Monday, July 17th, 2017
How I Spiced Up Business Casual
How I Spiced Up Business Casual
A professional wardrobe is where style goes to die.
Okay, not really, but that was definitely how I felt leaving school. I’ve always been into street style, and I spent most of college in giant gold hoops and jeans. Nothing about my style felt transferable to a business wardrobe, and as someone’s whose style is very near and dear to their heart, giving it up felt terrifying. I wasn’t meant for black pantsuits with a sensible heel. The Man was trying to smother my individuality! Wake up people!
Two years later, I’m happy to say that existential crisis was short-lived (and just as ridiculous as it sounds,
I know). I lucked out with a job that had a business casual dress code, as is becoming more and more common in the workplace. No one expected me to dress exclusively in black, gray, and navy. The freedom was exciting, but also a little daunting. How do I straddle the line of “business casual” and “casual”? A life of nude ballet flats and striped button-ups was not for me.
Embracing the Bold
Luckily, business casual generally doesn’t come with a list of color restrictions. I had to find ways to liven up a boring white blouse, and it helped that my closet was mostly made up of statement pieces. I found this printed blazer at a thrift store a few years ago, and after a few months at the office I finally worked up the courage to wear it.
This was the first (and truthfully, the last) time I’d ever fallen in love with a blazer, so I really felt like it was breaking some sort of office rule. But the only comments I got on it were compliments! I’d found the narrow intersection of clothes I enjoyed wearing and clothes I could wear to work. Hurray!
You can try a similar blazer, like this floral one from Zara, for $69.90
Embracing the Edge
The printed blazer was my first foray into fun professional clothes, but at the end of the day, it was still a blazer. They’re almost inherently business casual, so really, I had been worrying for nothing. I wanted to try something a little more unorthodox in my slightly-more-orthodox workplace. I loved this white and black blouse I had, but I knew the print was pushing it. After a decade of punk inspired clothing, I was completely desensitized to skull motifs, but there were more sensitive souls out there.
The skirt color was also a concern–I thought business meant monochromatic, and very few people in my department wore primary colors at all. Eventually, I decided to go for it. I was balancing a very traditional work silhouette–button blouse and knee-length pencil skirt–with a nontraditional palette. What was the worst that could happen, right?
Other than getting fired. If I was going to work here for the next few years, I needed to make myself as comfortable as possible. For some people, that means decorating their cubes. For me, it means spicing up my wardrobe.
Luckily, I discovered my clean cut boss is actually a former Punk with the 70s CD collection to prove it, so he’s even more desensitized to the motif than I am. The longer I’ve been at my workplace and gotten to know my work team, the more fashion freedom I’ve realized I have. I’m able to express myself comfortably. The confidence that comes with a good outfit shows in the work that I do, and my organization reaps the benefits. Everyone wins!
Basically, it’s Not That Bad
The reality is that basically, business casual isn’t so bad. I’m not sure how well I’d do with a strict professional dress code (so good-bye, law career) but I’ve learned to have some fun with it. Of course, every workplace has its own threshold for what’s acceptable, so your best bet is always to err on the side of caution until you have a better feel for the workplace culture. Business casual will never be my favorite casual, but it’s much more tolerable now.
These comfy zebra pants are on sale from H&M for only $6
Some people love the structure of a dress code while others (like yours truly) can’t stand it. Which one are you? How do you make business casual work for you? Let me know your thoughts in comments below!
Lots of love,