Do you find it challenging to achieve the perfect casual look for the office?
From understanding what looks work well in casual office settings to how to achieve the ideal balance between comfort and polished attire as well as how to display your personality without going overboard – read along for how to project professionalism even in relaxed or casual dress codes.
1. DECODING THE CASUAL-YET-PROFESSIONAL DRESS CODE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
As a female professional, understanding how to navigate the casual-yet-professional dress code can be a challenge. You want to look stylish and comfortable, but at the same time, reflect a put-together and professional image.
To ensure your look is appropriate:
Avoid being too casual and definitely avoid looking sloppy - a t-shirt and jeans is not enough if you want to look stylish and put together.
Incorporate more relaxed, comfortable pieces while keeping it professional. If you feel that your outfit is too casual, it probably is.
Avoid any clothing that is ripped, revealing, stained, wrinkled or too tight.
If in doubt, observe the attire of someone you admire in the organization, particularly your superiors, and follow suit.
2. TYPES OF FABRICS THAT ARE BEST SUITED TO CASUAL, PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENTS
Fabrics can be more relaxed in casual settings and can give you both comfort and movement without sacrificing professionalism. However, always remember, fit is everything - if it doesn't fit well, it will instantly detract from your professional image.
Choose items that you can move easily in rather than items that are very stiff or structured.
If you still like to have a little structure in an outfit, make sure you balance the look with something more casual to avoid looking too corporate or stuffy - i.e pair a crisp cotton shirt back with denim.
Go for lighter, breathable materials like cotton tops, soft, lightweight knits, or jersey fabrics
If opting for denim, go for mid-dark denims which appear more professional than really light washes
Avoid: overly textured or chunky sweaters, very loose/oversized clothing, leggings or any type of athletic fabrics which can easily appear too casual
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3. ALWAYS ADD A THIRD PIECES TO JAZZ UP YOUR OUTFIT
Successfully mastering the art of casual yet professional style is all about adding that extra touch to your outfit, and one surefire way to do just that is by always including a third piece.
This instantly helps to finish off your look and take it to the next level. You can also use the third piece as a way to add some more flair and personality.
Think of your pants and top, skirt and top or dress as your first two pieces.
Then, add your third piece, which can be another item such as a blazer, leather jacket, denim jacket, cardigan or wrap.
Alternatively, the third piece can be an accessory, such as a scarf or bold piece of jewelry.
4. INCORPORATING ACCESSORIES AND SHOES INTO THE CASUAL YET PROFESSIONAL LOOK
Accessories are one of the most effective ways of adding polish and character to your outfits, and are especially important to help elevate casual looks.
Always consider adding accessories such as simple or bold jewellry, belts or scarves.
By adding a necklace and/or earrings, you can instantly elevate a simple blouse and jeans into a casual, yet put together look.
Accessories can also help to lift the formality of an outfit so it doesn't appear too casual.
Selecting the right shoe is also essential in creating a casual yet professional look. Opting for comfortable but stylish footwear like smart sneakers, loafers, ballet flats or ankle boots can bring a touch of sophistication to an otherwise laid-back outfit.
Avoid: athletic sports shoes, flip flops or overly casual sandals.
5. IDENTIFYING STAPLE PIECES THAT WORK WELL FOR A CASUAL-PROFESSIONAL SETTING
It's easy to create the right casual looks when you have a purposeful and versatile wardrobe. So whether you work in a casual business environment full time or occasionally, it's essential to have the right pieces to help you do just that.
Invest in timeless wardrobe staples that will serve as the building blocks of your outfits. For laid-back settings, consider incorporating items such as:
Relaxed pants such as silk joggers, leather pants, linen pants or wide leg pants
For 5 casual denim alternatives, click the Shopboard below.
6. THE FINAL STEP: THE IMPORTANCE OF GROOMING
The importance of grooming cannot be emphasised enough when it comes to mastering the art of dressing casually yet professionally, and I firmly believe it's one of the most critical aspects of achieving this balance.
A light makeup look enhances your natural features and is ideal for more laid-back days.
Ensuring your hair is neatly styled adds to the overall polished appearance.
Well pressed and stain-free clothes are a must.
Don't overlook your nails; keeping them in good condition adds that final touch of sophistication.
Remember, the devil is in the details, and your grooming will ultimately determine just how polished and professional you appear while dressing casually.
Getting your casual-yet-professional style right doesn't have to be an arduous task. With the right fabrics, accessories and wardrobe staples, you can create polished ensembles that are a perfect balance of comfortable yet professional.
Seeking further guidance? Our Million Dollar Style Program guides you through a 6-step process so that – from an interview to a boardroom – you never have to worry about what to wear again.
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