The New Rules for What to Wear to Work in Washington

Whatever your vision of “office-appropriate” attire may be, it’s time to expand your horizons. Here are eight stylish tweaks for your spring work wardrobe, each guaranteed to get the seal of approval from both your coffee break bestie and upper management.

1. Go Bolder With Blue

what to wear to work
Sport coat ($675) and linen shirt ($165) at Ledbury; knit tie ($25) and tie bar ($15) at the Tie Bar; Gant Rugger twill pants ($275) at Gant. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Stand out in a sea of navy suits not by changing the shade but by adjusting the brightness. Like Don Draper post–commune retreat, revived and energized cobalt is here to kick your style rut in the pants. Here are five other bright blue men’s pieces to try this spring (all of which look amazing paired with gray, camel, or cornflower tones):

Cole Haan Wingtip Oxford ($230)

what to wear to work mens style blue

J. McLaughlin Cotton Button-Down ($145) and Trumbull Rhodes Tie at Tuckernuck ($70)

what to wear to work mens style blue

Sid Mashburn Leather Card Case ($125) and Polka-Dot Shirt at Bonobos ($98)

what to wear to work mens style blue

2. Look Powerful in Pink

what to wear to work
Max Mara jacket ($2,690) at Bloomingdale’s (Chevy Chase); Theory dress ($385) at Saks Fifth Avenue (Chevy Chase); envelope clutch ($135) at; “Triangle” ear jacket ($49) at; “Naomi” cuff ($350) at Sophie Blake. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Who says you can’t be a girly #GIRLBOSS? When done is serious shapes and minimalist designs, blush feels fierce in a refreshingly feminine way. Pair these five pretty pink pieces with gray, oxblood, or deep rose accents:

Ann Mashburn Suede Slingback ($395)

what to wear to work womens style pink

Leather Jacket at Rebecca Taylor ($975) and J. Crew Crystal Necklace ($128)

what to wear to work womens style pink

Tory Burch hobo at Nordstrom ($475) and J. Crew Cropped Pants ($90)

what to wear to work womens style pink

3. Shirt and Tie Are the New Sock and Shoelace

Gents, are you sick of being told you can express your personality at work only through your feet? Good, because designers are sick of it, too. Here are seven fresh shirt-and-tie combos to get you noticed—in a good way.

what to wear to work
Photograph by Jeff Elkins

1. Tie ($39) at + shirt ($80) at Club Monaco.

2. Tie ($88) at Steven Alan + shirt ($90) at Banana Republic.

3. Tie ($85) at + shirt ($158) at

4. Tie ($88) at Steven Alan + shirt ($125) at Hugh & Crye.

5. Tie ($145) at + shirt ($175) at Steven Alan.

6. Tie ($185) at + shirt ($129) at Suitsupply.

7. Tie ($95) at Read Wall + shirt ($145) at Read Wall.

4. Gentlemen, Put Down the Backpacks. Ladies, Pick ’Em Up.

Sleek and sophisticated (and, most important, smaller than a JanSport), spring’s new backpacks keep both hands free for your morning macchiato and Metro-ride scroll through Twitter.

Briefcase at Shinola ($995)

what to wear to work
This Shinola briefcase looks sharpest carried by hand but comes with an adjustable shoulder strap. Sport coat ($1,384), pocket square ($80), and alligator belt ($497) at Paul Stuart; shirt ($98) and pants ($185) at; glasses ($95) at Warby Parker. Model Brett McAnney of THE Artist Agency; Hair and makeup by Ryan Ibrahim of Blend Make-up Artistry. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Leather backpack at Kara ($495)

what to wear to work womens style backpacks
The simpler the backpack, the chicer. Stick with styles that don’t have outside pockets. T by Alexander Wang cami ($290) and wrap blouse ($350), Theory pants ($315), and Rebecca Minkoff earrings ($38) and ring ($58), all at Bloomingdale’s (Chevy Chase). Model Eryn Fullard of THE Artist Agency; Hair and makeup by Ryan Ibrahim of Blend Make-up Artistry. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

5. Ear Jackets = the New Diamond Studs

what to wear to work
“Howlite Arc” ear jacket ($28) at

They say “in command” with just a bit of edge.

6. Embrace the Lady Suit (It’s Finally Designed for a Lady’s Figure)

what to wear to work
Photograph by John Robinson.

“A lot of our female clients are CEOs, and they want to dress the part. A custom suit offers that confidence. You put one on and feel like you’re getting down to business.

“Styles have changed over the years—people want a tighter fit. Women were wearing boxier pants with a bell bottom, but pants are more slim-cut now. We do trim pants and trim sleeves so that it really shapes her body; we do lighter padding on the shoulders. A center vent versus a double vent will show more of her figure in the back. Pocket flaps can be more of a manly look, so I sometimes recommend that women do pockets without flaps. It’s clean, and they’re not going to be putting things in there like men are. I also do jacket pockets on a slant—when they’re on an angle, they make you look skinnier.”

Kristen Comeau, director of women’s couture at Michael Thomas Custom Clothiers in DC

7. Switch Up Your Slip-Ons

Bye-bye, ballerina flat. These loafers look stylish and can withstand the 20-minute wait in the Sweetgreen lunch line.

what to wear to work
Photograph by Jeff Elkins

1. Marc Joseph at the Shoe Hive ($145).

2. “Pinch Campus” loafer at Cole Haan ($160). 

3. “Huxley” loafer at Sole Society ($70).

4. “Modern” at Everlane ($170).

5. “Bela” at Sole Society ($75).

6. “Stellato” flat at M. Gemi ($228).

7. Nicholas Kirkwood at Saks Fifth Avenue (Chevy Chase)  ($425).

8. Ladies, Watches Should Look Like Watches, Not Bracelets

A substantial leather band is the style this season. Here are seven we’re loving right now:

what to wear to work
Photograph by Jeff Elkins

1. “Bristol” leather watch at Daniel Wellington ($199).

2. “Time Traveler” dual watch at Steven Alan ($385).

3. “Vintage Muse” watch at Fossil ($105).

4. Sport watch with leather strap at Tommy Hilfiger ($125).

5. Sasha Rhett snakeskin watch at Tuckernuck ($199).

6. “The Runwell” coin edge watch at Shinola ($550).

7. “Classic T” watch at Tory Burch ($395).

This article appears in our April 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, and writes about weddings, fashion, and shopping. Her work has also appeared in Refinery29, Bethesda Magazine, and Washington City Paper, among others. She is a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Columbia Heights, and you can find her on Instagram at @washbridegroom and @sarahzlot.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.