Six style rules every person who commutes to work needs to live by.

Yesterday I got a bit fancy. After spending the long weekend in the mountains, makeup free and donning hiking clothes, I was ready for a little glamour.

I whipped out a long, sunray-pleated white skirt, cashmere sweater, red scarf, and matching red suede pumps. Feeling fabulous, I marched out onto the street in the early morning sun and promptly rolled my ankle in the gutter.

It really set the precedent for the rest of the day.

By 6.30pm that evening when I limped back down my street, wincing and possibly missing a toenail or two, I solemnly swore to never make the same mistake again.

(But we all know I will.)


Hello. My name is Maggie Kelly, and I am a commuter.

I’ve been a commuter since I was a teen, and I have ridden buses, trains, trams and taxis up and down the east coast well before an Opal card was but a glint in the NSW state government’s eye.

As a non-driver, I have memorised hundreds of timetables and route numbers, have wrangled seats from manspreaders and bag hoarders, and have perfected the art of evading ticket inspectors. I know the best seat on the bus (very back, to the right), how to stay upright on a packed tram (monkey grip on the hanging handle), and who to avoid sitting next to (the mid-week businessman with halitosis).

But one thing I am clearly yet to master is the art of commuter wardrobe. Red, suede, high heel pumps? NOT appropriate commuter fashion.

So, still nursing yesterday’s blisters, I have compiled a list of golden rules to commuter fashion.

Let’s hope it sinks in this time.

Rule one: Wear shoes you can run in.

I wanted to call this rule, ‘wear sensible shoes’, but you can run in non-sensible shoes, too – right?

Let’s face it, women can move pretty swiftly in the most outrageous assortment of shoes. (Give me a stacked heel, and I’ll give you a mile.)

Shoes that are to be considered run-able are always safe and comfortable… and unlikely to fall off your feet randomly, such as when you might be crossing the road in the rain on a Monday morning with a four car lineup beeping at you while you try to rebuckle your ankle strap and not cry.

These would therefore not be good commuter shoes.

The premise of this rule is that you need feel comfortable with a lot of walking. And getting up train platforms. And stumbling down bus steps. And hoofing it to your office from the train stop with only 4 minutes until you’re due.


If you can’t see yourself running three city blocks in your shoes, you sure as heck aren’t going to survive a daily commute in them.


Rule two: Did you iron your outfit today? Put it back in the cupboard.

If it’s pleated, satiny, crumpley, or involving silk; this is NOT a commuter-friendly outfit.

Let’s not romanticise your journey to and from work – you are essentially a human sardine stacked inside a tin box with large numbers of other sardines, some of whom will be intent on crushing your beautifully ironed outfit.

People will stand on you, sit on you, sweat on you, and maybe-accidentally-not-really spill their mocha latte on you.

Your early morning ironing was in vain, dear friend: it’s time to embrace the workplace polyester. It was practically designed for commuters.  

How dirty is your bus? (Post continues after video)


Rule three: A hands-free handbag.

Hang on a second, I hear you cry, aren’t hands the very basis of a handbag design? Only in fancy car commuting land, mon frere.

In the world of commuters, your handbag must be able to be strapped on and forgotten as you battle the pointy elbows of your fellow travellers.

Essentially, you should be strapped in like a Soviet-era soldier. No flimsy shoulder straps, no wonky zippers, no delicate little leather handles designed to be gripped with a well-manicured Victoria Beckham grip. No sir.

You want the sturdy, cross-body strap, flap-over-zipper kind. And before you start squealing at the thought of donning a Crumpler sidebag, fear not: fashionable alternatives are available.

I love this Matt & Nat hands-free handbag. Oh, and it’s vegan leather. (You can whisper that smugly to the person sitting next to you on the bus, if you like.) 


Rule four: No white. Not even white socks. Forget it.

So here’s the thing about humans: en masse, we are revolting. With buses, trains, trams, and taxis being used by thousands of people every single day, they are a veritable petrie dish of germs and grime.

I’m talking gum under seats, on seats, and in seats. There are questionable stains, spilt coffee cups, and random splashes of mud from the wheels of a bus. Someone’s slimy umbrella is bound to wipe up against your leg at least once on a rainy day, and don’t even get me started on random foundation stains on jacket shoulders. I don’t even know how that happens.

White is like taking a green smoothie to the office. It’s a lovely idea, and as much as you really want to be that type of person, it’s just not going to end well.

Rule five: Oh, are they delicate sheer pantihose? PREPARE TO SAY GOODBYE.

It’s such a good look: silky black pantihose paired with a luxe leather heel, maybe underneath a cute flippy skirt and silky camisole. Sheer and sexy, yet oh-so-sophisticated.

HA, HA, HA. DREAM ON, SISTER. You’re a commuter, and the only type of leg-covering suitable for a commuter is the thick black stocking type favoured by Dickensian orphans or Carmelite nuns.

Anything sheer or delicate is going to be ripped, snagged, or laddered by rogue fingernails, toys sticking out of prams, or the corner of that old lady’s Zimmer frame. And you can’t get mad at her, can you?

Rule six: Dress for the apocalypse. Or Melbourne.

As a commuter, leaving the house is like departing for war. You need to be prepared for anything and everything.

I want to see an umbrella for rain, sunglasses for sun, a jacket for air-con, and night-vision goggles just in case.

But seriously, once you’re out, you’re out. There’s no car to escape to, or use as a stockpile for all-weather gear – it’s just you, the contents of your bag, and your ability to fashion an umbrella using shopping bags and fallen branches. Make like Mary Poppins and always have a nifty fold-down umbrella just in case.

Oh, and another thing? The temperature control on public transport is always set to either Sub-Saharan heating that will leave you feeling like a slice of dried apple, or a frigid Arctic Breeze that will chill you to your bones. Be dressed to peel.

In fact, be dressed for ANYTHING.


Other notable mentions in my golden rules for commuters include:

  • Always bring gum, and be aware of your breath stank. Everyone else is.
  • Your gym bag is not a person. It does not buy you coffees. It did not just tell you a funny joke. It therefore does not require a seat to itself.
  • Is the person next to you old? Pregnant? Carrying a lot of bags? Juggling a small child? GET UP. NOW.

Thank you, and please enjoy your journey.