Unless you work from the comfort of your home, one of the first tasks you have to deal with each morning is figuring out what to wear to the office. Many office workers find it crucial to look their best as what you wear to work can significantly impact the way your boss and colleagues perceive you. Depending on the dress code of your company, this choice may be simple or more complicated – especially if you’re a woman.
If your office has a strict formal dress code, then the rules are already clearly defined for everyone. However, things aren’t as straightforward if your company allows business casual attire. This type of attire blurs the lines between formal and casual and, as a result, it can be hard to figure out which look goes and which doesn’t. To help you pick out the right pieces and avoid feeling over or under-dressed, here are some unwritten rules regarding business-casual attire.
Pick the Right Tops
When it comes to business casual tops for women, it’s often easier to talk about what doesn’t go instead of what does. Are off the shoulder tops business casual? Definitely not! And the same goes for cold shoulder tops, spaghetti strap shirts, and tank-tops. Cross off anything that shows your shoulders, is backless, has too much cleavage or exposes your midriff. In short, don’t wear tops that you can also wear out to a bar on a Friday night. You want to draw attention to your competency, and not your body.
When selecting a work shirt, you can either choose a business casual top for womens made of comfy cotton or a flowing and more feminine style made of silk or a lightweight synthetic material. If you go for a ladies casual top made of cotton, make sure that it doesn’t feature any graphic prints, rips or shiny and colourful details like sequins or sparkles that can make you look less serious. In this case, monochromatic, simple styles look best. Opting for a button-down cotton shirt, like for instance a polo can give your outfits a more professional vibe.
When it’s warmer, a silk, linen or lightweight synthetic shirt can help you stay cooler at the office. With lightweight, flowing shirts, you can select designs that have a pop of colour or a tasteful print on them. However, be careful that you don’t pick a material that is see-through. If you love wearing lightweight tops in a lighter colour in the summer (who doesn’t?), make sure that your bra or camisole is in a colour that matches your skin tone so that it won’t be noticeable from underneath. In the winter, wearing a monochromatic turtle-neck blouse, or a shirt paired with a simple knitted sweater or a sleek blazer is a great way to stay warm and look professional.
And Appropriate Bottoms
Knee-length skirts have always been a staple in the office environment. So, having a few of them in your wardrobe can make nailing the business casual look much easier. When shopping for skirts, you can never go wrong with a sophisticated pencil skirt, but A-line and pleated designs also look great when paired with the right shirt. Just ensure that the lengths and any slits of your skirts are suitable for an office setting.
If you feel more comfortable in pants, then cropped, straight or slim-legged pants can be an excellent option for you. When choosing pants for your work outfits, opt for smart trousers in a neutral colour such as black or beige, or go for darker hues such as deep green, navy or burgundy. When it comes to materials, opting for fabrics that have a little stretch can ensure maximum comfort and help prevent any embarrassing accidents when sitting down.
What About Dresses?
While pants and skirts are fantastic options for business-casual attire, you also have the freedom to wear a dress whenever you like. In addition to being comfortable to move around in and offering more breathability on warmer days, a dress can also be the perfect combination of feminine and professional for a businesswoman. Just make sure to pick the appropriate styles. For instance, you’ll never go wrong with pencil, wrap or A-line designs, that don’t go over your knees or have features that you wouldn’t want in a business casual top for womens.
A Note on Jeans
Jeans can also fit in a business casual wardrobe, but be careful! The jeans you wear shouldn’t make you look too casual and under-dressed. Make sure to pick a pair that is polished and neat. Your best bet is a slim or straight-leg style in a dark wash. Avoid jeans that are faded or feature details such as rips, gemstones, embroidery or frayed hems. Once you’ve picked out the ideal pair of work jeans, they can become one of the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe. You can pair them with a business casual top for womens and some elegant ballet flats or heels for a sophisticated yet contemporary look.
Don’t Overlook Your Shoes
The right shoes are the finishing touch that will tie together the whole business casual look. Planning to wear straight-legged jeans with a shirt and a sweater? Combining them with a pair of Chuck Taylors will label your outfit casual. On the other hand, wearing this look with a pair of sleek ballerina flats, sophisticated Oxford shoes or elegant stilettos – and you have yourself a winning business-casual outfit! Other shoes that are appropriate for a business casual environment are Mary Janes, loafers, cat heels and similar styles. However, remember that you’re going to be wearing the same shoes for 8 or more hours at a time, so make sure they are the right combination of stylish, protective and comfortable.
Have Ready-to-Go Outfit Combinations
Are you tired of having to start your mornings by turning your closet inside out trying to find pieces that match? Well, here’s one advice you can take from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Obama and Steve Jobs – try creating a few pre-determined outfits that you can wear throughout the week. This way, you won’t have to worry about what to wear every morning and you get to limit the number of decisions you need to make in a day. And this can be a great way to prevent experiencing decision-making fatigue that can affect your productivity and well-being.