Lawyer Brianna Jones of Lawyers’ Fashion solves a corporate fashion problem: How to look professional on “Casual Friday” or while attending a “Smart Casual” function.
The scenario: I wear corporate attire to work every day, but when it comes to Casual Friday or a Smart Casual dress code for a work function, I’m at a loss. What can I wear on these occasions, which still looks professional but different to a traditional suit? On Casual Fridays I might see clients unexpectedly, so I still need to look polished.
Many corporate offices endorse a more relaxed dress code on a Friday known as “Casual Friday”. But what does this really mean and what should or should you not wear on this day of the week? Some say that it is one of the trickiest outfit categories to dress for, however I’m here to reassure you that it doesn’t have to be hard.
Different offices’ have different dress codes and whilst some may allow denim and even a pair of trendy sneakers on a Friday, others employ a stricter dress code and have policies in place. When starting in a new workplace, take the time to observe those around you and read up on any dress code policies that the firm may have. Regardless of any dress code, it is important to remember that you are still at work or representing your work place (if you are at a work function) and your outfit must reflect this with a level of professionalism.
It is important to remember that you should never dress more causally than your boss, even if it’s a Friday. You also have to bear in mind that a client may unexpectedly pop into the office and it is therefore essential that you strike the right balance of casual and professional. The biggest tip that I have is to always keep a spare suit in the office to change into if needed.Whilst everyone’s style and workplaces are different, here are a few ideas to get you started:
1) Add some colour and prints:
Casual Friday can be a good opportunity to introduce your favourite colour or print to the office. Opt for a patterned top or colour that you may consider too bold for regular days in the office. A simple way of creating a more relaxed look is pairing a bold coloured blouse or a patterned shirt with your jeans.
Floral will always be safe but there has been a revival of retro lately so why not try wearing a geometric printed shirt or dress with a blazer.
From my experience and observations, a pair of jeans is usually suitable for a Friday provided they are neutral coloured (blue, black or white) not ripped and not too distressed. The best part about denim is it doesn’t crease so it will always be a smart option when styled well.
For those ladies wishing to inject some extra personality and a fashionable edge to the office on a Friday, try wearing some striped wide leg pants or a graphic pleated skirt with a crisp white shirt or blouse. Then add your standard work blazer.
For men, trade in your suit pants for some chinos or jeans, add a patterned shirt and in summer feel free to roll up the sleeves.
2) Reinvent your usual work wear:
The best way to instantly nail Casual Friday is to style your work wear differently! Casual Friday does not mean you have to go out and purchase a whole new wardrobe. Wear your staple white shirt with a pair of casual pants or jeans. Try rolling up the sleeves and leaving the shirt untucked for a more relaxed look.
Another option is wearing a well-cut plain t-shirt (black or white) tucked into your work trousers.
Your work blazer is another item that can be restyled for a casual day in the office. I suggest wearing it with a wide leg pair of pants, jeans or a patterned skirt for a different look. Also consider wearing a chunky belt over the top for that point of difference.
3) It’s all in the shoes!
Whilst you can still wear your court heels with a pair of jeans, in my opinion, Friday is a great excuse to mix things up! Trade in those court heels for something more comfortable or a pair of statement flats. I enjoy wearing a good pair of chunky block heels to work on a Friday. Other options include a good pair of loafers, sling backs, mules or your classic ballet flats.
If flats are not for you, Friday is a good excuse to wear a killer pair of heels that may be too edgy for other days of the week. Try adding a pair of leopard print or patterned stilettos to a plain outfit to inject some personality.
For men, I recommended some loafers or a pair of boat shoes.
I personally don’t believe sneakers are appropriate for a corporate office and prefer saving these for the weekend, but as I said before, all offices are different and you may be able to wear them.
Fridays are an opportunity to mix up your accessories.
For women, you could accessorise with a block coloured handbag or even sport a smaller cross body bag which will lead nicely into some after work drinks.
In terms of jewellery, I am a big believer in “less is more”. I prefer smaller, elegant pieces of jewellery in a professional context. Fine necklaces, drop earrings and a watch will look fabulous with just about anything.
As a general rule, I think it is important to give consideration to hemlines and necklines when relaxing the corporate dress code. Try and wear things that are a relaxed version of your usual dress code. Overall I think it is important to bear in mind that Casual Friday and smart Casual events are an opportunity to be more relaxed and express your style but still having respect for the workplace.
Brianna Jones is a lawyer and corporate fashion blogger with over 36,000 followers. Brianna practiced as a lawyer in Sydney for 6 years and has a Masters in Law. Up until recently she worked at Mills Oakley, Sydney, in their family law division before pursuing her passion and now working as a fashion blogger. Brianna has worked with many Australian brands to create online content and is a brand ambassador. She enjoys assisting corporate women find timeless work wear essentials for a well-curated corporate wardrobe. To ask Brianna any work wear questions, please email her at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn or visit the Lawyers’ Fashion website.
All rights and ownership of the above photographs belong to Brianna Jones and are not to be used or reproduced for any other purpose without Brianna’s consent.