Workplaces across the U.S. are getting more casual. In fact, according to a recent survey, 78 percent of employed American believe their offices are getting more relaxed.
And that affects what we wear to work. According to the same study, 57 percent of Americans work at offices that participate in casual Fridays.
Why the shift? There are likely a variety of factors at play. More people are working from home, employers’ attitudes are shifting and there’s even a sense among employees that they are more productive when they are dressed down. The majority of those polled, 71 percent, said being in casual clothes makes them feel more accomplished throughout the day.
So, what is casual Fridays nowadays? And does it even matter?
I like to think of casual Fridays as an opportunity to show your co-workers and bosses how you practice discretion and decision-making, and how you function in an environment that isn’t 100 percent business. You can still look put-together, professional and stylish.
To do casual Fridays with flair, you’ll need a few key items in your closet:
1. Dark, non-distressed denim
2. Long, but fitted, cardigan
3. Statement belt
4. Tops that pop!
5. Crisp button-down shirts
6. Longer, multi-layer necklaces
7. Work-appropriate boots
8. Layering jacket
That’s the short list, and it will get you at least a month’s worth of great casual Friday outfits, in addition to personality for Friday happy hours, warmth during these cold months, and a silent thumbs up from senior management.
The dark, non-distressed denim is the answer if you can find a pair of straight or wide leg jeans that fit nicely without being snug. They act as the backbone to your look.
During this time of year, I suggest layering. This is all about creating balance and polish. For example, the long but fitted cardigan, paired with a crisp button-down shirt and statement belt give you layers for warmth, the option to remove a layer if it’s too warm, and a look (that with the right color combinations), let’s you show a little personality without getting a side eye.
Alternatively, you can go with a top that pops and layering jacket to create a slightly more casual feel, but also gives you the ability to create some fun. What do I mean by a top that pops? Think slight ruffle-front or bib-front top, or a bright print or top with dramatic sleeves that show thru the jacket.
In a pinch, your casual Friday with flair can also take a simple shell or work T-shirt and a longer, multi-layered necklace and statement belt to keep it chic, understated, and ready to flex. Are you with me?
If you want to add icing to your casual Friday with flair look, my recommendation is to go with a clutch. Think about the end of day buzz when everyone wants to head for a cold weather libation or your partner wants to meet for that start-the-weekend-right outing. With the right colorful clutch, your casual Friday look can get elevated with the addition of that small accessory.
Just remember that everyday, including casual Fridays, is a chance to show your personality and demonstrate you know your company and what professionalism looks like,. It’s possible to do all of the above with flair … and polish!
Monica Barnett is a Washington D.C.-based, personal style and image consultant and expert who has contributed to The Washington Post, Essence.com, Racked.com, and more. Her experience includes working as a personal shopper with Saks Fifth Avenue, consulting with Neiman Marcus, and working with major corporations including Comcast, and Time, Inc. Monica assists individuals in transforming closets and personal style; and helps businesses create more style savvy staff.