Why do we all struggle to know what to wear to work?
- Vague dress codes.
- Bad, outdated styling advice.
- Having the wrong pieces in your closet.
From styling clients from diverse professions to polling our Instagram followers, this is an extremely common problem.
That’s why we created this quick, simple guide to help you stop stressing every morning and battling your closet. Whether you need to dress formally, business casual, or casual, we’ve got you covered.
Use this as outfit inspiration when shopping your wardrobe before work, or when creating a shopping list if it’s time to clean out your closet.
Table of Contents
Formal Dress Code
First, let’s talk about the dress code that’s possibly the most misunderstood: Formal.
A lot of people hear the words “formal dress code” and immediately think stuffy, old-fashioned, and boring.
Take those misconceptions and throw them out the window.
From now on, when you think of formal, we want you to think structured. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, feel modern, or show off your personal style. Formal just means that your clothing is a little more structured and precise.
For example, take a look at the outfit above. Not stuffy, but not sloppy either. Why?
Structured trousers and a crisp blazer. These two simple elements make the outfit feel more dressed up.
Another way to upgrade an outfit to formal is through your footwear. Low, closed-toed heels always read as formal. But if you want to be more comfortable, a leather flat also does the trick.
Note how the outfit changes when I swap out my heels for sneakers:
Just by changing shoes, the outfit seems more toned down and casual.
Business Casual Dress Code (AKA: Power Casual)
Next, let’s talk about what to wear to work when you have to dress business casual.
Or, as we like to call it, power casual.
Recently, I polled my followers about their current work attire, and this was the most common response.
It’s more approachable than true business formal but still dressed up enough for more traditional professions like finance.
We call this look power casual because it’s all about striking the perfect balance between relaxed and refined. Here you can play with colors and prints as long as you tie back to classic pieces and core colors.
(Plus, if you master this look, you’ll always have the right pieces for endless outfit creation in your wardrobe)
It’s the kind of effortlessly stylish look that we don’t think should be restricted only to the workplace. A great power casual outfit should work at the office as well as on the weekends.
So let’s take a closer look at the outfits above.
The one on the left is great for anyone who wants an outfit that can go from office to night out. Wear it with the blazer while you’re heading an important presentation, then remove it for dinner with friends.
The outfit on the right is ideal for everyday wear, whether you’re clocking in or relaxing on the weekends.
What’s my one secret recommendation for this dress code? Invest in items that are DIFFERENT.
For example, I’ve seen hundreds of closets and I often see people overbuying jeans and black trousers. This leads to outfit fatigue and style boredom really quickly.
Instead, try out new styles and silhouettes; think wide-leg, straight-leg, printed, textured, etc.
Casual Dress Code
A lot of times, people with a casual dress code struggle the most with knowing what to wear to work.
Because they don’t have enough boundaries or experience to know how to dress well while still being casual.
Often, people end up caught in the trap of thinking that casual equals sloppy.
You can look just as polished and put together in jeans as you can in trousers.
Let’s break down how you can do this.
Take the outfit on the left for starters. A simple way to look polished is by layering. But instead of opting for a traditional blazer, I went for an oversized boyfriend fit in a pop of print.
I kept my top and pants simple with core colors and then added fun with the metallic sneakers.
On the right, I decided to go a little dressier. I paired the same pants with a tunic sweater and defined my waist with a thin belt. The belt pulls the ensemble together without being distracting.
Last but not least, I finished this outfit with black boots. If you’re searching for a women’s office shoe that works with any dress policy, boots are a game changer. They go with trousers, jeans, and skirts. And if you pick a pair with a block heel, you get comfort and height all in one.
And just like that, you’ve conquered the “what should I wear to work today?” conundrum. If you’re looking for more outfit inspiration, check out the Next Level Wardrobe Pinterest page.
Or if you’re ready to hire a professional to help you know what to wear to work everyday, apply for our women’s and men’s styling services. With over 20 years of style and fashion experience, our team knows how to find your perfect fit, update your shopping habits, and simplify your wardrobe.