Fall workwear will look slightly different this year depending on where you live. Last season, many people were collectively WFH in tie-dye sweats and workout sets, with little hopes of returning to the office before the year ended. This autumn, however, as some companies welcome employees back in person, the return of a fall 2021 work uniform feels more real. There are a few details to consider when deciding on your first-day-back look. Do you want to stick with comfy, casual pieces akin to what you have been wearing? Should you wear a coat with pockets so it can hold your mask and hand sanitizer? Also, ugh — now you need an actual work tote to carry your laptop in.
TZR editors deliberated over these tough decisions, and more, before reaching a conclusion that you should ultimately wear what brings joy to you. (If you want to keep your pandemic staples at play — aka maximalist baubles — go for it.) Deputy Beauty Editor Hannah Baxter is gravitating towards trendy earthy clay tones for her fall in-office attire while personally, I’ll be channeling the cozy, knit set vibes as seen on Gabriela Hearst’s Fall 2021 runway. The team’s new back-to-work uniform spans the spectrum, which means you’ll have plenty of style inspiration to choose from when deciding on your own outfit. If you’re not going back into a physical work space yet, take the outfit elements you like, below, and work them into your attire for Zoom calls.
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Look For Investment Pieces
“Like many, my style this past year and a half teetered from unapologetically casual to overly dressed up once outdoor social gatherings took place earlier this summer. Fast forward two months of living out my pent-up sartorial energy, I am now focusing my attention on curating a smart back-to-the-office wardrobe that will test the trends of time, with comfort a top priority (baby steps to wearing high-heels again, if ever). While a stylish jacket and top was easier to find, a good bag to last me a few years that goes with most outfits was more of an endeavor.
After much perusing, I decided on The Row's medium sized shopper tote — it whispered Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy vibes, which I am always into, and the fact that there were no logos, hardware, or any distinction of brand (unless you're a The Row aficionado, you know), I knew it was perfect. Yes, the items I picked below are on the pricey side, but I don't buy many things, just a few pieces a year (no, really). And when I calculate how often I wear what’s in my closet, this is the closest I’ll ever get to smart and conscious shopping.” — Kathy Lee, editor-in-chief
Play With Color & Texture
“This fall, I'm looking forward to getting creative again when it comes to dressing up. Not all workwear has to be classic silhouettes and crisp tailoring. Instead, I want to find ways to layer color and texture into my look. A fitted dress in pale blue is a cool contrast to a funky printed button-down. To make it feel a bit dressier, I'm investing in classic accessories like a sleek black Jil Sander bag and Chanel's edgy-meets-classic brogues. In my head, the outfit is ideal for when I run around town for meetings” — Aemilia Madden, senior fashion editor
Opt For Easy Knit Sets
“After not caring about what I wear on Zoom calls for the past year, I’m ready to make an effort in looking like my pre-pandemic self when we do go back into the office. Up first on my list is investing in a couple of sets, whether it be a knit sweater and skirt combo or a plissé top and pants co-ord. This takes the guess work out of getting dressed and I can mix and match the separates with existing items in my wardrobe for even more varied outfits. Though I naturally tend to stock up on pieces in cream and brown shades, I’ll work in color through my shoes and jewelry. I am in love with Bottega Veneta’s Tire boots (and this chunky olive pair from Chloé, which is currently sitting in my virtual checkout cart). Maximalist rings from BONBONWHIMS will keep that cheerful spirit of summer and playful dressing alive in my drearier fall/winter looks.
Lastly, the true sign for me that we’re heading back into an office space again is the appearance of a work tote. I donated my old tattered tote during the pandemic and have since welcomed a sleeker and more elegant option from Freja New York into my arms. I look forward to showing up at my desk with this bag on my shoulder.” — Marina Liao, senior fashion news editor
Swap For Vegan Leather
“I never thought I would miss wearing proper pants on a regular basis, but after a year of a strict self-induced athleisure wardrobe, I'm excited to delve back into the world of trousers. This season I'm going for a trendy vegan leather pair, like these from MSGM. The glossy look adds a more fun element compared to your basic black trousers and the butter soft feel doesn’t compromise comfort. Paired with a more cozy and bright colored sweater vest, it makes for the perfect outfit to wear to the office and to after-work drinks.” — Stephanie Sanchez, fashion & accessories market editor
Slip Into Bold Outerwear
“While moody fall weather brings me joy, I don’t feel the same about the more neutral and dark color palettes. I’m one for color at any time of year, and this season I’m going full-throttle neon. I plan on investing in a bright suit coat that’s as versatile as it is fun. It’s the perfect piece to dress up any outfit, including my signature white top and jeans. (That said, even my go-to summer duo will get an upgrade by swapping in a dramatic white wrap blouse and fun flared denim for fall.)
I work remotely year-round, so I like to think of all of Los Angeles as my office, and layer-able outfits that can move with me throughout my day are essential. With chic textured loafers and an ultra-trendy mini bag, I’ll be ready for any cold-weather occasion that might come my way. — Angela Melero, executive editor
Embrace Earthy Tones
“I'm the rare New Yorker who actually adores wearing color, so I'm always on the lookout for the season's hottest shades. Earthy clay tones for fall are exceptionally versatile, and can be mixed with subtle pops of color in your accessories (even electric orange, my favorite). This season, I plan on having my crop tops in rotation until winter by layering an oversized shirt on top and a pair of wide leg trousers on bottom. I keep the look feeling cool and casual with a chunky sandal, beaded necklace, and a structured bag, all in complementary (but not too match-y) tones.” — Hannah Baxter, deputy beauty editor
Trade In Heels For Knee-High Boots
“I'm excited to have a reason to look super put together again and for me that means chic and elevated workwear. One of the results of quarantine is having an overall more relaxed approach to dressing, which means, while I am eager to get back to “professional dressing,” I'm not pressed to put on a suit anytime soon. Sleek contour bodysuits are the easiest way to look put together, especially with a flattering neckline like a square-neck. Structured midi skirts are taking the place of slacks for me with interesting details like chains, pleats, cutouts, and ruching.
Boots definitely have to be the thing I'm most excited to wear again — and not just any boots, but knee-high boots. This style is the perfect shoe to make a grand re-emergence into the office with. Last, but not least, I love the sleek structure and shape of a bucket bag, not to mention its versatility. A large tote-sized bucket bag makes for a great work option while smaller iterations of the style can take you from the office to happy hour without missing a step.” — Annie Blay, associate beauty news editor