Makeover: from frump to City chic

THE City is sometimes accused of lacking colour and style, but this is unfair. City women need to look smart – equally commanding in the boardroom as in the bar at Coq D’Argent – and have little extra time and energy to make it happen. So they tend to stick to what they know will work.

Presenting fresh, chic looks day after day is hard. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of bland uniforms of black and beige in undistinguished cuts. I’m the first to put my hand up there, which is why I agreed to go along to members’ fashion boutique Rous Iland ( for a makeover. Kara Iland and Clare Rous showed me a new horizon of elegant ease from which any working woman can seek inspiration. Here are four looks that made me feel City slick.

Granted, it’s a little shabbier a get-up than perhaps you bankers and lawyers would be seen in. But it represents my larger problem: lack of ideas. This outfit is easy: it is leggings, a top and a scarf and takes two minutes to assemble in the morning (a high priority). Kara Iland says: “The ring and watch accessorise it, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it lacks structure and togetherness. You look comfortable but you’re not reflecting how sharp your mind is with this outfit. And unfortunately, first impressions count.”

It took me no more time to throw this ingenious little number on than my “before” outfit. “This dress is just wool jersey,” says Iland. “It’s comfy, easy to throw on and doesn’t require any ironing. You can throw it in a bag and you look together.” Showing the waist with the belt, a “quick trick”, is very flattering. This easy dress, matched with some heels and tights, perfectly fits my requirements for having easy things to wear. Rous Iland Drape Me dress in black £295, Karen Walker skinny belt £50,
wedges by Rupert Sanderson, £675.

The girls suggested this for the festive season, but it’s also versatile enough to work whatever time of year it is. The pink is vaguely Christmassy but the black on light silk means it would work at any glam event. Its bold colour is right on trend, too, even though it scared me at first. Crucially, the dress is easy and comfortable, but makes a statement because it’s off the shoulder. “It’s a very nice way of showing skin,” says Iland. “You’re not showing any cleavage, so it’s super smart. It’s also modern and sexy.” Other comfortable elements of this dress are the pockets and the high-waisted tie – very flattering for my curves. Rebecca Taylor crystal dye dress £405.

A wonderfully sharp look for going between meetings and post-work cocktails with clients – chosen because it’s such an easy way to look pulled together. The outfit looks like a skirt and top but it’s just one dress, so not only are you saving time in the morning, you’re not fiddling with keeping shirt tucked in during the day.
“It’s nice to wear silk with a bit of sheen on top, because it reflects the shine on your face,” adds Iland. The dress was super-comfy, so perfect for rushing around, and also has the “right drape” – cinched high around the waist and less fitted around the bust. Rous Iland Two Tone dress £295, Miquella mascarade necklace £175, Mary Ching Cecile shoes £295.

I’m a trouser girl at heart – I like not dealing with tights. This style matches my casual heart best – only interpreted by Kara and Clare in a super-elegant way. “This is a key elegant look, composed of simple sepearates,” says Kara. “The trousers are perfect for you: well-tailored with a nice, straight cut, which is very flattering. The look is understated, with simple lines, while the skinny belt adds a bit of finesse. The blouse’s puckering and shoulder pads draw attention to the slim belt line of waist.” The necklace, which can be worn short or long, is another trusty wardrobe tool. Tiger of Sweden trousers £159, Rutzou blouse £205, Bex Rox necklace £210.