For women, business casual can be a very confusing category. You’re supposed to look nice — but not too nice. How do you hit the right note?
When I work with clients who work in a business casual environment, there are a couple important questions we need to answer before we begin to craft actual looks. The first concern is to ensure that your clothing actually works for the life you lead. Then, we need to figure out what type of clothing makes you feel confident and at ease in your own skin. Once we have those factors elucidated, we can match it all up to your personal style.
Your Work Environment
What type of clothing is appropriate for the work that you do?
When I work with doctors or dentists or journalists, the priority is to have work clothing that resists wrinkles and is machine washable to resist stains. For engineers or architects or kindergarten teachers, you need all of the above plus clothing that moves with you. If you’re a lawyer, your clients might expect you in a suit. If you’re a photographer or musician, they’ll expect you in head-to-toe black.
Your work wardrobe also needs to match your life. If you’re wearing a suit to work every day, but you have a newborn, we might want to switch the silk tops out for cotton for a while to protect against stains from pumping or spit-up. If you’re wearing head-to-toe black but you live in a hot climate, we might need to think seriously about the fabrics we employ for you.
What Makes You Confident
While it’s important that the clothing you choose is appropriate for your work environment, it also needs to spark your own confidence.
When you walk out the door to go to work, what pieces make you feel confident? Is it a jacket? A dress? Your lucky watch? A favorite pair of earrings? Within the parameters of what makes sense for the actual work you do, you get to decide what you wear every day.
When I work with clients, we start asking this question once we’ve worked through my personal style formula. We know your color story and your style language so we can begin to imagine how you actually want to show up in your day-to-day so you can achieve the life of your dreams.
If you’re pulling at your pantyhose as you walk to your next meeting, you’re likely not walking with poise or confidence. What happens if leadership happens to notice you at this particular moment? Embarrassing!
It is critical to be comfortable in work situations — this is why business casual is a thing! Mine that.
If wearing trousers is something that allows you to move easily from moment to moment, then wear them. If you prefer dresses, that’s okay, too! Dresses don’t have to be for formal events only.
Work is likely where you spend most of your time, so build a work wardrobe that feels good for you. While that doesn’t necessarily mean PJ dressing, it certainly can — depending on the type of work you do!
Commanding respect is about being at ease in your own skin. You can show up in a silk blouse, great jeans and flats and be the most commanding presence in the room — if that’s what makes you feel comfortable.
How We Make It Happen:
When we create your wardrobe, we want it to work for you. The pieces you own need to make sense for your work environment AND for what makes you feel confident — plus, you need to feel comfortable in them.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Assess Your Work Environment: Look around you. Observe what the people you admire are wearing. Now, look at those who are not getting opportunities, promotions or respect. What sets those you admire apart visually? Note what might helpful for you to emulate in your own work wardrobe — and what to avoid.
- Evaluate What Makes You Confident: Pay attention to what you wear for high-pressure situations. Is wearing your lucky necklace key? Or is it about color for you? Do you have a favorite dress or jacket? Honor your choices and imagine how you could amplify what you’re naturally doing on a day-to-day basis.
- Combine Comfort. Notice what makes you feel good. Is it stretch material or flat shoes? Is dressing up a little more or being more casual? Once you know what these elements are, catalog which of your work pieces actually include them. Replace the pieces that don’t — you’re likely not wearing them anyway!