—I love having a makeup-free face! A few times a year, I’ll apply some natural lipstick from Rhode and Rue or Ilia.

What about footwear?
I love black footwear. Lately I have been wearing ankle boots with a short heel. Winter is here, so as soon as it snows I will be wearing No. 6 clog boots or my amazing vintage Pajar snow boots. At the production space I wear comfortable sneakers because I am standing for 8 hours and I wear flats at the facial clinic (we need quiet shoes there).

How has your wardrobe evolved over the years? 
I used to be a stylist and costume designer in NYC, and I used to love planning my outfits and getting dressed in the morning. Since starting PA, I feel like my wardrobe has devolved; it has become extremely simple and practical.

What is your go-to power outfit when you need to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
Black jeans, a silk top, an Alynne Lavigne necklace and Rachel Comey boots.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself starting out in terms of wardrobe? 
Buy only natural fibres.

Does your commute affect your outfit?
I bike to work every day, so I always wear shoes I can bike in.

How much do you spend on work clothes in comparison to the rest of your wardrobe? 
I don’t spend much money on either. I used to shop a lot as a stylist and still have lots of clothes. I also attend clothing swaps every few months and always find great pieces to add to my wardrobe.

Is there anything you wish you could wear to work that you can’t? 
I’ve always dreamed of wearing a skirt suit to work, but I don’t think that will ever happen.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Anissa Moeini, 30
VP Business Development, GL | Group of Gold Line

What’s your uniform?
A Blazer and blouse, and pants with riding boots or kitten heels. Sometimes I wear work dresses, which I love because they are a one-item outfit—so easy! I’ll usually add a scarf on top to add a pop of colour.

Do you also have a go-to beauty look?
I usually wear a simple black liner and mascara, and some bronzer and blush with a nude lipstick. When I feel like adding colour, I’ll wear my favourite red lipstick called “Ruby Woo” by M.A.C with lip liner in “Cherry,” or if it’s winter, I also love a deep purple.

What is your go-to power outfit to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
I love my Burberry blazers and trench coats, some of which I have owned for over a decade. They are such classic pieces that have stood the test of time. They are always elegant and I feel great in them.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work? If so, why?
I would never wear very high heels because although I love the look, they slow me down.

How does your wardrobe differ on the weekends?
I live in Lululemon on weekends, as I love to run and am a fitness enthusiast. On evenings, I love to get dressed up and wear high heels and dresses. My favourite dresses are by Dolce & Gabbana, as they are classically feminine and have this old world Sophia Loren Italian charm.

Do you feel any pressure to be stylish—or not too stylish—at work?
GL is a technology company and with that comes a casual culture. We also have many executives who dress up every day, so it’s a pretty broad-spectrum in our office. I am lucky to be able to dress the way I like.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Dr. Vivien Brown
MD and VP Medical Affairs, Medisys Health Group

What is your go-to power outfit for when you need to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
Something very classic and sophisticated like a dress (I have a few St. Johns ones) or a skirt suit with a shell top, a strand of pearls, and booties or black patent heels. Nothing sleeveless. I want them to pay attention to what I’m saying, not what I’m wearing.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work? If so, why?
Anything low cut, too tight, night-time. This is a medical office and should be respectful at all times. I’m leaning over people, so I don’t want my cleavage in their face. I also can’t wear something that is difficult to move in.

Do you feel any pressure to be stylish, or not too stylish?
I don’t want to be too high style as my work is about the patients, not about me. But that being said, I like to feel I look nice, professional, comfortable and in-charge.

How much do you spend on work clothes in comparison to the rest of your wardrobe? 
Given my public speaking, all my clothes do double duty. I don’t see my work clothes as separate from weekend or evening. I have a Marie St Pierre blazer that I can wear to work but also with jeans to go for dinner with my husband. I look for what’s going to be a good piece that I can wear in different situations. And quality over quantity.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Jillian Vanstone, 35
Principal Dancer, National Ballet of Canada

What’s your uniform?
My basic working uniform is a bodysuit, pink tights and a dance skirt. To that I will add leg warmers and a sweater when I am warming up for the day and also between rehearsals. This keeps my muscles from cooling down too much. Depending on the role I am rehearsing, I also rely on basic tutus and skirts of various lengths made specifically for rehearsal purposes. This helps me feel more in character and also gives my partner a chance to practise partnering me in something approximating the costume I will eventually wear on stage.

What about footwear?
My footwear is generally a pair of pointe shoes, which I can wear from 1 to 7 hours each day. My shoes are special order and come handmade from London. It takes years to find the right specifications.

Do you also have a go-to beauty look?
Since my days can be very long and I am so often tired, I like my go-to look to be easy and fast. Because my profession is so much about how I present myself, I try to make sure that even when I’m tired, I take the time to put on a little mascara and add colour to my cheeks. Also, I like to have my hair in a French roll when rehearsing. That small effort makes me feel more elegant and put together.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work?
The only thing I never wear is an uncomfortable shoe, especially on my way to the studios for the day. I know that after hours in pointe shoes I need something comfortable to put my feet into at the end of the day. I take forever to find shoes that I like. It is so hard to find shoes that don’t look clunky or therapeutic, but that give my feet the care they need. My husband refuses to shop for shoes with me!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give in terms of wardrobe? 
Always dress for what is most flattering on you personally. I may like a look on someone else, but it doesn’t necessarily suit or flatter me. This is just one aspect of playing to one’s strengths and not trying to be something you’re not.

Do you feel any pressure to be stylish, or not too stylish, at work? 
There is definitely pressure to look not necessarily stylish, but definitely elegant and put together every day. Of course some days I look better than others, but I’m in a visual art form so I must present myself well. It also makes me feel better and more motivated if I’m looking nice.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Yuxi Chen, 25
Senior Accountant

Do you have a go-to beauty look? 
I don’t do much for beauty, as I try to minimize the amount of time I spend getting ready in the morning. My go-to look would be foundation, powder, blush, brow pencil and lip balm. I often wear glasses, especially when I have to work long hours, so I like to have nicely shaped brows to frame my face and look more put together. I make sure I always have manicured nails with a nude or red nail polish.

How much time do you spend prepping your outfits for work?
I plan my outfits whenever I have a new addition to my closet. For example, if I buy a new skirt for work, I’ll try it on with different shirts and tops to get a few looks I like. This way I can easily put an outfit together in the morning without having to spend too much time.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give in terms of wardrobe?
Buy a garment steamer, either a standing one or a handheld one depending on your budget and how much space you have. When your clothes are properly steamed and not wrinkled, you will instantly look more put together. I would also advise sensible heels.

Does your commute affect your outfit?
I usually walk or take the subway to the office or to visit clients, so I always bring a pair of shoes to change into or leave a pair (maybe a few) at the office. In the summer, I tend to wear slip-ons (my favourite pair are from Vince), and in the fall/winter, I wear either flat Alexander Wang ankle boots with my trousers or over-the-knee Stuart Weitzman boots with my dresses and stockings to keep my legs warm.

How much do you spend on work clothes in comparison to the rest of your wardrobe? 
I spend roughly one third of my budget on work clothes, one third on casual wear and one third on coats that I wear both to work and outside of work. I really, really love coats.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Sophie Hackett, 44
Associate Curator, Photography, Art Gallery of Ontario

What’s your uniform?
A suit jacket or blazer and jeans, typically—menswear inspired, practical. I often have a scarf close at hand, since the office can be cold. No preferred colour palette, though navy is very much in the mix these days. I also gravitate to patterns and textures and like playing these off each other. I err on the side of dandy.

What about footwear?
We walk around the gallery a lot, so footwear has to be comfortable. I’ve been alternating between lace-ups and a pair of double-monk strap shoes lately.

How much time do you spend prepping your outfits for work
I don’t typically spend much time planning—a few minutes in the shower before getting dressed. I’ve got a number of similar components that work interchangeably, so that helps to keep things easy. Unless I have a week with several events, then it’s more a matter of making sure I’ve picked up my dry cleaning so I’ve got maximum options.

How has your wardrobe evolved over the years?
I actually find that I dress more casually now than I did when I started. The gallery isn’t a corporate environment. As I’ve gotten older, I find a good fit more important, so I occasionally go to a tailor for shirts and suits. I choose things that I think will look as good at the end of the day as they did at the beginning.

What is your go-to power outfit for when you need to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
A suit. Or at the very least a crisp shirt.

How does your wardrobe differ on the weekends?
It doesn’t change much. I like the feeling of being dressed no matter what day it is. I may trade the jacket for a sweater in winter, or the dress shirt for a T-shirt in summer.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Anjli Patel, 31
Fashion lawyer, Blue Chip Fashion

How has your wardrobe evolved over the years?
The biggest change is that I stopped wearing trousers and jeans. I realized that most pants fit me terribly off-the-rack, and at the end of a long day, I find them very uncomfortable. I also realized that a dress not only looks better on me, but is also a complete, idiot-proof outfit, unlike separates. There is no co-ordinating a top and bottom, tucking or digging.

What is your go-to power outfit when you need to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
Clothing choice conveys a lot of information, especially working in the fashion industry, so I always try to use an outfit to my advantage. For example, I was recently on CBC’s Metro Morning discussing why fashion should be recognized as a cultural industry in Ontario. I wore a TTC map print dress from Toronto designer Anu Raina’s Spring 2014 collection, which came up in conversation and assisted my argument.

Does your office do Casual Fridays?
I am a sole practising lawyer, but suffice to say, I am never casual. I never know when I will meet my next client.

How does your wardrobe differ on the weekend?
I still wear dresses. In the winter, I wear sweater dresses from ça va de soi, or I wear one of my husband’s sweaters over a regular dress for a more casual look.

Is there anything you wish you could wear to work that you can’t?
I have an amazing dress from DRKSHDW, Rick Owens’ diffusion line. It’s black, made of sweatshirt material, with a funnel neck and—the pièce de résistance—a cape. The problem is that I work out of the Great Library at Osgoode Hall, which looks like Hogwarts. So if I wear this dress, I look like an extra on the set of Harry Potter.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Julie Hamulecki, 35
Fashion and Beauty Producer, The Social

What’s your uniform?
Skinny jeans, a boxy top (often plaid or striped) and a leather jacket.

What about footwear?
Black ankle boots! I have too many pairs.

Do you also have a go-to beauty look?
I like a natural look with a strong lip.

What is your go-to power outfit to nail a presentation, meeting or interview?
I always love a chic turtleneck, pencil or pleated skirt, and a great pair of heels.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work? If so, why?
I would never wear anything too revealing.

How does your wardrobe differ on the weekends?
Skinnies and a leather jacket are still staples for me on the weekend, but I’ll often swap out the ankle boots for a pair of sneakers.

Do you feel any pressure about being stylish—or not too stylish—at work?
I only feel pressure to be stylish when we have super-stylish guests on the show! Jenna Lyons would be a great example.

Is there anything you wish you could wear to work that you can’t?
I have a solid collection of heels that I wish I could wear more often, but because my job involves so much running around on a daily basis, they’re just not practical.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Celina Costa, 43
Professor, George Brown College

How much time do you spend prepping your outfits for work?
I leave for work around 6:30 a.m., so when my alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m., I am incapable of making sound fashion choices (I learned that the hard way!). As a result, I have developed a nightly routine where, after I put my children to bed, I check my weather app and choose my outfit, accessories, purse and jewellery. Finally, I lay out all of the items and, in the morning, I get dressed, mindlessly and quickly! This nightly process probably takes about 15 minutes.

Does your office do Casual Fridays? If so, how does it translate to you?
Everyday feels like Casual Fridays here at the college. For better or for worse, the college does not have a dress code, so there is a huge range of interpretations of what is appropriate to wear to work.

Is there anything you’d never wear to work? If so, why?
Although we do not have a dress code, I avoid wearing clothes that make me look like my students; therefore, I would never teach in sweat pants, hoodies, sneakers, or jeans.

Does your commute affect your outfit (and/or footwear)?
I ride my bike to work, so whatever I wear has to be bike-friendly; in other words, no tight or short skirts or dresses. Obviously, pants and leggings are great, but I also frequently wear skirts and dresses during my 45-minute ride.

Do you feel any pressure to be stylish—or not too stylish—at work?
There is definitely no pressure at all to be stylish. In fact, I feel that I sometimes avoid wearing certain fashionable pieces for fear of looking over-dressed.

How much do you spend on work clothes in comparison to the rest of your wardrobe?
Although I have an equal number of casual and work pieces, the price point of my work pieces is higher so I probably spend twice as much on these than on the rest of my wardrobe.

Source:Fashionmagazine

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