For some of us, Casual Fridays might be the worst fashion idea since leisure suits. In years past, Friday was when men loosened their ties and women wore slacks. Now it has become a series of wardrobe blunders for many that did not get the office memo: you are at work, not the beach. However, for those who put some thought into their clothing choices, you have the opportunity to really stand out.
First and foremost, what is the company dress code for Fridays? Don't just adhere to the bare minimum: play it safe and kick it up a notch. If jeans are allowed, leave your faded, torn, skinny, or embellished styles for the weekend. A nice pair of dark wash, boot cut or flared style jeans can be worn with heels or sandals. Add a button down shirt or pullover sweater. No tank tops, sweatshirts, t-shirts or revealing blouses. A nice tailored jacket or stylish cardigan can polish it off. A pretty necklace and earrings pull it together.
If jeans are off limits at your place of business, a pair of black, brown or camel slacks with a casual sweater or blouse can make you look dressed down, but professional. Accessories can make the outfit - add a fun print scarf or some larger earrings. If you are in management, keep in mind that you set the example for your staff. It's ok to look a little more dressed up, but don't overdress to the point where you seem like the stuffy, unapproachable boss. And remember the old adage that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have? It still applies.
Even if your outfit looks appropriate, shoes can really make - or spoil - it. Extremely high stiletto heel or wedges, flip flops, tennis shoes, or any kind of shoes that makes it hard to walk in are really not appropriate for the office. Think stylish, comfortable, and not too casual. I once had to tell an employee that it was not acceptable to wear hats to work. They were cute, colorful fedoras but we worked in a conservative retail store, and they just didn't fit in. Pants that are too tight or leggings worn as pants draw attention in a way you really don't need.
It's important to remember that those of us who interact directly with customers, especially older ones, face a particular challenge. I myself was very put off by the sight of my local banker in a logo sweatshirt, when a collared polo would have been much more appealing. Older customers have different expectations of appropriate clothing, and although you can probably leave your hoop skirt at home, it might be advisable to be a bit more conservative in your dress.
Yes, it's Friday, and your outfit is set. But wait - don't forget your grooming! You should plan on the same hairstyle and make-up you would wear the other four days of the week. Hair pulled up or back is fine, but don't slack off to the point you look like you are already off on holiday. And don't leave common sense at home. If you have an important client meeting, you might want to save that casual outfit for next Friday. The key is to look just a little bit neater, stylish and put-together than everyone else. And soon, you might be the fashion role model - or boss- for the rest of the office. Oh, and have a great weekend!