For many of us, January is a month of two halves.
The first fortnight is devoted to relaxing, shaking off the stresses of December and making the most of our beloved Kiwi summer, while usually around the midway mark it’s (suddenly!) time to return to the office and switch our laid-back bodies and minds back into work mode.
One effective tool to make this shift a little less painful is to banish the shorts and jandals back into the weekend-only wardrobe and pull together some key pieces that will ensure you look and feel, well, pulled together.
"Yes, this is always how I’ve lived, even prior to doing what I do now," says Christchurch-based personal stylist Lou Heller, about spending time on outfit assembly to get her head back in the game.
"[It] makes my day easier, my week, just simply by planning and playing – and having fun is the most important part.
"Studies show that when you wear clothing you feel strong in, your productivity goes up. I have many stories of clients that can back this up."
Heller, who’s just returned from family time in Taranaki and a sojourn in the Marlborough Sounds, is getting ready to head south for the first of her much-loved ticketed styling talks for the year. The prep, for this one at Queenstown’s Mora Winery, no doubt includes packing a kit of looks appropriate to the business at hand.
"When we start back in the new year, it can sometimes create feelings of ‘new year, new me’," Heller says.
"My first tip would be to get into it and have a good cull ... Move on, and create space to allow in the fresh.
"Then create mood boards of what you have in your current wardrobe to think of ways to inspire you to think differently [about] how you may have already worn [it]. We repeat the same outfits often if we get stuck.
"If you feel you’re missing items, write a list ... Work towards adding things in slowly and just sit with it."
And even though it’s workwear you’re dealing with, Heller says the key to styling success is to play.
"Playing is the first and foremost biggest part that people don't do enough of. For example, push yourself to create three new looks with one piece you own that might be a work style."
"Start with some good foundation pieces," says Heller, who recommends including a versatile skirt ("these can be worn to create many outfits"), a "crisp shirt, a good-quality plain white tee, a trench (these will never go out of style) and a chic carry-all bag".
"These would be the hardest-working pieces in my own wardrobe," she says.
"Shoes are very important. Oversized shirts are also a big yes for me. Oh, and adding jewellery can change any outfit too!"
While she’s made a career of looking put-together and helping others dress for success, Dunedin personal stylist Tess McLauchlan, who has spent her summer so far in Wānaka, admits even she lets her hair down when it comes to getting dressed during the holidays.
"Believe it or not, planning outfits goes out the window in summer. It’s only when I’m asked for advice that I switch back to thinking about how clothes affect how we function and the impression that an outfit can make."
McLauchlan’s back-to-work wardrobe advice? While she too is a proponent of a classic white shirt, simply ensuring what you already have is clean, tidy and looking its best will add polish and professionalism to your ensemble.
"You can’t beat a crisp white shirt. Replace it when it looks tired or losing its whiteness. Keep your accessories clean: wipe marks off your shoes, your work bag and use a lint brush to lift the dust off black trousers and jackets.
Treat stains, adjust hems to the right length and replace missing buttons. These simple things lift your appearance no matter how expensive the outfit is."
What’s popular/trending in workwear right now?
"I’m seeing so many forms of pinafore, and the ‘co-ordinates’ trend is not going in a hurry - tops and bottoms in matching prints. Just avoid wearing slides with these so you don’t look like you just woke up."
Vicki Taylor, who runs The Shelter fashion boutiques in Dunedin and Auckland, is freshly back from some restorative time on the Coromandel Peninsula. "It’s amazing what a few weeks by the beach can do!"
She recommends thinking "classic with a twist" as a starting point for a cohesive and considered suite of separates that can be easily mixed and matched.
"My aim has always been to curate a wardrobe with pieces that will always work together. For me, this takes out the guesswork when getting ready in the morning."
"I believe that great tailoring will never go out of style – you can always rely on a black pant that fits your shape to be the base of any great work outfit."
"Natural fibres will be your best friend. They breathe easily as the temperatures fluctuate.
"One that always surprises people is my recommendation to invest in 100% wool when it comes to your tailoring. While you might automatically think ‘heavy’, wool is a natural fibre, and like cotton will breathe through the summer and is a lot more comfortable to head to work in than a synthetic fibre.
"Even better, this means you can wear your blazer and suit pants year round. Let's also note men wear their suits - jackets and pants - all year round, and they are usually made in a super-fine wool."
And, like Heller, she recommends just having fun with it.
"For me it’s also about injecting your own personality into your work attire."