Sweet reader Christen had this request:
I’d LOVE some advice on Casual Friday. Are there rules? Does the meaning of “casual” depend on how buttoned-up the normal dress code is?
Well, my dear, here’s the simple answer: Ask your HR rep. Any office that has a normal dress code will ALSO have a few guidelines for dressing appropriately on Casual Fridays. If you’re worried about getting busted for wearing your sweatshirt and sneaks, ask the authorities. Better safe than sorry, eh?
And here’s the convoluted answer, in case you’re not worried about actual, technical guidelines as defined by your employer: There are no universal rules for Casual Fridays. It really does depend upon the atmosphere and attitudes at your particular office. But maintaining a relatively consistent style all week and maintaining a relatively professional demeanor at all times can only serve to make a woman appear self-aware, responsible, and mature. S0 I’m not going to issue a ban on denim or scold anyone for dressing down on the one day when high heels and pressed shirts AREN’T expected at work. I swear I’m not. But I am going to offer some suggestions for making Casual Friday work a little more seamlessly with Formal Monday Through Thursday.
First I will indulge in a short list of donts. Again, these are MY personal guidelines. Your office may allow all of these donts, you may love nothing more than wearing them to work on Friday, and you can feel free to do so. But since I’m being asked for my opinion …
1. No sneakers: There are plenty of sneaker-like shoes that will present a far more pulled-together appearance than bona-fide tennies. And if you’re whining because your only pair of truly comfy shoes are your trainers, it’s time to expand your footwear wardrobe.
2. No ripped denim: OK, a little patch here and there is passable. But truly destroyed jeans? Save them for the actual weekend.
3. No sweats: In my humble opinion, sweatshirts are for cozy nights at home watching Buffy reruns, cleaning out the garage, and brisk morning jogs. Unless we’re talking a fitted, zippered track jacket or another, more structured top that just happens to be made of fleece, I advise avoidance.
Now, let’s do some dos, shall we? There are plenty of ways to look chic and stylish while still feeling comfy and casual on Fridays at the office. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make Casual Fridays work:
I have several pairs of jeans, but I seldom wear them. I do, however, save my OTHER denim pieces for Friday wearings. This jean jacket gets thrown into the mix often, as does my beloved denim miniskirt. Denim is, by nature, casual and there are plenty of ways to wear it without pulling on a pair of Levis. Utilize alternative denim items alongside funky, formal, or feminine pieces.
I advocate for smart jeans whenever jeans are worn. To me, smart jeans are dark, neat, not-destroyed, and fit your body type perfectly. No dragging hems, no sagging pockets, no gaping or constricting waistbands, and no rips or stains. Here, I’ve paired my dark-wash skinnies with a printed blouse and red heels. I’d never wear the jeans during the rest of the work week, but felt comfy and perfectly myself wearing this outfit to the office on a Friday.
I have amassed quite a collection of graphic tees over the years, and for ages I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to wear them. I felt too dressed-down pairing them with jeans, and just bizarre pairing them with more formal pants. The answer, as is so often the case for me, was to throw on a skirt. I wear my tees with pencil skirts, full skirts, just about any non-pant in the closet will do.
Some folks maintain that leggings can be dressed up enough to be everyday officewear, but I feel that they’re a pretty casual bottom by nature. No matter how sophisticated your top and shoes, you’re going to look a little bit less than formal when they’re paired with leggings. But they’re comfy as heck, sleeker than most jeans, and ideal for casual office wearings. I’d take this jersey tunic and legging outfit to the office in a heartbeat … but only on a Friday!
As you can see, my basic formula is to introduce one or two very casual elements, and keep the rest of the outfit fairly dressy. Now remember: Dressy does not automatically equate to uncomfortable, friends. Or it shouldn’t. Mine your closet for pieces that are both refined AND comfy, and build your Friday outfits around them. Or just accept that total, squishy, toe-curling comfort should be reserved for Sunday mornings at home. Sporting a smidgen of structure and style on Casual Friday isn’t actually a sacrifice. You can have fun with your casual looks, and bring a few super-dressed-down items into the mix … but always remember that a consistent, polished style broadcasts a more confident, pulled-together you.