How to put together a casual, yet professional look

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When the directive comes down from management that your workplace is moving to a casual dress code, it’s usually cause for office-wide celebration. More and more companies these days are recognizing the importance of keeping their employees comfortable, and are adopting looser standards for their corporate dress codes.

If your company goes casual, it doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to your professional appearance. Take advantage of the relaxed standards of a more casual dress code, but try to avoid some of the pitfalls that might cause you to look sloppy and unprofessional.

Play the situation

When you’re spending the day in the office, casual attire that fits into your dress code is totally appropriate. But the dress code doesn’t always apply to every situation you might run into during the course of your workday. If you have an important meeting with an associate from another company, more formal attire is appropriate, whether it’s spelled out in your dress code or not.

Keep it clean

No matter how relaxed the dress code is, it’s never a good idea to wear jeans with holes in them or a coffee-stained shirt. Like it or not, wearing frayed or worn clothes will negatively affect how co-workers perceive you.

Get the right fit

Even with casual items like jeans and polo shirts, finding the right fit can mean the difference between a crisp and well-put-together and stylish look and a drab appearance. Dark jeans present a crisper look that’s more appropriate for business settings and styles with a wider cut around the boot usually pair better with loafers, boots and casual dress shoes – even though your tennis shoes may be comfy, leave them at home for play time.

When shopping for work-appropriate jeans, wear shoes and a shirt you’d normally wear for work to get an idea of what style fits best with your work attire. Several clothing brands offer a number of work-appropriate jeans for men and women for less than $30 a pair. It’s important to note that you don’t have to break the bank for a professional yet casual look.

You should avoid certain styles of jeans in the workplace. Men: While your build and personal style might allow you to brilliantly pull off skinny jeans on the weekends, don’t be tempted to wear them in the office. Women: You might turn heads with the way you wear those low-rise jeans, but opt for something less revealing for the workplace.

Err on the conservative side

If you have to ask yourself if your outfit is too revealing, chances are it is. Women should refrain from low-cut blouses, just as men should resist the urge to ditch the t-shirt underneath that button-down shirt. If your dress code is casual enough to allow for T-shirts, refrain from wearing anything containing messages or images that could be deemed by anyone as offensive. You can impress your friends with your witty T-shirt on the weekends, but your peers – or superiors – may not share their sense of humor.

While there are certain things to avoid when composing your work-casual look, remember to enjoy the freedom and comfort allowed by your relaxed dress code. By keeping your wardrobe stocked with casual attire that fits your body well, looks clean and crisp and is appropriate for the workplace, you’ll maintain comfort while exuding professionalism and confidence. 

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