Do you lead a team of casual dressers?
Work dress codes have changed considerably over the years and many places of work now have ‘relaxed’ dress codes. Whilst this now gives us greater flexibility over what we wear, the downside is that we have more decisions to make and this leads to confusion.
A question that often crops up from my clients is how they can project leadership and seniority when the dress code is smart casual. It’s a tricky area to navigate as wearing a formal suit when the rest of the team are in jeans and t-shirt will make you look ‘stuffy’ and out of touch. On the other hand, unless it comes naturally to you, wearing a ‘one of the guys’ casual outfit is not likely to project the image of a senior manager. Whilst there is never a one size fits all solution here are some tips to show you how….
1. The clue is in the name
Relaxed, ‘dress-for-the-day’ and ‘dress-down-Friday’ all come under the smart casual umbrella. The clue is really in the name so if you are in any doubt over what to wear always veer to the smart side of casual. A good way to test this is to ask yourself ‘would I wear this to dinner with friends?’ For this occasion you would ideally like something that looks nice but is still comfortable. It would be something you’d wear to nip to the local shops.
2. Mix smart pieces with casual items
It doesn’t matter which item it is but always ensure that one of the pieces you are wearing is ‘up a notch’ and smart. You can them mix this item with casual pieces and still look professional. Great combinations include wearing a blazer or smart blouse with jeans, a tailored or print skirt with a sweater and/or a long floaty dress with trainers.
3. Make the right casual choices
By this I mean ensure that any casual piece you wear in the office does not look too distressed. I’m talking about avoiding jeans with rips or large ‘worn’ patches and jersey tops that are misshapen or look like the colour has been washed out. Instead, choose jeans that have structure with no or minimal washing and t-shirts that are crisp and smart in fabrics that hold their shape.
4. Don’t take a relaxed approach to grooming
It’s very tempting to overlook this especially when working in a very casual office. We show respect to our smart clothes that we just don’t to our casual ones. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to jeans that need ironing, mud from the weekend on our trainers and creases in our jumper. This can also extend to our approach to personal grooming like hair, nails and make-up but this always need to be taken care of to look professional and senior.
5. It’s not just about the clothes
It has been scientifically proven that the clothes we wear have a direct effect on our body language. Somehow it’s easier to retain a professional image when we are dressed in formal attire. This may be because it’s more restrictive! Be mindful of your body language and posture – no slouching!
Here are 5 key items you need to look professional and senior in a relaxed work environment.
The statement easy wear blouse – & Other Stories
You can see from the picture how this item can elevate blue jeans to look smart and professional.
A tailored blazer – & Other Stories
Choice a well made quality blazer in any colour or shape that works. Spend time getting the right fit for your body shape and ensure you try it on with the rest of the outfit to ensure the neckline and length are correct.
A crisp t-shirt – Joseph at Net-a-Porter
This style is an investment and doesn’t come cheap. However, it will retain it’s shape and look great even when worn all day which can’t be said of a lot of t-shirts.
Smart minimal wash jeans – Whistles
If in any doubt avoid rips and excessive washing on jeans. If blue jeans are not your thing then choice coloured denim that looks equally as smart.
Plain white trainers – Jigsaw
If you do wear trainers to work ensure that you keep a pair just for this purpose. Have a spare pair that you can wear to the park etc that you aren’t so precious about. It saves the stress of the panic cleaning them on a Monday morning as dirty shoes are a no no! If trainers aren’t your thing then ankle boots or flats will work too.
You can see my pick of smart casual work wear items from & Other Stores on Instagram.
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