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How to dress: the Properly Off-Duty wardrobe

Link to video: How to wear spring tunics

Many of us don’t really have separate work and leisure wardrobes any more. I know I don’t. I have clothes pitched at various degrees of snazziness that might come into play on a Tuesday or a Saturday, depending on what the day holds. There are the clothes I wear because I am aiming to look professional, purposeful and smart, and clothes I wear to look nice, because I believe in looking nice when doing nice things with nice people. And often these are the same clothes.

The exception is the Properly Off-Duty wardrobe. This is what you wear for that no man’s land of errands that lies between work and fun: queueing at the post office, returning clothes that don’t fit, ferrying kids to swimming lessons. The funny thing is that while everyone’s snazzy clothes are different, many Properly Off-Duty clothes are very similar. It’s like dressing to be a stagehand: people can see you are there, but they know you’re dressed for practicality, not aesthetics, so the rules are different.

The Properly Off-Duty wardrobe of many women has a distinctive silhouette: a longline, often shapeless top over practical, nondescript trousers. This is a look you see every day. It is the woman on the school run with a long cardigan pulled over her running trousers so as not to display her arse to the playground before her 8.45am run. It is the girl shopping on a Saturday in leggings, a long T-shirt and wedge trainers.

But something odd is happening. The Properly Off-Duty silhouette has been co-opted by the fashionables. The tunic-shaped top over narrow trousers (or, for the style hardcore, a long skirt) is no longer just a look that means you can pick a toddler out of the sandpit without draughty bits, it can do smart as well.

Obviously, if you are doing the new snazzy version, you need to up your game. Posh fabrics and colour palettes are in; stuff you wear because it’s comfy and shades chosen because they don’t show the dirt are out. But silhouette is always the trickiest part of a new look, and here’s one we’ve mastered without even knowing it. The no-brainer wardrobe is now a look that can mean business. Or fun, come to that.

• Jess wears tunic dress, £225, by Anhha, from coggles.com. Trousers, £119, hobbs.co.uk. Shoes, £350, bally.com.

Hair and makeup: Sharon Ives at Carol Hayes Management.

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