What is the controversy behind TikTok’s ‘office siren’ trend?

TikTok’s latest fashion fad is tabling oversized, conservative garb and bringing sexy back... to the workplace.

Dubbed “office siren”, the new 2024 style trend is inspired by late ‘90s and early 2000s designers such as Tom Ford’s Gucci era, Miu Miu, Sabato de Sarno’s Gucci Ancora, and Peter Hawkings’ Tom Ford debut. The archetype of an “office siren” is a form-fitting pencil skirt lover who prefers bling over blazers (unless they’re fitted). However, with this era revival, a confident and feminine surge in back-to-work dress has increased controversy over what should and should not be worn in an office setting.

Back in September 2023, Asia Bieuville - a fashion student in Paris - posted her seasonal trend prediction for the upcoming year. “So, September doesn’t only mean going back to school, it also means the beginning of the fashion year,” Bieuville said in a TikTok.

Alongside her video, Bieuville included examples of the official “office siren” mood board: Bella Hadid in Gucci’s Spring/Summer 1998 matching two-piece skirt set, a runway model with sheer knee-high socks and strappy heels, Gisele Bündchen donning a turtleneck knit and a croc mid-length skirt, Elsa Peretti’s waved bone cuff, and Chanel’s emblem Le Vernis nail polish.

“She’s ‘90s and 2000s Calvin Klein archive, Dolce & Gabbana, and Ralph Lauren,” the style enthusiast detailed. “Bold nails, you know. Chunky jewellery that makes a statement but simple outfits, high socks, little boots.”

“She’s everything we aspire to be for this season and this year,” Bieuville added.

Speaking to Who What Wear, the TikToker explained why she believed this trend “challenged” workplace culture and its unofficial dress codes.

“We’ve often been told that women have to adapt to masculine codes to be respected and admired in the corporate world, but I think there’s another, more sensual and stylish way,” Beuville told the outlet. “The woman who represents this has ambition, likes to assume her sensuality and femininity, and doesn’t care about judgment. She proves herself through her actions.”

In other words, Samantha Jones from Sex and the City is her quintessential figure and muse.

Other fashion enthusiasts have tried the “office siren” trend for themselves by posting vintage hauls that fit the aesthetic. TikTok user Julia Quang shared a video of her second-hand picks that she thought were “office siren” coded. Quang showed herself wearing bodycon knitwear, cropped blazers worn as tops, and one Rachel Green-esque grey maxi dress - hitting the late ‘90s Ralph Lauren mark right on the nose.

While many people have praised the shift back to elegant silhouettes and bold yet playful accessories, others see the style as being unfit for the office. A few individuals have since raised concerns about wearing items such as low-cut tops and eccentric stockings to work.

One critic on X, formerly Twitter, described the “office siren” trend as being “a costume of what people who don’t work think what it’s like to work.”

“Just a warning if you wear knee high socks to work your colleagues will absolutely make a ‘school girl’ remark... Be warned,” another individual noted.

Even Quang admitted in her video that those who want to participate in the “office siren” trend “don’t realise 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.”

However, Bieuville disagreed, telling Who What Wear: “The corporate side is still very much present, but [the office siren] lifts it all up with a play on materials, and in the end it’s quite a subtle balance.”

The Independent has contacted Bieuville and Quang for comments.