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  • Writer's pictureLucy

Returning to the Office: Navigating the New Dress Codes

Updated: May 25, 2023

Adapting to the New Office Dress Code: Tips for a Seamless Transition Back to the Workplace

Over the last few years, I've been helping clients perfect waist-up dressing.

Now, as more and more companies require employees to head back to the office and adopt a hybrid workweek, many female professionals and leaders are faced with the challenge of adapting to new, more casual workplaces.

Even in traditionally formal environments such as law and banking, old school corporate attire has taken a backseat. Yet while this may be welcome news for some, it poses the question, what does work clothing actually look like now?

The pandemic changed the way we work. Workplaces were disrupted and many are still in the process of setting a new normal for dress codes, which can be especially difficult for women. Whether you're a working mum trying to balance the demands of career and family life, a business leader looking to make a powerful statement in the boardroom, or just wanting to give your professional wardrobe an update, this guide will help you capitalise on the new dress codes and feel comfortable and confident that your style correctly portrays your brand.

Adapting to the New Office Dress Code

Adapting to a new office dress code can be a daunting task, especially if you've been working from home, where you haven't had to think about coordinating a 'full outfit'.

However, with a little bit of preparation and the right mindset, you can easily make the transition back to the office and feel confident in your professional attire.

The key is to understand where your company is at now (what are their current dress code expectations) and more importantly, how you would like to operate within it.

Take a look at your colleagues as well as senior leaders such as the highest ranking female in your office. What is her style?

If your team's attire has shifted to something more casual, but your Manager's hasn't, think about how you'd like your clothing to position you, as well as how you want to look and feel at work.

While casual looks are far more acceptable (and in certain companies, industries and cultures, more appropriate than formal wear), keep in mind that you are still in a work setting and what you choose to wear is representative of your professional brand.

Whatever you choose, going more casual doesn't mean sloppy - keep your leggings and sweatpants reserved for outside work.

Your overall look should still be smart and well groomed.

The New Business Attire - Looks

With more companies adopting a more casual approach to attire, the new business attire has become more relaxed, comfortable, and versatile.

For female professionals and leaders, this means that they have more options when it comes to what they wear to work. Instead of sticking to traditional business attire such as suits and blouses, they can now incorporate more casual pieces such as jeans and blouses, or dress pants and a sweater into their wardrobe.

Through my style program, I teach women about building their wardrobes based on Foundation/Core pieces as well as Accent pieces.

  • Foundation Pieces are the building blocks for outfits. Traditionally, this may have included 2 piece suits, pencil skirts and formal dresses, but today items such as smart denim and sweaters, relaxed blazers and polished tees can easily form part of your workwear style.Foundation pieces work best when they are in your best neutrals or one of your best colours that can function like a neutral.

  • Accent Pieces are what helps to add your own flavour and personality to your outfits - items such as coloured or printed tops, skirts or pants featuring an interesting design or detail or something in fashion.

The new business attire allows for much more flexibility, especially when it comes to your accent pieces and items such as accessories and shoes.

The key is to find the balance between comfort and professionalism, and to understand the culture and dress code of your specific company, as well as curating a look that supports your professional brand and goals.

Need some inspiration? Here's 3 Power Casual Office Outfits for Female Professionals & Leaders.

Click the images below to instantly shop these looks.

Creating a Versatile Wardrobe For Returning To The Office

One of the easiest ways to strike the right balance in a more relaxed office environment is by mixing casual pieces with more formal ones.

For example, pair a smart, comfortable pair of jeans with a relaxed blazer or a polished t-shirt with some wide leg pants and cardigan.

Another key element to keep in mind is to focus on quality and fit. Investing in well-made, comfortable clothing that fits well can make a huge difference in how you look and feel. It's also important to pay attention to the details of your outfit such as polished shoes and clean and ironed clothes.

A versatile wardrobe doesn't need to be big - it just needs to be filled with the right items that fit you well and are taken care of.

Accessories can also play a big role in elevating a casual outfit.

A statement necklace, a scarf, a watch or a belt can add interest and professionalism to a casual outfit.

Example items for a versatile wardrobe of outfits

  • Bottoms: tapered or wide leg pants, jeans, luxe jogger, leather pants, midi skirts For comfort, look for soft and stretchy styles and fabrics.

  • Tops: polished tees, blazer (structured or more relaxed), blouses and shirts that can be dressed up or down

  • Other: Day dresses, denim jackets, loafers, sneakers, wedges and ballet flats.

Before you go and purchase anything new for your wardrobe, assess what you currently have and how you might be able to style them in a suitable or different way that will work for today.

When it comes to colours, it's important to be aware of what colours are suitable for the office. Neutral colours such as black, navy, gray and beige are always a safe choice, but consider adding a pop of your best accent colours to make your outfit more interesting.

Finally, remember that the way you dress can affect how you're perceived by your colleagues and clients, and it's still important to make a good impression and show respect for the company culture.

Dress codes may be relaxed, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down. With a little bit of thought and effort, you can look great and feel comfortable in a relaxed office environment.

If you put in the time and effort, you can improve your personal style yourself, but if you'd like to fast track that process and have an expert quickly help you update or refine your style and confidence, book in time for a private and complimentary style strategy session with me.


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