My job is a large aspect of my life – I really enjoy what I do and I spend a good chuck of my weekly hours there. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor and thought that my work attire would consist of scrubs and tennis shoes, but, shortly into my Freshman year of college, I realized the medicine route was not for me (thanks, chemistry). I know that I, personally, made the right choice to go on a different career path and it is great that my office is business casual which allows me to share my personality. I have periodically posted some of my favorite looks from work (often times dresses – they are extremely comfortable and very little thinking is involved in the morning) and you can find these posts here, here and here. Since I spend five days of the week in business casual, I thought I would share a few practices I follow for my work wardrobe!
Here are my 5 guidelines for dressing for the business casual work environment.
- Dont’ be afraid of colors: So, I have never had this problem – On the first day of my first internship, I really stood out. I had just graduation from high school and had landed an internship with NASA. I had no idea what dressing business casual meant and I loved color. So, I wore a yellow (with sparkles) short-sleeve blazer (I mean it’s Houston in the summer), a black shirt, black slacks and these muted yellow and grey heels I found at Marshall’s. I thought I looked awesome! When I showed up on the first day, everyone else was in a sea of black, navy and grey suits, so I definitely stood out. Should I have worn a traditional suit that day? Yeah, probably so, but was anything completely ruined or was anyone completely offended by my yellow jacket – nope (well, at least not that I am aware of). I have started to adopt the mindset of “will this colorful item of clothing significantly distract my colleague or client today?” If not, I will wear the amount of color that I feel comfortable in! Fashion should be fun and, to me, wearing a bit of color, helps to make the work day a little more fun, too!
- Color streamline: So you may be reading this and thinking, “wait, didn’t Emily just say that I shouldn’t be afraid of colors?” Yep, I sure did. So, this is a bit different than being afraid of colors. This has to do more with your neutrals. I always recommend wearing one item of color and trying to keep the rest of your outfit neutral. It helps to make sure that the outfit is easily received by your colleagues and, especially, management. So color streamlining is choosing one or two neutrals to base most of your outfits off of. For example, I have chosen to ground my outfits with black, so I invest in a few pairs of black slacks, blazers, cardigans and shoes. And then I try to match my colored pieces to this. I think there are two main benefits of streamlining: 1) it saves a ton of time in the morning – I know that I have something that will match to my black slacks and cardigan 2) it can save money – when I first started out I had a few tops that matched with brown slacks, others that matched with navy or khaki and then those that would go with black. I ended up spending money on multiple colors of slacks when I tended to grab my black ones the most. At the end of the day, it helped me to cut back on some unnecessary items that I barely wore and therefore, saved me money.
- Find the right fit: Always make sure it is the right cut and lengths while sitting down – I spend probably 90% of my days sitting in meetings or at my computer, so this test is extremely important. I can’t tell you how many shirts I have purchased that fit great when I was standing up in the dressing room, but when I sit down, they slip down to show my bra or the buttons will start to pull and, again, show my bra (can you tell I have a hard time finding tops for work….) This rule also goes for skirts and dresses – when I sit down I always make sure they don’t ride up to a point that I would be uncomfortable or inappropriate for the office. Another thing that I always look for is that the item is comfortable to wear – there is nothing worse than pulling at my clothes all day.
- Find the right shoes: So, yes – the fit of a shoe is extremely important in terms of comfort. I have bought many pairs of shoes that I loved, but only wore for a few minutes because they killed my feet – and they were mainly heels. Since I don’t find heels to be particularly comfortable, I wear flats 95% of the time to work. There are days that I either feel like I need to wear heels for a presentation/meeting or I just want the height to flatter my outfit, but I always have a pair of Tieks on hand to quickly change into if I have to walk long distances. In my opinion, flats are just as professional as heels as long as your flats in good condition and that your pants are falling at the right length for flats. I tend to stick with a classic ballet flat for work, but there are so many options to choose now!!
- Accessorize wisely: If you have been following SGSB for awhile, you may know how much I love accessories, especially statement necklaces! But it is important to remember that only one statement piece can really be worn for work. I personally can’t stand wearing additional bracelets or rings during the work day because they get in the way of typing (#priorities), but necklaces are perfect to play with to add a pop. When adding a statement necklace for work, I tend to stick to the metals (gold, silver, rose gold) and the simpler the piece the better. The necklaces worn in this post and this post follow that thought process.
What do y’all think? Do you have any other practices you have when it comes for dressing for the office? I would love to hear about them!