I recently changed jobs at the company that I work for, and my new department is quite different from my last! Everyone is incredibly friendly and welcoming, and I am really happy to have wonderful co-workers who make the day brighter. This office is more casual than most though, and I’m definitely working on adapting my style so that I fit more. (I’m not against being on the dressier side, but it does feel odd to be in suit when everyone else is in jeans no matter where you are in life.) This is a guide on how to tackle dressing for a casual office when you come from a formal background!
I firmly believe that your wardrobe is hugely important at work. I had an appointment at the bank a few months ago, and while I know that it was on a Saturday, the bank employee was dress in a hoodie, leggings, and Uggs- not the idea I want of someone handling a great deal of my money… I like to always dress on the formal side of whatever the dress code is because I personally feel more comfortable being slightly overdressed rather than under-dressed. If you are putting a name to this, it would be Smart Casual!
I have found layering to be a very effective way to tackle the Smart Casual dress code- I like to be on the dressier side in the case that I have a meeting that I didn’t expect, or if I run into someone that could potentially be hiring me for a job later on. I have found that wearing a blazer with a more casual shirt underneath still gives me the formal feeling I would like for those meetings and interactions, but allows me to hang it up if I’m just in the office getting through work. (Layers are also wonderful when you are permanently stuck in the end of winter and/or your office has insane air conditioning that freezes you out for the summer). Cardigans and blazers are staples in my wardrobe, and have become very useful for me now! Tip that I have learned in this short time: Ensure that you are hanging up and ironing blazers in between each wear (or whatever care they need. I’ve found mine tend to get a bit more rumpled now that they are being worn more.
2) Collared Shirts + Casual Bottom
I’m wearing jeans a lot more to work now than when I used to, and it still feels a little odd even though many of my co-workers are wearing them. Other than being a weirdo that sometimes irons her jeans (wrinkles are wrinkles and I don’t like them!!), I’ve found that having a structured and usually collared shirt with them makes me feel a lot more comfortable wearing jeans to work. I like to always maintain balance in my wardrobe, in colour, shape, proportion, so it’s the same here- I realise that I am old-fashioned for thinking that jeans automatically equals casual, but balancing them with a collared shirt creates that Smart Casual vibe.
I’m also slowly bringing more of skirts out as the temperature raises a tiny bit at a time- my skirts are all neutral and somewhat casual, so the addition of a buttoned or collared shirt elevates it a little bit without going directly to that business look. I have quite a few plaid skirts to wear in the winter, but they are clearly winter skirts. When I pair a collared shirt with a spring/summer skirt, I tend to cuff and roll up the sleeves for a more relaxed look!
3) Flats, Loafers, or Wedges
I know that sneakers and running shoes are cropping up all over the style and fashion world, but I still don’t understand wearing a blouse, blazer, dark jeans, and sneakers. It’s as if the look started at your head and stopped at your ankles. I like to wear loafers, flats, and wedges at work for the Smart Casual look. These are great options for anyone who needs insoles or anything else to help with their shoes, and still finish off your office appropriate look. Some people can pull over wearing heels for the casual look, but I find at work wedges are a great compromise; you can get the height without the same focus and drama. (It doesn’t hurt that wedges are usually fairly comfortable, as well!)
I would recommend that you always ensure that your shoes are clean and polished; dirty and/or scuffed shoes look particularly unprofessional, and it really doesn’t take very long to polish your shoes or give them a quick wipe down. One of the reasons that I tend to buy shoes in a few specific colours (black and tan, namely) is so that I always have the right colour on hand if I need it.
4) Polished Hair and Make Up
I do not under any circumstance believe that you need to spend hours and hours on your hair and make up in the morning, but I do believe that it should be neat, clean, and polished. When it comes to your hair, it shouldn’t be apparent that you just rolled out of bed or washed it in the shower and ran out of the house without doing anything. I am all for embracing your natural hair texture- don’t do unnecessary damage to your hair for no reason!!- but spraying some hairspray on your hand and quickly taming flyaways and running a comb or a brush through your hair if needed can go a long way to looking professional. (If you have the ability to get up and actually style your hair for work beyond blow drying it/straightening it/curling it, I am in awe.)
I also do not do a whole lot for make up- basic cover up, usually pink eye shadow (thanks, Naked3 palette), and a little bit of blush is it! Mascara if I’m feeling overly fancy that day. I don’t think that anyone should feel like they need to wear make up at work, but a clean and moisturised face is a must! Also, sunscreen should be somewhere in your skincare routine, simply for health reasons.