Keep it MBAchic: What to wear to my casual but professional office

Assortment of outfits from a pinterest board of casual officewear

Let’s face it, dress codes at the office continue to get more and more relaxed. (New evidence: linking this new NYT piece on Goldman Sachs and its relaxing dress code.) The allure of being a cool, innovative hoodie vs. a boring, stuffy suit has lead the way to more casual office wear for men and women than we have seen in the past. What does that mean for someone who is trying to keep it professional, and stylish, in your casual but professional office (without everyone in your office asking, “when’s the interview happening?”) Keep reading for our thoughts, prompted by a question from a friend who slid into our DMs to ask (we encourage you to do the same!).

Consider the following case: you’re an analyst, working in a small real estate office. The setting is casual but professional office wear (read: the guys are wearing jeans, not slacks, and the vibe is relaxed… everyone gets along, often heading to happy hour nearby at the end of the day). What should you wear to be comfortable while dressing like a professional?

Stock up on classic blazers

A simple standby you can rely on for a lot of situations is a classic blazer over a button-down or sleeveless top. It’s polished enough to show you’re a professional but gives you the flexibility to move around (and take it off, if you want). Theory and Burberry have some excellent blazers that you can invest in and have for years. Check out some options we found on Pinterest here:

Pro-tip: if you’re concerned about your deodorant staining an expensive blazer, there are absorbent pads you can peel and stick to the underarm area. This cuts way down on your dry cleaning bill and preserves the quality of the fabric; if you’re constantly dry cleaning, just for the underarm area, it’ll start looking worn sooner than it should. Do yourself a favor and stock up on these.

A stylish dark jean goes with [almost] everything

We love a dark jean. Denim can be a bit relaxed, but a dark wash elevates it to be appropriate for your ‘casual officewear’ dress code. Invest in a few different styles; we like the examples below, because they offer lots of variety. You can pair the slim pant with a dark blazer, tuck a silk blouse into a wide-leg trouser; get creative and be thankful your office is so flexible.

Make sure the pants are not too tight (buy a size up if you’re not sure, and stick them in the dryer for a minute), and get them properly hemmed so they hit the right point (for wide-legged trousers, you want a 1/2-inch above the ground to look clean and give a lengthening effect. Also, you need to commit to footwear, here: either this pant is going to be heels-only, or flats-only). Finally: avoid wearing ripped jeans to the office. They’re just not appropriate for the office; you never know when a client will pop in, or when the CEO will swing by for a chat. Even if your boss seems cool about it, save the look for the weekend.

Get creative with color or have fun with monochromatic styling

Take advantage of the chill vibe and get creative in your styling – play with colors, prints and texture. You could go wild on top and keep the rest of the outfit clean in terms of silhouette and palette, or throw on a skirt and boots. Have fun with it. Another idea is a monochromatic look, in which you stick to one color, in different textures (black is easy and roughly 70% of any New Yorker’s closet). Challenge yourself to play with different fabrics and details to come up with something new from your wardrobe.

On that note, one thing we’ve been dying to try out is the Finery app (@yourfinery), which basically turns your closet into the one Cher Horowitz has in the movie Clueless. My cousin first recommended it to me: takes some time to set up, but once you’ve catalogued your items, you’ve got an organized inventory that styles you and recommends things to try that you might never have considered before. Definitely take a look (and let us know if you’ve tried it / what you think!).

Accessories will help you elevate your look

Accessories can play a major role in shifting any outfit up a couple of gears. Consider a well-crafted, structured leather bag. This should be an investment piece that shows you’re not playing around. It’s fun switching them out every now and then, but our standard work bag is one that can give that professional vibe, no matter what we have on. And you don’t need to break-the-bank: two places we love for designer bag consignment are The Real Real and Rebag. They have luxury consignment professionals vetting every item for authenticity, quality and condition, so they’re a safe move. And if you’re in NYC they have actual stores, so check them out!

Your shoes are often the first thing people will notice when you first meet; we’re wired that way, especially in office settings, to scan each other’s looks, and shoes often leave a lasting impression. Make sure they’re clean, not scuffed, and comfortable. If you’re wearing the newest Louboutins but look like a baby giraffe walking around, you’re not exactly exuding the confidence of a woman who is running her shit; swap them for a more comfortable heel and save those for another time.

Note:  Whenever someone DM’s a style question, I’ll immediately set up a board on Pinterest and start pinning inspiration for the upcoming post. That way they have a link to what I’m pulling in real-time, and they can keep checking back until the post goes live.

Check out the dynamic Pinterest board created for this question (@MBAchicblog):

Casual officewear outfits as selected in the Pinterest board by MBAchic blog

If you’re on Pinterest, throw us a follow (@MBAchicblog)!
We follow back (your boards inspire our #keepitMBAchic pins, too!).

What is your go-to casual but professional office wear look? Have you tried Finery? Let us know! (#notsponsoredbutwishwewere)

Sign up for The Weekly Chic

Receive the latest from MBAchic, advice, news, jobs and more each week.

Sign up for The Weekly Chic

Receive the latest from MBAchic, advice, news, jobs and more each week.

Related Articles