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

October 19, 2019

“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.
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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