Britain's Working Women Go Back to Work in style

'Dress Down Friday' may have been all the rage in the City a few years back, but new research shows that sales of smart officewear are set to rise this year. With the economic uncertainty continuing into 2010 and, along with it, the threat of redundancies, researchers from Mintel have found that more and more women are dressing to impress in the workplace.

Underlining the renewed emphasis on dressing for the job you want (or the job you want to keep) the researchers found that one in ten (10%) female workers had bought smarter work clothes in the last 12 months in order to get ahead at work. And as many as one in four (24%) working women say they don't mind paying more for good quality work clothes.

Michelle Strutton, Senior Consumer Analyst at Mintel said: "It seems the sobering effect of the recession has brought an end to dressing down in the office to some extent. Despite the pressures being felt by UK clothing retailers in the current economic climate, officewear, and formal officewear in particular, is proving to be a light amid the rest of the market gloom."

She added that both working women and the unemployed are buying smarter clothing to give a more professional image and help secure employment or avoid redundancy. In addition, the high number of working women today has created a work culture that is more conscious of fashion trends in officewear than ever before.

Over the past year, the £20.7 billion womenswear market has declined 2% on 2008 figures. However, within the womenswear sector, the average annual spend on a suit rose around 3% between 2006 and 2008 to reach over £120, driven by fashion trends and the need to look good in a competitive job market. Meanwhile, average annual spend on blouses and tops, which often accompany suits, rose over 5% over the same two year period to reach over £60.

"Longer working hours and commute times are seeing the importance of the working wardrobe increase as consumers spend the majority of their day, and indeed their week, in office attire," added Strutton.