MEJ Masthead

From Desk to Dinner: How to Put Your Closet to Work! 

Ray Mardia

The Australia Day long weekend is over and there’s no denying it…it’s time to go back to the reality of the working week. And that means it’s a great time to talk about day-to-night style! A few tweaks can really transform a professional ensemble to after-hours perfection.

Hopefully these outfits will show you just how much you can do with four basic work staples, and also how accessories and layering can help you stretch your office wardrobe from desk til dusk (or event dawn!) Sound good? Just click on the links in the article for all the item details.

Before we get started, you should know that I don’t really stick to fashion rules at the end of the day. I respect work dress codes of course; I also respect proportion and balance to dress for different body types. But honestly, in my blog and in life, I wear whatever the hell I want. Life’s too short not to.

Staple 1: The Little Black Dress 

For day

We all have an LBD. They’re one of the most hardworking pieces in our wardrobe, perfect for every occasion and very easy to style. For the work look, I chose a tailored cobalt blazer to add some zing to this otherwise traditional work outfit. Cobalt is a great colour – it’s wearable across all seasons and suits most complexions. Add classic extras like black pumps, a structured black tote and pearl studs for a timeless look that you can wear forever.

HC_Desk to Dinner_LBD1

Dress: Review ($279.99), Shoes: Wittner ($189.95), Earrings: Colette Hayman ($7.95),
Blazer: Forever New ($69.95 – on sale), Bag: Oroton ($595)

After dark

Gold chandelier earrings add instant drama to a black dress. They reflect light beautifully and also complement an open neckline, like the one in this dress. Take them with you to work to wear in the evening. A LBD is also like a canvas, so go ahead and show off those crazy shoes you love so much. Have a pair with orange straps and a touch of snakeskin? Put them in your car in the morning and slip them on before dinner. People will follow your every step!

HC_Desk to Dinner_LBD2

Dress: Review ($279.99), Earrings: Colette Hayman ($9.95), Shoes: Wittner ($189.95), Clutch: Colette Hayman ($24.95).

Staple 2: The Button-Down Shirt 

For day

The white button down is one of the most versatile wardrobe staples. Everyone should have one, because you can wear them anywhere – from work, to weddings and according to Sharon Stone, even the Oscars. Choose a loose, relaxed button down instead of one made from a stiffer fabric – you’ll look relaxed and glamorous when you go out later. Here I kept everything else neutral, but took a tiny risk with the mint pumps. I love pastels, especially for Spring and Summer. They’re a bit whimsical, but still muted enough to look polished for work.

HC_Desk to Dinner_Button Down1

Shirt: Target ($40), Skirt: Seed Heritage ($99.95), Earrings: Forever New ($9.99), Bag: Mimco ($399), Shoes: Mimco ($229).

After Dark

This next evening outfit really shows the power of accessories. Unbutton the first two buttons of your shirt to show off a dazzling statement necklace. Add a neutral textured clutch to keep the pastel mood going, and shine bright!

HC_Desk to Dinner_BD2

Shirt, skirt and shoes: as above. Necklace: Mimco ($349), Clutch: Colette Hayman ($19.95).

Staple 3: The Printed Top 

For day

A printed top is the easiest way to add interest to a plain pencil skirt. I’m also a big fan of printed skirts and plain tops, so feel free to be creative and integrate these suggestions with your own style! The first look is pretty safe, and I believe appropriate, for most workplaces (esp. with a blazer). But it still packs a punch with its bright painterly lines. The bold bag is also a big exclamation point that makes this outfit exciting and surprising.

HC_Desk to Dinner_Print Top1

Top: Target ($25), Skirt: David Lawrence ($179), Necklace: Sportsgirl ($12.95), Bag: Trenery ($399), Shoes: Wittner ($159.95).

After dark

I know what you’re thinking. Can we everyday gals pull of pattern mixing? Let me tell you, we can all learn to mix patterns like a pro with a few tricks. When done right, mixed patterns are a really modern way to do cocktail attire. It’s risky and full of character. If you’re new to mixing patterns, here’s a few pointers: Mix different shapes – lines and circles don’t interfere with one another. Make sure at least one colour on the top is present on the bottom (i.e. black/white) – this creates uniformity. Use accessories with clean lines to anchor and balance your look.

HC_Desk to Dinner_Print Top2

Top, bag and shoes: As above. Skirt: Bardot ($69.95), Necklace: Bardot ($11.48 – on sale).

Staple 4: The Pantsuit 

The suit is a very classic staple in our work wardrobe. Here I tweak it a bit so that it can work overtime as evening wear. I’ve gone for single button tailored suit because it still looks professional while looking more relaxed than its double-button counterpart. I’ve chosen a bluish charcoal instead of black, because it looks very modern when paired with the green silk blouse. Together they create a subtle colourblock effect. Suits exude power, so go ahead and ooze more of that sexy confidence with some great lace-ups that’ll peek through as you walk.

HC_Desk to Dinner_Suit1

Suit: Oxford jacket ($159.60 – on sale), and pants ($79.60 – on sale), Top: David Lawrence ($99), Bag: Oxford ($159.60 – on sale), Shoes: Wittner ($199.95).

After dark

Ditch the blazer and channel some serious resort vibes in this outfit. It screams fun, exuberance and adventure. Pack the clutch and earrings in the morning and wear them on before you head out for a great night. Lift the freakin’ roof by playing with colours, textures and prints. Who knows? Some of you might even forget that you were wearing a suit earlier in the day.

HC_Desk to Dinner_Suit2

Top, pants and shoes: As above. Earrings: Colette Hayman ($7.95), Bag: Colette Hayman ($15 – on sale).

If you’re inspired by any of these looks, I’d love to see your outfit. Just share a photo on Facebook (either to HerCanberra or Style Cognita) Facebook page, or leave a comment below – it will make my day! And for more inspiration on making work outfits fun, check out my most recent blog post.

Image of confident business woman from


Ray Mardia works as a lawyer in Canberra and can recite most of the lyrics of Baby Got Back. An epicurean at heart, Ray loves the good life, people's stories, nature, art and beauty in all its forms. Ray is a lifestyle contributor at HerCanberra. More about the Author

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