How To Be Both: On Style + Intellect

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black JacketA Girl, A Style _ Marc Jacobs BlouseJ.Crew jacket // Marc Jacobs blouse // J.Crew skirt // Chanel bag // Charlotte Olympia heels // Celine sunglasses // Charlotte Tilbury lipstick

This post was originally meant to be about those wardrobe staples I rely on – the little black skirt, a white silk blouse, my well-worn Chanel bag – but lately I’ve had so many emails from younger readers asking for advice on how to juggle an interest in style and fashion with their first job, a career, or a social conscience. This somewhat took me by surprise, until I remembered that I was that girl not so long ago.

When I landed my first big internship during university – working for a US Senator on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. – I had no idea how to dress for my first entry into my future career in politics. So the week before my departure, in a panic and on a student budget, I raced to every shop desperately trying to find anything that would make me look serious, intelligent, and like less of an outsider than I was.

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 5A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 3A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 7A Girl, A Style _ Charlotte Olympia Kitty Heels + Chanel Timeless Bag

I knew no women in politics from which to ask advice, there was no such thing as style bloggers, and there were as yet no political dramas that portrayed strong female characters who were both stylish and brilliant. So I presumed that to be taken seriously, I should show up looking as ‘serious’ as possible, and eschew any signs of femininity – lest an interest in fashion marked me out as frivolous. My suitcase was full of cheap black suits, boring shirts, and ‘sensible’ shoes I thought would make me look professional. I didn’t look ‘more intelligent’, I just looked like an 18 year old trying to dress like a boring 40-something. And because I love you all, here is the hideous photographic proof to illustrate my point.

I went far in that internship, and it opened so many doors when I got back to Australia and started my career in politics. But I wasn’t noticed because I was wearing sensible shoes and no makeup; it was because I showed up at 8am each morning and didn’t leave until 8pm, volunteered for more and more responsibility, worked hard, and knew my stuff. Wearing lipstick and a pretty blouse wouldn’t have changed my success in that role (and for what it’s worth, I was still sexually harassed by two male Senators regardless of what I was wearing, simply because I was young and female – not because of how I was dressed).

Of course it’s important to be well-groomed and mindful of dress codes in the workplace, and in much the same way you wouldn’t wear a silk ballgown to the beach, or denim shorts to afternoon tea at Claridge’s, some things will never be office-appropriate. But over the years, thanks in part to having more female role models to look up to, but also due to my growing confidence in my own abilities, I learned that you don’t have to sacrifice your own style, feminininty or personality to be taken seriously. I still wear a suit from time to time (though now it’s a black tuxedo that I team it with a silk top + a great necklace rather than an ugly shirt), but nowadays you’re more likely to find me in a dress or a skirt in which I feel like myself.

A Girl, A Style _ Little Black Jacket 2A Girl, A Style _ Chanel + J.Crew Lady JacketWearing: J.Crew jacket (I also love this spot versionthis navy version) // Marc Jacobs blouse // J.Crew skirt (past season, but very similar style here) // Chanel bag // Charlotte Olympia heels (also in flats + this summer version which I’m definitely going to need) // Wolford tights // Celine sunglasses // Michael Kors watch // BaubleBar earrings c/- // Chanel brooch.
Beauty note: Charlotte Tilbury ‘Carina’s Love’ lipstick // Deborah Lippmann ‘Shape of my Heart’ nail polish. 

Because an interest in fashion and intellect are not mutually exclusive, and a preference for Louboutins over sensible footwear does not diminish the fact I have three university degrees, graduated top of my politics class, or have successfully negotiated a bill through Parliament.

Putting on a pair of cute heels for the office won’t lessen your intelligence, caring about fashion doesn’t make you less of a feminist, and you won’t be taken less seriously for wearing lipstick to a political rally.

So here’s to all the brilliant, smart, and politically-aware girls in the great outfits! You deserve to be there as much as anyone.

Love, Miss B xx

Shop the post:

Photos by Joe Galvin

22 thoughts on “How To Be Both: On Style + Intellect

  1. I adored this. I get so frustrated at those that think you can’t be intelligent and passionate about fashion or beauty; they’re not mutually exclusive and you don’t have to dumb down to get ahead. x

  2. Such a great post – very womanly motivating. I know getting the balance of fashion & professional can be a challenge but just because you work in a corporate environment doesn’t mean you cant add your own style or that you have to live in ill fitting suits that do nothing to flatter any figure. Love this look especially the kitty heels, very polished but chic xx

  3. I really love this post, I’d love to read more of this sort of material from you! It’s so refreshing to hear thoughtful, non-patronising advice. You make me think it’s possible to achieve my career goals while not feeling frivolous for my outside interests in fashion!

    • Thank you SO much! I’ve been wanted to talk more about career and work/life/balance topics, but also issues that matter to me and women my age, so this is enormously encouraging. After all, we can care about looking stylish AND succeeding in our careers!

      Briony xx

  4. Bravo. It’s so incredibly patronising that this *still*has to be explained. On a separate but related note, it made my heart soar when I saw the Boots ad with Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie.

  5. I love this post. The reason I started following your blog was because you were someone who combined an interest in fashion/style with politics and it was just incredibly refreshing (as someone who currently works in UK local gov).
    Love the shoes too!

    • Oh, this makes me so happy (and I really do feel so lucky to have such lovely and talented readers, too).

      Thank you SO much!

      Briony xx

  6. Pingback: The Weekend Reading List - Coco's Tea Party

  7. Pingback: Clicklist #23: Bumper Easter Edition – A Scatter of Thoughts

  8. Such a great post! I had no idea you were from Australia, me too! I also love your J.Crew lady Jacket, I picked one up recently which is navy with a peter pan collar, gold buttons and ruffles and I love it (and wear it to my first corporate job with pride and joy!)

    • Thank you so much, and I’m so glad to hear you’re wearing such a cute jacket to your first job (rather than the hideous workwear I thought I had to wear). And yes, Australian born and bred (but I’ve lived here 8.5 years now).

      Briony xx

  9. I loved this! My first ever office job was in a bank and I was so lost. Picture me wearing lots of black cropped pants with various blazers. I did find a way to feel more me but now that I work at a magazine (albeit a business magazine not fashion) and gotten older I’ve been able to find my own style and really – I think at least – flourish. You are not lesser because of what you wear and I’m glad people are taking you seriously. Good on you!

    • I couldn’t agree more with everything you said, but especially about finding your own style and the confidence to be true to that in the workplace as you get older. For me, I suppose the more senior I was, the more legitimised I felt in wearing what I wanted to the office, rather than what I *thought* I should wear to be taken seriously.

      Briony xx

  10. Oh we could so be such good friends Briony! I love that unlike many fashion bloggers, who eventually turn it into a full time thing, you’ve managed to create this amazing duality in your life… a kickass career and amazing style that you continue to express through your blog. That’s why I keep coming back here 🙂

    • Oh, thank you so very much! It’s exactly those comments that make the midnight blogging after a long day in the office all worthwhile.

      Briony xx

  11. I love the last 3 paragraphs of this post. I always admire successful, intelligent and stylish go-getters (like the character MJ from Being Mary Jane and Cookie from Empire, for example). Go girl!

    • Gosh, thank you so much! And embarrassingly I haven’t actually seen either of these shows, so thank you for the great recommendations!

      Briony xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *