Work Wednesdays: From Corporate to Casual

Apr 9, 2014

A few weeks ago, I asked for topics for the Work Wednesday posts and, boy, did you ladies respond.  One of the most common questions was how you transition from a job that is corporate or professional to a work environment that is more casual without having to buy an entirely new wardrobe.  Here are some tips.

Shoes.  Changing your shoes changes the look of your entire outfit.  Pumps are professional, an open-toe or round-toe flat is more relaxed.  In the summer, grab a fun sandal (not a flip-flop).  You can bring an outfit down a notch with different shoes.

Also, try color.  Adding a bright hue to your feet is more relaxed than wearing neutrals and it can really raise the style-quotient of your attire.  Red is my favorite, but coral or green also works well.

Materials.  Less wool and silk, more cotton, ponte and knit.  Where I would wear a silk blouse with my pencil skirt at a professional office, I would try a cotton tee or a short-sleeve sweater in a more casual office.  I would also eventually swap out crepe dresses for ponte ones.  Target has the best selection in misses, petites and plus.

Textures and Prints.  Solids are more conservative than prints, so if you like bold prints, this is your opportunity to wear them.  You can be more relaxed with them, or go nuts.

Need a visual aid?

rsz_screen_shot_2014-04-09_at_115229_amSuit, J.Crew Cotton Suit Blazer ($178) and Pencil Skirt ($110)

On the left, Trina Turk Octagon Studs ($38) //Big Buddha Slouchy Hobo ($71) //Jessica Simpson Estty ($69) // Blu Bijoux Necklace ($32) //Target T-shirt ($12)

On the right, Petite Bateau Striped Top ($100) //Paige Skyline Skinny Jeans ($179) //Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant ($79) // Ralph Lauren Newbury Satchel ($298) // BP Moveover Flat ($50)

I kept this outfit a bit more on the conservative side, only because that’s my taste.  If you work in a truly casual office, feel free to wear graphic tees or bold prints or brighter hues.  You have the freedom to wear whatever your heart desires (within reason), so take advantage.

One word of caution about casual attire, even though your office is casual, consider the age of your boss before choosing anything too wild.  I once worked at a company run by woman in her 60s who thought my bright pink nail polish was incredibly risqué.  So while many things are allowed in a casual office, you still need to be mindful of where you work and who you work for.

Work Wednesdays

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  1. Britt says:

    Thank you for this post!! I struggle with this as a law student because each job or internship I have done has called for varying types of attire from suits every day to a self-proclaimed causal office. I have struggled with striking a balance between respecting the office’s casual dress code while also respecting the conservative history of the legal profession. Again, thank you – this helps so much!

  2. Tina says:

    What is a “Ponte” dress?

  3. NS says:

    thank you! i was one of the people who wrote to you asking for help on this topic. love your visual aid.

  4. Anna says:

    This also great for helping your wardrobe stretch from non-recess to recess weeks.

  5. Jenn L. says:

    Wonderful post, thank you Belle. My office is pretty darn casual in the scheme of things, but I like to suit up a bit more when I have meetings. This will help me incorporate those pieces into my “normal” wardrobe a bit more competently!

  6. Leigh says:

    I think I had a college professor who often wore almost that exact outfit on the right.

  7. Mrs Type A says:

    Great tip at the end. I work in an office that has a dress code which was described to me as “wear clothes.” My supervising attorney often wears a hoodie. However, when I wore neon coral nail polish (a birchbox goodie) to work, my boss called the color “weird” and called attention to it. It made me feel soooo stupid. I won’t make that mistake again.

  8. anth says:

    +1 on switching from heels to fun flats, I just made this type of work attire transition and bought new shoes bc all my black heels were way too fancy

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