Q.I head up a team at work. I like wearing pencil skirts but how can I be sure to avoid the “sexy secretary” look?

A.In less emancipated times, when women were restricted to purely junior support roles, the pencil skirt was a woman’s key work-wear piece. In the 80s and 90s it was jettisoned in favour of trousers as the symbol of girl power. However, the old associations with power-suits no longer have the same resonance. The pencil skirt is flattering on most figures and easier to find than a well-cut pair of trousers. The key to losing the submissive sexy associations is how you style the skirt. Avoid teaming with the obvious collared shirt: the suggestive button front and inevitable side-view gape. A modern silk tee with a collar-skimming slash neckline will draw attention away from the bust.

Alternatively, try a chiffon blouse top with a high neck. We love this season’s version by Spanish designer Angel Schlesser. In contrast to stiff cotton, lightweight fabrics will drape more softly over your curves and will avoid creating that sharp hour-glass silhouette. The pencil skirt itself should be in a thick enough fabric to hide an otherwise distracting VPL. Look for something with a good degree of stretch to ensure comfort whilst also banishing creases after sitting down. Rebecca Taylor’s autumn/winter version is a perfect example with contemporary zig-zag seam details. If you have the height try an elegant longer version, which goes down to your calf – instead of an unflattering knee-length version.

Another trick is to sidestep the usual black or dark grey colour-way and experiment with a new modern neutral like olive, khaki or hazelnut, as perfected by Brazilian label Madame X. Alternatively, stand out in interesting textured fabrics like boucle wool, or be bold in a modern print. While a high waistline to the skirt is important, avoid the temptation to over-cinch your middle with a wide belt. Keep your heels elegant and classic instead of relying on the vampy platform. Have more fun with statement jewellery than the dated oversized “it” bag. Remember, the more creative and original your outfit is the more confident you will appear at work.