I was interviewed by FT.com’s Ignite Europe recently about the changing dress codes at work and how to navigate a world where the suit no longer reins supreme as dress codes become more relaxed. You can read it here. For my male clients, this idea of ‘smart casual’ dressing brings newfound challenges but for my female clients this is nothing new. Women have always had a tougher time at cracking work dress codes – with no ‘uniform’ to fall back on and inherently more choice there has often been an element of trial and error to find what fits best personally and professionally.
And the same applies for dressing outside of work. When once you would receive an invitation with a dress code clearly printed at the bottom, now, it’s more likely to be an email, text or Whatsapp message for an event where anything goes. Even formal events, like attending the ballet, where a full length dress would once have been appropriate, now looks out of place.
Relaxing dress codes and letting the mood take you sounds good in theory – but how do we know what is suitable and what is unsuitable?
Here are my top 7 tips to de-coding what is appropriate now…
1. Start with some strategic research - the who, what and where. This will give you an idea of the ‘mood’ of the event and how formal or casual it will be.
2. And when you have done that, embrace YOUR personal style and what is authentic to you and your personality. Do you like to dress up or dress down, are you romantic or prefer masculine styles? There is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in what you are wearing; it will show in your body language and the way you interact with people. You need to stand out for the right reasons!
3. What makes you feel the most confident? Are you a dress, trouser or jean person? For men, do you like a tailored or more relaxed look?
4. Colour is a game changer. A simple silhouette is elevated by a knock-out colour.
5. Embrace the high-low. When I’m not sure how to pitch it, I choose one dressier piece and make it feel more casual and nonchalant. Forget the stereotypes and put your spin on it. A sequin skirt looks brilliant in the day with a sweater or a floor length dress looks casual and cool with trainers.
6. Build a wardrobe of ‘flexible’ items that can take you from a breakfast meeting to a friends Christmas gathering at their home. When I am shopping for clients there is a real demand for special pieces that, could be casual in nature, but feel special and can function in different ways - A dress that you can switch up with a belt and different heel heights or a great pair of black trousers with a blouse or a statement sweater.
7. For work, there may be some compromise. Maintain a sense of who you are and your authentic style by dressing with nuances of you are whilst still showing that you respect the company dress code and culture.
Dressing for work and social occasions can be a minefield but I can help you de-code the dress code and take the guesswork out of shopping. Get in touch to see how I can help.
Photo credit: W magazine