Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Business of Casual & Other Dress Codes

Does anyone else often feel enslaved to their work dress code? Mine isn't even that restrictive - "business casual." What I am suffering from here is not a lack of options, it's a lack of creativity. The common motto for working women is "dress for the role you want to have." If I took that literally, I'd dress like Blake Lively, because, well, I wouldn't mind having that role. All it means is dress for success. I am guilty for breaking these rules on occasion. My goal is to find a way to dress for success every day without compromising my desire for fashion creativity. Here are some key things to remember:

You can be stricter than the policy. In political world, states do it all the time. You have the Constitution that governs all of us, but some states enact laws that do more (hi, California). Your policy might say that you can wear all the accessories you desire, but that doesn't mean you should. Your policy might say you can wear any shoe except flip-flops and sneakers, but that doesn't mean that your 6-inch highlighter-yellow platforms are a wise choice for the office. Learn to have an editing eye. Don't use your creativity on distractions like gobs of jewelry or Spice Girl shoes.

It was "Grizzness Casual" Day, okay?  My yellow Banana Republic pants are dress code compliant. I have even paired it with things that made it look more sophisticated than, say, a T-Shirt, but to me, these skirt the line of loudness. I am in a corporate environment, not a start-up or fashion house.

Image source

Your Environment Matters. "Corporate America" is a broad term. We don't all abide by the same dress codes and culture. I'll bet my company's dress code is very different than Apple's. Contrast that with people who work as stylists in New York where pushing the envelope is encouraged. Your environment also includes the people in it. If your team and manager are consistently polished, it is in your best interest to mimic that. Plus, the more "put-together" you look and feel, the more productive you will be. That's partially why I didn't prefer to dress sloppily to class. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to work as a stylist and always have to be on trend.

Accessories make a difference. Scarves of all varieties can take a plain outfit and jazz it up. Take the picture to the right for example - how much more generic would it be if she didn't have that necklace? There are ways to be expressive without crossing the line. The boundary to consider with accessories is quantity/volume. Keep it simple, and ask yourself, "is this distracting?" It may be a trend to keep a ring on every finger, but it may be distracting when you're leading a presentation or teaching class.

If you want to check out trendy, affordable work clothes, look on Zara or Topshop (maybe avoid H&M unless you trust the quality).

If you're more traditional, check out Banana Republic or J.Crew. Remember that these stores tend to run sales often, and each has an outlet.

If you're not price conscious and want to invest in some great pieces, try Equipment blouses and Ferragamo shoes.

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