How to master the office dress code

How to master the office dress code

So, you finally have a new job in a trendy  office after months of sending out applications. Now, the next step is preparing yourself for life in the office. One of the most important aspects of preparing for the workplace is dressing the part, however, this can be difficult if you have no idea where to start. Mastering the office dress code does not have to be a daunting prospect, and below are some helpful tips on how to dress for success.

Understand what smart-casual is

Smart-casual is slowly becoming the norm in many modern offices, where the corporate culture leans toward embracing both comfort and style. Wearing South Africa fashion dresses or tailored suits to an office where  the majority of people are wearing chinos and button-down shirts is not the best choice to make.

Smart-casual means that you will need to combine business wear with casual elements. For men, a dark pair of chinos paired with a V-necked sweater is an ideal combination and for women, a dark pair of jeans or cigarette pants and a white shirt is a classic, elegant combination. Your shoes should match your outfit, being not too loud and colourful but also not too casual as to make your outfit look messy and unkempt. Avoid sneakers if possible.  

Understand what business formal means

If you work in an office with a business formal dress code, this means that you will need to dress in a suit (for men) or a pantsuit or pencil skirt and blazer combination (for women). This dress code requires you to dress in a more professional manner, so be sure to look up ‘what footwear to wear with dresses’ before going out and purchasing a new dress or skirt for the office.

Be sure to look for suits that are fitted rather than too big or too small, and ladies, avoid wearing stilettos and opt rather for comfortable kitten heels or pumps. Business formal is more common in large companies and corporations, but you might find this dress code at smaller businesses who want to put forward a sleeker image to their clients. Suits and pantsuits in dark colours such as navy, grey or black are ideal choices for this environment.

Can I wear a dress to work?

There will always be a place for dresses in the workplace, as long as you wear the right style of dress. A short dress in a bright colour is probably not the best option for a formal office, and keep the tight bodycon options for Friday night drinks with the girls.

Taking your inspiration from kids fashion dresses is a no-go (nobody will respect you in that Frozen-inspired outfit, no matter how stylish you think it is) but choosing a tailored, colour-block dress at an acceptable length will subtly show off your style. A shirt dress with a collar combined with leggings and a denim jacket will suit a smart-casual office whereas a tailored black midi dress is better for business formal attire.

Make it work for your style

Whether your dress code is smart-casual or business-formal, it is important to make it work for your style. If colour or print is your style, then a pair of trousers with a subtle check pattern or a brightly coloured pocket square will fit the bill.

A pair of loafers with brightly coloured laces would work well in a smart-casual office, while a fitted colour block dress is both unique and professional enough for business-formal. If you look uncomfortable in your clothes, this will show through and will make you appear less confident and more anxious. Look for clothes that fit your body perfectly and opt for colours that flatter your body rather than highlight problem areas.

What shoes should I wear?

Your shoes can make or break your outfit, which means that you need to consider them carefully. Flats, boots and heels are the go-to options for women, whereas loafers, boat-shoes and slide-ons are the best options for men. Leave your sneakers and sandals at home, for both smart-casual and business-formal.

Loafers for men and pumps for women are a staple and can work well with both business-formal and smart-casual. If you want to think out of the box, a pair of two-tone brogues can be matched with charcoal trousers and a bright top is ideal for a casual Friday. Ladies, leave your six-inch heels at home and rather choose comfortable wedges or court shoes with kitten heels. The office is not the place to wear your Manolo Blahniks, no matter how much you want to channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw.

Remember, less is more

When choosing an outfit for work, remember the old saying of ‘less is more’ and apply it to your clothing choices. Instead of opting for a brightly patterned shirt and equally bright trousers, opt for classic colours such as navy, charcoal or black. If you prefer wearing dresses, then avoid an over-the-top South Africa fashion dress and choose a simple tailored option in a bold colour. The office does not have to be dull and dreary, but it is important to remember that you are not taking part in a fashion show.

Authored by: mjones

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