How to make your work dress work harder

Pair with an accessory and another item of clothing to change up your style

Words: Daniël Geldenhuys | Photography: Getty

Chances are you're putting a lot of pressure on your summer dress purchase. Beyond the usual requirements of flattering your figure, falling in line with your favourite trend, and just plain taking your breath away, the perfect dress needs to be able to go to work or play, convey the right aspect of your personality, and have a wide range of styling options. Deep breath – this is in fact possible to achieve. Workwear during the South African summer becomes a lot more relaxed, and as long as your dress isn't showing off too much of your body (that's a whole other issue for another day) it's office appropriate.

Before you buy the dress, ask yourself: how can I transform it into at least two more looks? You want to be able to pair it with an accessory and another item of clothing to change the look. If the answer comes easy, it's a keeper. Here are some receipts to get your creative (styling) juices flowing.

How to turn a dress into three looks

The oversized graphic-striped T-shirt dress from Style Republic is casual in cut, but with an air of formality in its length that works perfectly for the office. The relaxed fit is amazingly forgiving and ripe with opportunity. Transforming this dress into a second look will only take a belt. Opt for an unexpected yet poignant print clash by adding the Kappa Banda belt: not only does it add to the dress, it changes its shape and fit too. It transforms yet again when you add a longer-length black blazer: now the stripes peek as opposed to pop, all the while retaining their fresh assertive appeal.

How to turn a dress into three looks

The Superbalist linen midi shirtdress perfectly conjures that sought-after summer feeling of luxurious tranquillity. Of course, that's probably not the vibe at the office, but no matter. Because the dress buttons down all the way in the front, you can pair it with a white tee and Cotton On's wide leg cropped jeans for a whole new look and function – is it a dress or a summer coat? Who cares as long as it looks great. Since the colour of the dress is literally that of a blank canvas, use it as a base to build on with bold accessories you want to show off. Nike's Air Max 97s and a gorgeous half moon straw sling bag provide enough distraction to turn this dress into a third look without anyone noticing. 

How to turn a dress into three looks

Summer's spot obsession is playful, yes, but it also has a distinctly chic sensibility about it that renders it office appropriate. It's the kind of thing you can wear on Wednesday, and then again on Friday over a simple black tee for a slightly more sporty look that feels ready for the weekend. The following Monday, add a really great belt bag (this one by daily friday is life changing) that compliments and builds on the look of the dress, evolving it in a way that makes you wonder why you don't always wear the two together.