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Gen Z is bringing the 'office siren' aesthetic to corporate settings, but some say the trend isn't practical for work

Photo illustration of Anne Hathaway, Kate Moss, and Jennifer Aniston.
20th Century Fox; Getty Images; Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/BI
  • The "office siren" aesthetic is one of the latest fashion trends to hit TikTok.

  • The aesthetic is about looking like a "siren" at work and embodying vintage office styles.

  • An example of a classic office-siren muse? Rachel Green from "Friends."

Gen Z is tapping into nostalgia once again, but this time, the generation is bringing it to the boardroom.

The "office siren" corporate aesthetic is taking over TikTok, but it isn't necessarily new. It blends high-fashion corporate looks with '90s and 2000s vintage charm — fitting for Gen Z, which can't get enough of the Y2K era.

"I think this trend is coming back because people are really leaning into their femininity while still being a boss," Elisabeth Kassab, the founder of Stylistcheck, told Business Insider. "That is the best way I can describe it. It's the perfect mix of sexy and work-appropriate."

The office-siren look is bold red lips, pencil skirts, stilettos, turtlenecks, chunky jewelry, and tons of neutrals and blacks. The goal is to command attention like the iconic Greek mythological characters who used their looks to lure men to their doom.

TikTokers who spoke to BI said they began seeing the trend in the fall. One cited the fashion brand Miu Miu, which ushered in "secretary core" through their fall-winter collections.

A fashion TikToker, Julia Quang, told BI the aesthetic was about more than clothes.

"She's mysterious at the office," Quang said. "She doesn't make small talk. She is the top performer, but she leaves right at 5 p.m. in her long vintage coat, and you'll never see or hear from her until 9 a.m. the next day. The office siren is just like an embodiment of a mysterious woman who works hard but looks hot and sexy while doing it."

Quang, who works a corporate job and posts office outfit inspo, said she started a new job with a strict dress code late last year. As a fashion enthusiast, she said she tried to wear cute outfits at work despite the dress requirements, which require staff to wear appropriate-length skirts and cover their midriffs. She said the office-siren aesthetic began taking off around the same time, coincidentally when she decided to post her outfits that aligned with the trend.

"I like clothes that look flattering, and the office siren look is a nice way to romanticize my everyday life," Quang said.

But is the office-siren look work-appropriate?

Quang said women who might be worried about looking out of place in a corporate setting should start with a measured approach and determine what looks are actually work-appropriate.

"I feel like people making office-siren outfit-inspo videos don't realize you can't wear a lot of these pieces in an actual office or corporate setting, but it's fun to see them add in 'corporate' elements," Quang said.

She said that as someone who had to follow a dress code at work, her outfits were a good example of corporate-approved ensembles.

devil wears prada makeover
Anne Hathaway in "The Devil Wears Prada."20th Century Fox

Criticisms of the office-siren aesthetic are that the look may not be practical — or even appropriate — for work. Styles associated with the aesthetic can sometimes include shorter hemlines or tighter-fitting clothes.

"It's like a costume of what people who don't work think what it's like to work," one user, @aiomiiii, posted in a TikTok response to the recent deluge of office-siren content.

In subsequent comments, users in agreement said some of the skimpier outfits they saw might send an employee straight to human resources.

It's unclear whether everyone posting these outfits is doing so with the purpose of wearing them at the office. And as Erika Dwyer, a fashion TikToker, pointed out, put-together corporate looks are also becoming fashionable outside the office.

But Dwyer said it was possible to implement the office-siren look at your desk. She told BI that one way to do it was to thrift or source actual workwear from those eras to add to your closet.

"The office-siren look is something that largely started in the office," Dwyer said. "I think a lot of this style has to do with the accessories and the styling, not necessarily how tight it is, or how low the top is or how short the skirt is … and I definitely think it can be made practical for the office."

How to achieve the office-siren look

Kassab told BI the look was influenced by "The Devil Wears Prada," the 2006 film starring Anne Hathaway, who goes from a frumpy, sweater-wearing personal assistant to a stylish main character at her high-fashion magazine gig.

Quang specifically cited Gisele Bündchen's character in the movie, who was featured sporting a pair of black thin-framed glasses and a messy bun.

Rachel Varney, the founder of StyledbyRachel, cited the fashion choices of Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) on the classic 90s sitcom "Friends" as an influence.

In short, the aesthetic is about tapping into the '90s and 2000s styles popularized by glamorous women in media — the lawyer Joan Clayton in "Girlfriends," the '90s model Kate Moss in Calvin Klein, or even the video-game character Bayonetta.

FRIENDS -- "The One with All the Jealousy" Episode 12
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green in "Friends."NBCU Photo Bank/ Getty

Varney told BI some ways to achieve this look were to stick with neutral colors — espresso browns, charcoal grays, and black — and add some pops of color and patterns. For example, a pair of leopard print heels or a pinstripe blazer.

"This trend is all about finding those classic workwear pieces but with a feminine touch," Varney said. "Sheer tights, ruffled blouses, chunky jewelry, slingback heels, and a dark lip are perfect examples."

Additionally, an investment in a pair of glasses, even if you have 20/20 vision, can go a long way. Quang often wears blue-light glasses with thin frames in her videos to pull together her fits.

Dwyer said she'd seen a recent uptick in people's interest in wearing glasses again, with brands such as Miu Miu and Gentle Monster ushering back the (nonfunctional) trend.

"I've seen so many people who don't actually wear glasses either get glasses and take the lenses out or try to see through the ones they've thrifted," Dwyer said. "So I just think they're coming back as a little bit of a statement."

A composite image of three photos of Kate Moss wearing chic, simple outfits.
Kate Moss in a series of Calvin Klein fashion looksRon Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images // Jan Jarecki/WWD/Penske Media via Getty Images // Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

But the most important accessory of the office-siren trend? Confidence.

"To really embody the character, you need to have the confidence," Quang said. "Once you have the confidence, then you can incorporate this aesthetic into your lifestyle."

Read the original article on Business Insider