Office fashion is constantly evolving with many new trends, allowing for a more relaxed and fun outfit. However, this isn’t the case everywhere. Every business’ expectations for office attire can vary based on dress code policy, age, location and climate. This makes it difficult to define your workwear style.
We sat down with the experts at SCHEELS to explore what to wear, how to wear it, and how to build a functional and fashionable wardrobe.
When building a professional wardrobe, first reference your employee handbook for general guidelines. A general rule of thumb is to avoid shorts, athletic wear, flip flop and anything that may appear sloppy or unprofessional. Invest in a few quality basics that will last longer and never go out of style. Start with 2-3 pairs of pants—one black pair, one navy or tan and one statement or patterned pair. Collect tanks and tees in basic colors and patterns, as well as simple dresses and skirts that can be worn on their own, or layered with a sweater in cooler months. For dresses and skirts, skirt length is key in determining appropriateness for the office. Business-appropriate length is just above the knee and below the fingertips when standing.
Trendy items, like bright colors or fun patterns, can then be added to your everyday basics. However, remember that less is more when it comes to clothing. For example, a plain white tee will lean dressier than a tee with a graphic on it, and the more colorful, the more casual.
What to have in your work wardrobe
- Have 2-3 pairs of pants. Try to mix things up. A solid standard for this is to have one black pair, one navy pair and one statement or patterned pair.
- Add tanks and tees for layering in basic colors like black, white, gray and nude.
- Dresses are also great options. However, skirt length is key. Business-appropriate length is just above the knee and below the fingertips when standing.
Blazers are a versatile basic that can dress up any outfit. They are very trendy right now for work and casual wear. They are transitional, meaning they are great for work and date night. They can pair with anything: jeans, dresses, shorts, tanks, t-shirts, mock necks, sweaters and even hoodies and graphic tees.
From the experts: “Stock up on classic silhouettes because they will never go out of style.”
When it comes to patterns, less is more. Silk button-down blouses are a current trend.
Shackets and leather jackets are appropriate as long as they are dressed up for business casual.
Footwear can make or break the outfit. They also dictate dressiness, and SCHEELS has great options like Sam Edelman, Dolce Vita and Sorel.
Add in Some Trendy Options
After building your capsule wardrobe with some quality basics, start to add in trendy items by the season.
- This is the time to have fun with some trendy options. Get creative with patterned pants, blazers, and different fabrics and colors (a flannel in the fall never fails)!
- Complete the “look” by accessorizing with belts, jewelry, glasses and a bag (the Bed Stu bag is a great option). A skinny black belt with an accent buckle in gold or silver is highly recommended.
Men’s Office Wear
When it comes to men’s office wear, neutral colors are more professional/ formal. Brown shoes are great with blue pants ad SCHEELS has plenty of casual and comfortable work shoes in brown and black from great brands like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy. Don’t forget, black goes with anything and gray/browns/blues go together.
When it comes to pants, SCHEELS highly recommends a pair of black, gray, navy, khaki or clean denim from 7Diamonds. These pair great with a sports coat and, as a general rule of thumb, most well-rounded closets will have suit coats in navy and gray as well as a black one for formal events. To accompany the sports coat, make sure you have a solid selection of both patterned and solid ties. And underneath is all be ready with a few dress shirts. It’s a good idea to have all shades of blue as well as patterned shirts with white bases. Another great idea is to have lots of solids so you can mix it up with different ties. And make sure you have polo shirts.
If it’s a day that calls for a little less than a sports coat, make sure you have a couple of quarter-zip sweaters at the ready, but be sure to leave your hoodie at home. But, whatever the look, make sure to tie it all together with on point accessories: a brown and black belt, white and black undershirts, a classic watch and fun socks with personality.
Q& A with SCHEELS style expert Amanda Stumpf
Which trends are you most excited about in professional fashion?
Blazers! They are a staple in my closet because of their versatility and ability to help you dress up for work while also being compatible for a more casual weekend look. When I dress them up, I throw on a simple tank top or t-shirt underneath and if I am going for a more casual look, it’s fun to put a hoodie underneath with leggings or denim. I think that having a good, solid-color blazer is great, but I am absolutely loving some of the plaid patterns right now. You really can’t go wrong with adding a blazer to your weekly wardrobe.
What is sure to make someone stand out at the office?
While it’s great to have those classic pieces that you can wear year-round, I think it’s so fun to mix in seasonal trendy pieces that can go with those staples. By adding in a few trendy pieces to your wardrobe that speak to your personal style, you can really make your outfit unique! My current favorites are faux leather, comfy mock neck sweaters, chunky boots or a comfortable mule.
What is on the horizon in 2023?
Pantsuits! Mix and match the pieces to create so many different outfits using the same set or going full-on matching to make a statement.
Monochrome looks are becoming more popular. Going head to toe with the same color in varying tones is very “in” right now. White sneakers are a fun alternative to a dress shoe that offers a more casual vibe. Invest in quality, clean denim. We’re seeing more relaxed dress codes in the professional world. Having a pair of clean denim that can be worn in and out of the office is key.
Fashion is more relaxed than it used to be. What you wear doesn’t define your professional abilities, but it can influence your mood and your performance personally. I find myself dressing up even more on important days or occasions at work.
What should I do when I’m not sure if something is professional?
Each workplace has different standards when it comes to dress code. The first place to check is your employee handbook to make sure you know the basic guidelines and to go from there. Less is more when it comes to fabrics and patterns. I think it’s important to have a balanced mix of patterns, textures and colors that can help to make an outfit look professional. For women’s professional dress, length is key. Mix in clean, simple, mid or full-length dresses and skirts.
Button-up tops are always a safe bet. One of my favorite simple hacks for a professional outfit is to grab a trendy satin button-down shirt and pair it with clean pants and a fun heel! You could also put a blazer over the top to dress it up even further.
If you are looking for ideas, don’t overthink it! See what your coworkers are wearing and then make sure that it speaks to your own personal style and body type. One of my favorite places to get inspiration from is social media such as Instagram and Pinterest. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for style advice or where someone got their outfit from.
No matter what you’re wearing, make sure that you feel comfortable and confident. It can truly affect your mood for the day!
What is your one, single, favorite piece of clothing at SCHEELS right now?
I am absolutely loving the brand Varley right now. They offer a contemporary and active style, however, a lot of the tops that we carry from them can easily be dressed up for the office or worn with leggings outside of the office. Varley gives an elevated look to your athleisure that can be worn for multiple occasions.