Defining Your Personal Style: Dress Codes

Oh, the bane of all creative fashion loving individuals: dress codes. For those of us working at home/for ourselves, or in a particularly creative field, this isn’t a problem at all. For those who’ve been given the dreaded “business casual” to work with, it can be awful. When I worked in a business casual environment, I usually ended up throwing on a nice shirt with black pants and whatever pair of nice shoes that was closest. I felt stifled by the dress code and thus didn’t even make an attempt to express myself through my outfits, which got old fast. Nobody wants to feel like that! To help out with this dilemma, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions for ways to retain your personal style, while fitting in to dress code.

Side note: The last time I worked in a business casual setting, the dress code was pants, capris if at or under the knee, skirts if at or under the knee, collared shirts and no sneakers or open-toed shoes allowed. So these are the parameters I’m working with for the examples. But the methods and ideas I’ll throw out can be easily applied to school uniforms or other dress codes, as well. Obviously, they won’t work in situations like a server, where black pants/white shirt is the uniform - but even then, you can express yourself with accessories as long as they aren’t too loud.

  • Details, details, details. When shopping for your work wardrobe, look for items that fit dress code but have whimsical (or edgy, or bold - whatever your style!) little details. Case in point: the bow on this skirt’s waistband. Details combined with a few accessories can bring an outfit from drab to fab. (Did I just say that? Oh, yes, I did.) Other details to look for: ruffles, pops of color, pleating, an unexpected print.
  • Accessories. Nothing groundbreaking, I’ll give you that, but that’s because it works. This outfit isn’t very inspiring color wise, with a gray/silver and black scheme, but the accessories give it an almost neo-Victorian feel. There’s the running rose theme, the amazing ankle boots, and the ruffle detailing on the skirt. A good choice of accessories and an interesting choice in shoes will take your outfit a long way. Don’t forget hair accessories, which are often overlooked!
  • Color. It would be tough to get away with wearing a neon ensemble in most business-casual workplaces, but a colorful top and accessories will go a long way to making you feel better about what you’re wearing, and as a bonus liven up your workplace a bit! A nice medium pink is a safe bet, with accents here in the ring and hair bow as well. Note the accessories - belts are another oft-overlooked area, and the statement necklace here adds a nice touch.
  • Another tip to remember: plan your outfit the night before! I know, I know, you don’t want to, when you get home you just want to kick back and watch Project Runway without having to think about work at all. Unfortunately though, your most stylish moments will not be when you’ve already hit the snooze button twice and are trying to get dressed and eat cereal at the same time. An ounce of prevention and all that jazz.

Do you have to work around a dress code or uniform? How do you express your personal style while staying within it?

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3 Responses to “Defining Your Personal Style: Dress Codes”

  • “When I worked in a business casual environment, I usually ended up throwing on a nice shirt with black pants and whatever pair of nice shoes that was closest. I felt stifled by the dress code and thus didn’t even make an attempt to express myself through my outfits, which got old fast.”

    “plan your outfit the night before!….Unfortunately though, your most stylish moments will not be when you’ve already hit the snooze button twice and are trying to get dressed and eat cereal at the same time. An ounce of prevention and all that jazz.”

    You could have just said those two things in this post and I’d still be nodding my head as ferociously as I am now! I’m guilty on both parts–throwing on that safe bus casual look and not planning ahead. As a result, I rarely feel stylish at work…
    Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Confessional: Why I don’t wear my shoes. My ComLuv Profile

  • Poochie says:

    I worked at Disney where we had a full on “look book” of rules governing size of earrings, shoes, pantyhose, make up and hair. I actually found myself getting more creative to be rebellious.

    Accessories were key as was planning ahead. I say I’ll do it, but I often get lazy at night too.

  • Dottie says:

    I love all these outfit selections!

    I know all about dress codes, having recently resigned from a job where I wore suits for two years. I managed to find a few well-cut and slightly young/fashionable suits and simply wore those over and over again. Blech. I would welcome “business casual” - a job where I could wear bows and flower necklaces in peace :)

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