wardrobe boot camp: beach to boardroom

Wardrobe boot camp: from beach to boardroom style

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 29 Comments

Editor’s note: This is regular series in which we help Styling You readers solve a particular wardrobe or clothing crisis with a little advice and some shopping suggestions. If you think you’d like to be considered as part of a Wardrobe Boot Camp post, then please email me ([email protected]) with a couple of photos and a brief run down of what specific help you would like. 

Persephone Nicholas is a writer, whose first book – Burned – will be published by Random House in June.

Our work situations are similar (except for the book bit!). We both live at the beach and spend most of the day writing, sitting at our desks in casual and comfortable clothes.

And like me, Persephone also has to have meetings in the city – think beach to boardroom style. Professsional meetings where you need to, well, look professional.

And like me, we’re not interested in looking legal or finance-professional. We want to look polished but still show our creative side.

Persephone Nicholas

The Plea

I’m a freelance writer, live at the beach and spend most of my days in shorts, a sundress or the winter equivalent.  My first book is coming out in June (hooray!) and now I’m finding that I sometimes have meetings with my editor and publisher.  I’m not interested in trying to look corporate (so over all that) but I would like to look a little more polished. I guess, contemporary, creative, classic would be the look I’m after.

The basic shorts look is typical for work in summer.  The other photo is of me dressed up for the award presentation for my book.  I’m the one on the right.  I LOVE that dress but unfortunately it doesn’t belong to me, I just borrowed it for the day.  I’m 50. The only other things I should say are that I’m generally not too keen on black and don’t really do heels!

 Any thoughts or ideas would be gratefully received.

The Tips

1. Organise your wardrobe into two distinct sections. Everyday casual on one side and what we’ll call corporate creative on the other. At the moment the everyday casual may be well stocked but we’ll aim to have the corporate creative side filled up too.

2. Invest in jackets. With a range of different fitted jackets in your wardrobe, you can take a basic tee, jeans (or pants) and scarf outfit and make it look polished. Often if I know I have to go out at some stage during the day during the cooler months, I’ll put on the tee and jeans (most likely coloured) and just add on the scarf and jacket as I head out the door. This look works well with ballet flats or loafers and is great for air travel.

3. Build a wardrobe of go-to dresses. You will be at networking events, giving presentations and doing media interviews. A dress will be your “one garment” friend. These dresses need to be non-iron, travel well and be easily washed and hung up,  ready to wear again with a minimum of fuss. They won’t take up a lot of room if travelling with cabin baggage and they’ll always look smart. Try Leona Edmiston, Sacha Drake, Mela Purdie and Metalicus.

4. If heels are not an option, go for a pair of wedges. Sandals work well in summer; and a wedged ankle boot with tights for winter.

5. Build your accessories collection. A necklace, earrings or cocktail ring can change the look of a dress or pants-tee-jacket outfit and lift it to another more polished level.

6. You’re creating a uniform of sorts. Yes, it will feel strange at first to go from one extreme to another but what you’ll find is that it will help you to have these key “public” pieces as anchors to keep you focussed on the job at hand, a job very much different from sitting in front of a computer.

The Shopping

wardrobe boot camp: beach to boardroom


1. Sussan scarf $39.95 | 2. Metalicus dress $149.95 | 3. Witchery tee $39.95 | 4. Seed blazer $129.95 | 5. Sacha Drake dress $249 | 6. Boston Belle loafers $119.95 @ Style Tread | 7. Country Road pants $129 | 8. Trenery wedges $169

Do you have any tips for Persephone? Are you in a similar situation? Work from home but have to dress up for meetings and networking?

Comments 29

  1. Was thinking about this recently for my own (similar) situation then came across this post. Problem solved! Thank you Nikki for a brilliant article. And Persephone – you look awesome with your new styling!

  2. Hi Nikki,

    Thanks so much for the great tips and ideas. ‘Corporate creative’ is exactly the style I’m after and I’ve now got a much clearer idea of what I need to shop for. I’ll be popping in to Seed to check out that orange jacket on my way to school pick up!

    Much appreciated, Nikki, thanks again.


  3. I think your suggestions are great Nikki, certainly the idea of creating a ‘go-to’ uniform is really helpful. And having something ready and fabulous and wearable across seasons takes any extra stress out of getting ready for a meeting. Persephone is gorgeous and looks lovely in her dressed up pic. Some low heels or dressy sandals and classic cut jersey dresses could be winners for years and years and years. If a dress isn’t seasonal colours and has half-3/4 sleeves, you can wear a snug fitting top under in winter for an extra layer (Metalicus has perfect options for this). A nice cardi is sometimes a good alternative to a jacket too. The Sacha Drake dress is stunning, and I’m always a fan of Leona Edmiston dresses.

    The wardrobe dilemma for me is the reverse of Persephone’s. I have a wardrobe brimming with work clothes, but very few casual clothes/going out clothes!

  4. Great post Nikki. Love that Sacha Drake dress – spookily (surely that’s a word?) I was just looking at that one on their website this morning 🙂 Also love the blazer. I’ve just bought myself a cropped hot pink, 3 quarter sleeve blazer – now just waiting for the weather to cool down enough to wear it. I figure it’s going to help me wear summer dresses well into autumn x

  5. I don’t work from anywhere as you know Nikki,But that is exacly the look I am after when going out and we are of similar ages and body shapes and don’t do heels, much as I would love to,and I don’t do full on black.I love what you have chosen for Persephone,I love the Sacha Drake dress and those wedges and might invest in a pair for winter,they would go with dresses very nicely and amp up the style factor.
    I would have to totally agree with you with you about the jackets Nikki, I bought 3 last year and they make a big difference to a pair of jeans or pants and a top,I wore mine so much last year by just adding them to what I already had and they really do look stylish.The only other tip I would have would be to get a nice leather bag or two,one in tan and one in black that you love, I feel more grown up and chic carrying a great bag.Congratulations on your book Persephone!

  6. Nikki your outfit selections are always aha moments for me in some way… Those grey wedges would go with nearly every outfit…

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