“What should I wear to work?” That’s a question that I hear from a lot of my clients, for several reasons. I work with many people who are transitioning to a different job, and are eager to fit in with a new corporate culture. I work with people who are shifting the focus of their career – from working from home to an office environment, from a team to solopreneur, and/or changing industries. I work with people who aspire to more in their career, and want their image to align with their goals. And I work with people who simply know they could dress better for work, but just aren’t sure how.
One of the big challenges my clients face in modern office environments is the business casual dress code - mainly because there’s a vague definition, which depends on your industry, company, geography, leadership, etc. Some ‘business casual’ companies are just a step down from business professional – no one wears suits, but dresses, blazers and trousers are the norm – and jeans are only for casual Friday. Many ‘business casual’ offices are middle of the road – jeans are fine as long as they look polished, blazers work when they’re toned down – but you’d get quizzical stares if you ever showed up in a suit. And yet other ‘business casual’ dress codes are of the über casual variety, with more of an ‘anything goes’ approach that ranges from a blue jeans culture to shorts and hoodies.
No matter where you work, you want to fit in with your peer group and respect the cultural norms. But that in no way means that you can’t express yourself through your wardrobe. Wear heels when you want to, embrace color any day of the week, and grab a moto jacket when the mood strikes. But on those mornings when inspiration is slim to none, it pays to have a few go-to outfits in your wardrobe arsenal that work for your office, that are easy to pull together and (most importantly) that make you feel amazing. Check out a few looks I’ve created that always work, no matter where you work – based on your environment, you just may need to tweak a couple of things, and then you’re ready to take on the day!
PLAID BLAZER + SOLID TOP + JEANS
When I’m creating a work wardrobe for my clients, they often tell me that a blazer may be too dressed up for their office. And my response is that it’s less about the specific item, and more about what you wear it with. Take this business casual outfit that’s perfect for a middle of the road office – any overly dressy connotations of the plaid blazer are toned down by a pair of dark wash jeans and flats. It’s the perfect not-too-dressed-up and not-too-dressed-down outfit for many work environments. And guess what? If the blazer feels like too much during the day, just take it off. (Click here to check out 3 fun fall looks I created with another plaid blazer!)
If your office is a little dressier, simply change out the jeans for pants (silhouette of your choice) and add heels. You’ve instantly elevated the look to work in any but the dressiest of corporate cultures.
When you work in a super casual company, a blazer can still be appropriate – again, it’s all about what you wear with it. Trade out the short sleeve sweater for a cool graphic t-shirt, grab your favorite slip-on sneakers and head to the office in laid back style.
DRESS + CROPPED JACKET + NUDE SHOES
Many of my clients love to wear dresses, but sometimes feel like it’s too much for work. And yes – it definitely depends on the dress. Tailored sheath dresses may be a bit elevated for some business casual offices, but a simple, solid dress can transition to most workplaces. Create a middle of the road look by adding a (faux) suede moto jacket and booties, and you have an outfit that takes you straight from the office to date night (and read this to see another solid dress outfitted for work, date night and weekend wandering).
If your office dress code is just a step below suits, you can easily step it up by shifting to a cropped blazer and must-have nude heels. The look says polished and professional, but not stuffy.
And if you’re hankering to wear your favorite dress to work when your teammates are dressed in hoodies and jeans, take it down a notch with a denim jacket – the ultimate casual-izer (see more denim jacket outfits I’ve created for clients here). Nude slip-on flats complete the “I know how to dress down, but still be me” vibe.
CARDIGAN + ELEVATED T-SHIRT + PANTS
Believe it or not, some people don’t like jeans. But a pair of slim ankle pants are a great substitute that gets you anywhere you need to go. And when you’re not in a jacket or blazer mood, a colored cardigan is the perfect alternative. When you’re deciding what to wear underneath in a casual work environment, a t-shirt may not feel like enough – so that’s when you grab an ‘elevated t-shirt’. An ‘elevated t-shirt’ is what I call any knit top that’s as easy to wear as a t-shirt, but has something that takes it beyond the ordinary (like this striped knit mock neck top).
If you’re feeling like a cardigan/pants/flats combo isn’t enough for where you work (or just the meetings you have that day), trade your elevated t-shirt for a silky blouse and your flats for straightforward heels. It’s a simple swap that totally updates your look.
And when you work in an extremely casual office where jeans are ubiquitous, just switch to jeans and cute sneakers for casual Friday - or Monday through Thursday, as well.
Do you need some help with what you wear to work? Click the button below to schedule a free phone consultation or read through my services here. I’d love to help you feel appropriate, powerful and thrilled with what you’re wearing every day at the office (and on the weekends, too!).