This type of post has been waiting to be published for a very long time. Actually, I first had the idea to publish posts about business attire back when I worked in corporate. I travelled a lot, worked long hours and did not have a lot of time to search online for the best outfits. Furthermore, I found that business style advice was either too generic (“wear respectful clothing”), super boring (on ugly pages) or, if published in Vogue and the likes, simply not suitable for my job. (My favourite was a mini suede leather skirt which was “perfect for the office” according to the magazine in question). Hence, I had to come up with my own way to dress stylish and yet professional.
Those who have worked with me know about my obsession for fun shoes, beautiful accessories and nice fabrics. There is definitely a band-with for experimenting. Professional does not have to mean a black suit and a white button down shirt. (I really hate wearing that combo, it makes me feel like a waitress.) What I learned from working in different industries and countries is that what is acceptable to wear always depends on your company culture, the industry, country and climate. I guess that you are probably in the same situation as me: there simply is not a lot of time to do the research for every single business trip and work occasion. Hence, I am now starting this new format with the first guide about business style in Singapore.
Business & Style Background
Singapore with its banks, shipping companies and Asia headquarters for many multinational companies has become a go-to destination for many business travellers and expats. In general, Singapore is a very laid-back country. This is also reflected in the city’s fashion style. Furthermore, located in the tropics, there is a need for business attire that allows for walking a few metres outside in the heat and at the same time meetings in air-conditioned rooms. Furthermore, business dinners can take place outside or inside or even both and you need to be prepared for that..
If you come to Singapore on a business trip or work in the city, you can definitely dress up. The density of designer bags is typical of Asian CBDs (central business districts) – which means extremely high. I sometimes feel way underdressed with all these women casually wearing their Chanel and Hermès bags. Similarly, in contrast to most Western European countries, showing off brands is also widely accepted. But do not worry, my outfit essentials below will give you options to not break the bank for your business trip. I am still a fan of noble understatements, even after spending so much time in Asia.
So, let’s get down to business.
Nine Business Attire Good-to-Knows for Singapore
1. Skirt Length
You do not necessarily have to cover your knees. I found it perfectly acceptable to wear skirts that end shortly above the knee.
2. High Heels
Yes, they are perfectly fine. Singaporean women love high heels. Carry flip flops in your bag and change when you are on your way to the meetings to beat swollen feet in the heat or protect your shoes during a thunderstorm. In contrast to many other countries, it is also accepted to wear open shoes. I would refrain from wearing suede shoes, because if you get stuck on the road in the rain, you will have to tell them good-bye…
3. Fashion Trends
Trendy pieces are accepted. Singaporean women love fashion and shopping. This is also reflected in their business fashion style and they love to mix classic pieces with trendy cuts.
In general, but especially in hot climates, I prefer to wear cotton and linen and less synthetic fabrics. They just feel much more comfortable. Wear some light pieces, excessive lining will just make you sweat.
5. Cover Up Inside
Bring nice and light jackets and scarves to cover up inside. Alternatively, wear light long-sleeved shirts. I usually wear tops or dresses with sleeves, because then I do not need to worry about covering my shoulders.
Because you will be working in a tropical climate, the colours are not only black, navy and grey. It is perfectly fine to wear light or even brighter colours. (Again, it depends on the industry but Singapore is less strict on the colour front.) I think I do not need to emphasize here that it should still be within a professional level (so leave that neon-pink dress at home 😉 ).
As mentioned above, Singapore is a designer handbag capital. If you cannot or do not want to afford a Chanel 2.5, I suggest sticking to a very classic and versatile bag that matches all your outfits for the trip.
8. No Tights Needed
There is no need to wear tights. Even if you work in more conservative environments such as banking or legal, no one will expect you to wear tights in Singapore.
Compared to Europe, I found that I could experiment much more in Singapore with my day makeup. Still, because of the heat, I always opted for a nice and clean day makeup that does not result in the racoon style after two hours.
Now, how can you translate these tips into outfits? I have listed my favourite items for Singapore below. On a personal note: my business fashion style is not very conservative. Even when I worked for an engineering company in Finance, I never wore the “black suit pants and blazer paired with white button down shirts” which I found in etiquette guides. You will see this with the items below. I love to experiment with colours and cuts and I do not believe in the typical coaching tips like: “Do not wear big earrings, they distract from your competencies.” My goal here is to encourage you to make the best out of yourself and feel comfortable within the limits of your corporate culture. I do not think we ladies need to look like men to own it. Ladies, we can do our business in style! 😉
I would go for knee-length or slightly above the knee.
Leave black, grey and navy at home and pair a coloured piece with your neutral essentials.
I usually wear simple cotton tops because of the heat. But sometimes, I opt for a nice more refined long sleeved top.
I love wearing coloured dresses. If you do not like to dip into colours, you can opt for a dark green.
It is not absolutely necessary to bring jackets. I am freezing all the time and need to cover up inside.
Flat, medium, high, open, closed – anything is possible. (Carry some flip flops in your bag to change!)
You need space if you are on your feet the whole day.
You need protection from the sun and the rain at the same time.
Did you find this post useful? Have you travelled to Singapore and what did you wear? Let me know in the comments below! More style guides to come soon!