September 5, 2013 8:15 am
Updated: January 27, 2014 11:26 am

How to dress for casual Friday

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Casual Friday, two words that are often a source of pain for employers and confusion to employees. What once began as a means of feeling more relaxed at the office prior to the weekend has ended in horror for some businesses and refused completely by others.

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When dressing clients, whether they are the employee or employer, I’m often asked the question of what is appropriate on a casual Friday. The question is often followed by stories of past coworkers showing up in mesh tops, mini skirts and logo tee shirts.

While many businesses have become okay in allowing a casual Friday, many have yet to enforce a dress code for it. This nonchalant manner has created a ‘follow-the-leader’ type of mentality among many; if one person can get away with it, then they can, too.  In a sense, it becomes a game of telephone with dress codes. The end result is far from desired or what the original message was intended to be.

Furthermore, the business game has changed, especially in terms of fashion. Twenty years ago, most dressed in a suit (or close to), and went to work. Business was more formal, and in-person. It required people to be more polished during the day.  Fast-forward to today’s market and we can see that things have vastly changed. While we do have traditional roles of lawyer, banker and so on that need to dress with similar rules to before, new positions have since been created that has left everyone else unclear with what dress code is appropriate during the day.

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The number of people working in creative job fields is constantly growing as are the number of individuals working from home. While this shouldn’t effect how professionals get dressed in the morning, it unfortunately does. Magazines and other media outlets are constantly creating work inspired outfits that allow us to reflect our personal style. While articles like these can be a great piece, the readers won’t often look at an article like that and know if the outfit in question is one that is appropriate for their job in particular. The person creating the article doesn’t either.

Recently, I had seen a few bloggers post pictures of their best interview outfits. I have to admit to being horrified with the results. While the pictures were attention grabbing at best, the outfits themselves were far from appropriate. Maxi dresses, leather jackets, and denim all entered the picture. While I agree that in the fashion field and perhaps a few other exceptions this might be acceptable (and even then, I’d question it), for the majority of the world, it’s not. But again, this is where many draw inspiration and acceptance for what they can wear to work. The image once more is skewed.

So what is appropriate for casual Friday? The answer varies depending on your employment.

The first thing many businesses need to establish is a dress code. While many say they have one, they’re often very vague and almost never enforced.

Secondly, you need to establish what level of dress your day-to-day business requires and what type of field you’re in before a more casual mode of dress can be established. Generally speaking, if you are in a traditional business role such as an accountant, lawyer, banker, teacher, doctor, etc. you’re required to wear more traditional business outfits such as suits, or business casual modes of dress (slacks and a blouse) from Monday to Friday. The higher your position, the more formal you’ll need to dress.

Those in creative industries such as fashion, graphic designer, PR and so forth would opt for a business casual mode of dress, but would be able to style themselves with more creative leniency because of their field.

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In terms of casual Friday, the rule of thumb is to style yourself a business level lower than how you would normally dress from Monday to Thursday. For example, someone that wears a full suit during the week would dress business casual come Friday.  It doesn’t mean that you automatically jump into denim.

Those that dress business casual during the week could choose to dress smart casual at week’s end (which includes the option to wear denim). The more casual you become, the more you can incorporate your personal style, whatever that may be.

If you’re going to be in meetings or seeing clients that day? Casual Friday attire is out for you. Studies show that 55 per cent of your credibility goes to what people can see visually. So, if you’re looking to move up the ladder or land that pitch, choose your attire wisely.

Does this mean that business looks can’t be stylish? Of course not. There are so many ways to style formal and casual business looks and still be current. Accessories are a great, easy way of achieving this. This just means that some of the really edgy, fun pieces you have in your closet may only be appropriate in certain situations.

As a last resort, look in the mirror before you leave home. Generally speaking, if what you see can’t be pulled off in a nice bistro or restaurant, then it certainly won’t be appropriate for work.

Here are a few general rules and things to keep in mind for casual Friday:

  1. If you’re going to wear denim just remember no rips and no wild washes.
  2. Putting a blazer over casual items such as a tee shirt or jeans instantly makes you look more professional.
  3. No sandals. If you’re looking for comfort on Friday, opt for flats or loafers.
  4.  Structured bags look more refined and polished for work opposed to slouchy handbags.
  5. No mini skirts or short shorts. They just are not appropriate.
  6. If you’re going to wear a see through or sheer shirt, make sure a camisole or tee is underneath.
  7. No gym clothes (including yoga pants, ladies) at work. Ever.
  8. For women, your neckline should never be lower than the top of your cleavage.
  9. No sweatpants.
  10. Don’t just roll out of bed. Have a shower, put some make up on and pull yourself together.

The key is to remember that when you enter the office, no matter what field you’re in, you represent yourself and the company you work for. How you dress says something about who you are. Reflecting your personal style while still being appropriate at work will not only make you feel good, but your employers will too.

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