Dressing Casual for Work

Today many offices have adopted a casual dress code, relaxing their former business dress policies. Yet how do you maintain your professional image while dressing casually? While every workplace is different, you can’t go wrong with the following tips on how to project a professional appearance in casual clothing.

Don’t dress too casually. Overall, make sure your outfits are appropriate, modest, and neat. Anything that is fitting for the gym, beach, yard work, or a night club is not suitable for work, even in a relaxed, informal setting. Be mindful not to show too much skin, wear anything ripped or torn, or fashion something that is too flimsy. As far as wearing sweatshirts and hoodies, most would advise against it – unless this is the norm for your office. A good judge of appropriate attire is to look at what your boss and/or top managers are wearing. If they would never come to work in a hoodie, then you probably shouldn’t either.

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Consider the color. Color is crucial, as it’s one of the most important tools in maintaining a professional image in the workplace. If you are trying to project sophistication, you should wear dark, intense colors rather than light or pastel shades. Dark colors exude authority – and also can appear dressier and more professional than its lighter, brighter counterparts. You can’t go wrong with black, as it’s timeless and flattering. Deep blues and purples as well as gleaming greens, the colors of jewels, can help you give off a confident yet personable vibe. Just make sure you don’t dress head-to-toe in one color; pick a jewel-colored or black top and build your outfit around that, adding a pair of dark-colored jeans –or for women, leggings and boots.

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Can’t go wrong with a button down. When in doubt, a button down shirt is a great wardrobe staple. Whether dressed up or down, it always makes you look professional. Button downs are widely versatile as you can wear them with khakis, jeans, or a suit, under a sweater, with a tie or with a bowtie and suspenders, when you are going for a classic look, when you are going for a preppy look, on a casual date, to Christmas dinner with your family, or to a casual work environment. Since you can get away with wearing these shirts in such a variety of ways and on so many different occasions, your wardrobe should definitely include a few of these classic shirts. Additionally, button down shirts aren’t just for men, women’s button downs offer a fresh, feminine, softer styled shirt perfect for any polished woman. You simply can’t go wrong with a button down; they are a clean, modest, sophisticated look for any professional male or female.

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Accessorize to add a bit of flair. For women, jewelry, scarves, and belts are standard accessories that really can dress up an outfit. Choose colors that complement your ensemble. If you are wearing a neutral color, then any color accessory would be fitting. If you are deciding between silver and gold, see which matches the colors of your outfit best. You don’t want to go overboard with accessories – if you are going to wear large earrings, leave your neck bare – and if you are wearing a chunky necklace, then hold off on the earrings. Scarves are a great option. They can really tie an outfit together, and they can be worn for any season. Belts can be worn in many different ways these days – choose a placement and style that complements your body. Last, make sure your accessories aren’t too noisy – in terms of color or in terms of sound. You want your accessories to add flair – not to take away from your professionalism.

For men, accessories normally refer to neckwear, watches, and belts. You might not be wearing neckwear in your casual office; however, if you are looking to add a bit of style, ties and bowties are very in. Bowties look great with coordinating suspenders. Watches are normally a man’s statement piece. Women, other men, and employers all notice a great watch, so make sure yours is a timeless piece. As far as belts, a black belt does not go with everything. Keep in mind the colors you are wearing, especially if you are wearing your shirt tucked in. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your shoes and belt do not clash. Last, even though you are in a casual work setting, never wear white socks or ankle socks with any kind of shoe other than a sneaker.

Dress up for important events. Even though you work in a casual setting, on days that you have an important event, visitor, or meeting, it is essential to dress more formally. Utilize the clothing you wear on an everyday basis, such as a button down shirt, and add dress pants or an appropriately length skirt and a cardigan or sweater vest. If you work with clients or customers, it also is key to dress up more on days you will be working with them.

As you are building your casual work wardrobe, keep these five tips in mind, and you will be on the road to projecting a professional image while dressed casual.

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