How to dress when you don’t have a dress code

“I’m not in a work environment where I have to wear a suit and tie everyday, but I still want to look sharp.”

“I’m a software engineer and we have a ‘look’ — jeans, t shirt, sweater and sneakers but I want a more elevated style that is still functional. Something that would say, ‘Yes I’m a software engineer but hella stylish and can totally be director one day.’ ”

     These are common challenges that I hear from my clients around navigating what to wear to work.

Many people work in super casual offices and are confused about what to wear to convey that they are serious about their job, amazing at what they do and are capable of being promoted.

     They are surrounded in a sea of free oversized hoodies, baggy jeans and logo t-shirts that they become overwhelmed about how they can develop a professional style that doesn’t put them front and center.


Updating your style for such a casual environment can seem risky.

If you wear anything that your coworkers aren’t wearing (eg. a free oversized hoodie or baggy jeans) — there is a possibility that others could take notice and ask you, “so why’d you dress up today?”

     Or worse, they’d could think that you are trying too hard and then you’d be the center of attention.

What we *think* we’d look like if we updated our work style vs what our co-workers are actually wearing.


The good news is that you can update your style to look like you aren’t trying too hard. 

You can create a style that looks effortless, polished but still fits into the casual work context.

Here’s how you can use 4 well-known casual pieces to create a more elevated, professional style:

1. The Hoodie

Why does this work?

– FIT: everything fits his body perfectly.

– COLORS: they are unexpected and understated.

– SNEAKERS: this is the perfect accessory to express your personality. You can either do a solid color or a more fashion forward pair.


2. Denim

Why does this work?

– FIT: all pieces flatter his body well and don’t add extra weight.

– COLORS: you can never go wrong with grey, navy, black and white.

-POLO: because this style has a collar, it can feel a tad more formal. But it is made more casual here with jeans and sneakers.


3. Black Pants

Why does this work?

– COLOR: this has some personality with a pop of the teal long cardigan.

– STYLES: this outfit is all about basics with a twist.

For example, it’s not just black jeans, they have a coating on them to make them more interesting.

– VERSATILITY: pair this outfit with sneakers for super casual, casual flats for elevated casual or heels for dressed up.


4. T-Shirt

Why does this work?

– SIMPLICITY: two main pieces are very casual (t shirt and jeans) but are taken up a notch with the blazer and the loafers.

– COLOR: notice the pop of the shoes, if you want to tone down you could do sneakers as well. But main focus are simple colors (white/dark blue) that are understated.
Picture of Cassandra Sethi

Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created her business, Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals.

Next Level Wardrobe has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Today and CNN. See here.


For immediate help to upgrade your work style (virtually or in person), use this link to apply for a style consultation.

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