What to wear for a smart casual dress code
If you have recently made the switch from a corporate office where your work uniform was a tailored suit to a more creative industry with an informal dress code you may be struggling with what to wear.
Anna De Vere Director of Corporate Training and Development at CMB Image explains what is and is not appropriate for an informal office environment.
In a work environment what you choose to wear will reflect on your attitudes to work and form part of your personal branding. Work colleagues, particularly new ones will make instant assumptions about you based on what you are wearing. This might seem scary but, you really only have 30 seconds to make a lasting impression and if it’s your first day in a new office you want it to be the right one!
Don’t forget also that you’ll also be judged on your body language, the way you use your voice and lastly the words that you use!
So, what should you wear to work?
Many people who work in a corporate environment like the comfort that wearing a suit provides. It limits choice and all you need to do is make sure that the colour is appropriate for your skin tone and that the shape complements your figure. The shirts and tops worn with your outfit are the only areas where you’ll really be able to express your personality and even then you are likely to keep to a palate of safe colours, after all you don’t want to stand out too much from your colleagues. But what about a more informal environment which claims to have a ‘smart casual’ dress code?
The first step
Your starting point should be to understand your body shape and what makes you look and feel good. Clothing is either constructed along straight lines, which gives a garment a more rigid, structured form, or along curved lines, which gives the more fluid shape that tends to follow the curves of the body.
Smart casual is probably one of the most stipulated dress codes around. Deciphering dress codes like this one is often open to interpretation. The key is to look put-together and polished. For women, pretty dresses and skirts are always a safe bet and if you want to wear jeans then try teaming them with something like a tailored blazer and heeled shoes.
Secondly, gain an understanding of your own colouring and what colours make you look professional and approachable. This is determined by hair and eye colour along with skin tone, and everyone falls in to one of six different palettes. It’s really important to make sure that the colours of your work clothes match with your skin tone and hair colour. If they are too strong then they will drain the colour from your face, too pale and they can make you look sallow.
Colour also plays a key part in how others perceive you, medium shades from your colour palate will help you to appear approachable, something to consider if you’re in a team leader role. If you are in a customer facing role and need to appear friendly then less formal attire will work well, dressed in this way is also like to make you feel comfortable and confident and help you engage with clients.
Finally you need to remember that you are dressing for work and that will you need to appear both professional and approachable. Avoid jeans at all costs, just because the dress code is smart casual it is not an excuse to wear your jeans no matter how smart they might be. Swap your suits for tailored trousers, skirts and dresses, and formal shirts for shaped or wrap around tops. If you want to add a jacket then a waterfall jacket or piece of knitwear in this style would work well.
If you are a chap then chinos or smart slacks will strike the perfect note. Swap your formal shirt and ties for shirts with button down collars. A blazer or sports jacket is a great wardrobe staple, worn with slacks its strikes just the balance when you need to appear smart but don’t want to revert to a suit
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