Finding Your Style’s Voice No Matter the Dress Code

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a wildly-open dress code when they are at their normal 9-5. For the most part, there are sets of wardrobe rules that may have been inherited from generations of co-workers that walked the halls before us all, and they aren’t changing anytime soon. So in this rather somber closet destiny how can a creative and fashionable individual still show off a sense of self without breaking the rules? Here are a few lovely tips on how to sneak in some zest when you’re locked in a business casual world.

Pocket Squares – dapper gents that find themselves in suit jackets all day can still bring a pop of color to meetings with a bold or patterned pocket square. If you don’t have access to a store that has them, pocket squares can be DIYed in any number of ways, many a no-sew tutorial can help you with.

pocket squares
Image by GQ

Structured, Unique Blazers – women have many dazzling jacket cuts available that they can switch out for that boring classic suit jacket. Look for peplum hems, fitted waists, geometric darting and perhaps some contrast piping to bring a memorable look. If you want to go the other direction, draped, deconstructed blazers are also available in soft knits and jacquards that flow with your form.

Vintage Brogues – even if your suits and trousers must be plain, you can very often find a vintage-inspired brogue in the required black or dark brown colorways. The ornamental perforated design is bold and artistic without being obnoxious to conservative onlookers. If you have a more relaxed set of requirements, you can even venture into the lovely mahogany or cognac leather colors that really step up the style.


Loake Shoemakers, UK


Button-Up Sweater Combo – there’s no better way to sneak in a wild print than by presenting it layered under a solid sweater, preferably some killer cashmere. For ladies or gentlemen, a bold button-up can be gently muted by the solid outer layer, while you can still show it off with the cuff rolled out and the point collar showing. This can instantly update a plain set of trousers, and both crew and V-neck sweater cuts work wonders with this strategy.

The Wonder of a Bag – this is the true wild card. Even in a very strict environment, there is often not a set of rules created for your handbag or messenger bag. If in no other area, here you can truly take a leap. Bright colors, soft leather laptop bags with antiqued details, huge or dainty shapes, even metallics if you wish. Your neutral ensemble will actually be the perfect backdrop for a bold, loved bag.


My warm living room at Christmas.


And finally, always keep your eyes open for new ideas and make them your own. Pinterest curates thousands of ideas that fit into business casual, and maybe that savvy girl down the hall might have an accessory or two that you can find and adapt to your new ensembles. If a notebook or style app can help you organize all the ideas you’ve gathered, you’ll never be unprepared for a rushed Monday morning.

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