Fair isle, the traditional knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours, often takes one of two sartorial directions: professional Nordic ski bunny or unemployed dudes of Big Lebowski ilk. Neither, as it happens, is an especially appropriate model for office dressing. This season, though, designers have revived the whimsical knit like nobody's – or, rather, everybody's – business, applying it to everything from dresses to coats and beyond. Here's how to 9-to-5 it both on its own and, if you're bold enough, in overlapping layers.
1. Yes, you can take a cue from Sonia Rykiel's fall 2011 presentation and pile on the fair isle, but stick to one colour scheme if you do; black and white work best. If you work in a corporate environment, be playful up top with a sweater and scarf, paired with a solid wool pencil skirt or pant. If dress codes are lenient, go wild with the prints from head to toe.
2. Play with texture and fabric weight, balancing a lighter weight top and accessories with a heavier wool skirt or trouser. If you're feeling brave and work in a creative field, you might also consider (discreetly proportioned) shorts; just remember to partner them with opaque or semi-opaque tights.
3. A structured bag and boots, especially in wintertime, pull the look together. Ditto for hair and makeup, which should be turned out and polished when worn with such casual pieces.