So, your firm has a business-casual dress code.
We won’t blame you if you think that sounds boring. But first, let’s get one important thing out of the way: What exactly is “business casual” anyway? The definition has meant different things over the years, and it’s still an ambiguous term that can change depending on the business in question.
For most lawyers these days, a business casual dress code typically means no jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, or sundresses. The best way to think of business casual is dressing down your business look, as opposed to dressing up your casual look.
And yes, taken at face value, that does still sound boring. But don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered with some ways to spice up a business casual look regardless of your gender. Of course, your firm’s specific dress code might skew a bit more or less formal, but these tips can help any business casual look feel more personalized and on-trend.
Focus on Fit
As it turns out, plenty of outfits—for both men and women—that appear frumpy or boring look that way because they don’t fit correctly. The color and style might be just fine, but if your outfit is too long or too short, too baggy or too tight, you’re likely to both look and feel dowdy or uncomfortable instead of sharp. Invest some time into finding a good tailor. When your clothes fit as they’re supposed to, you will instantly feel better about how you look at work.
Play with Colors and Patterns
Don’t feel limited to blue and white dress shirts or plain black skirts. Show some personality by donning patterned shirts, skirts, or dresses in unexpected colors—instead of sticking with the expected shades of blue, consider pale green, pink, or lavender. Go a step above by combining unexpected patterns or colors. For instance, by combining two different patterns or pairing two bright colors, you can bring life to what is still an office-appropriate look. There are plenty of resources online that can show you how to decide if two colors or patterns are complementary if doing so isn’t your strength.
Layer, No Matter the Season
While there will no doubt be days a suit jacket or blazer is required, there are other ways to use layers to liven up a business casual look when the opportunity permits. Men and women both can reach for cardigans, which can look great layered over a dress shirt with or without a tie. Sweaters and vests can work well too, regardless of the season. This is another great opportunity to play with colors and patterns as well as texture, which can add yet another dimension to your look.
Ties aren’t required for business casual looks, but they’re a great way for men to add some flair to otherwise basic outfits. Ties give the wearer an opportunity to incorporate color, patterns, or interesting textures—and can be worn with or without a jacket, as well as under sweaters or cardigans. If a suit jacket is in the cards, employing an interesting pocket square in place of a tie can help pull together a look. For women, scarves can be a great way to bring some personality to an outfit, as well as a way to keep warm in an air-conditioned office in the summer. And of course, jewelry can also bring some interest to an otherwise basic look.
Show Personality with Shoes and Socks
The easiest way to have some fun and add personality to your look? Fun socks. And you’re in luck—it’s never been easier to find interesting socks, both online and in stores. Some companies even make customized socks based on a photo or image you wish to incorporate, giving you a unique way to express your individuality. Shoes are another avenue for both men and women to make an otherwise boring outfit pop. Instead of basic brown or black leather dress shoes or pumps, consider different shades or textures. You might be surprised by the difference a pair of shoes can make.