Friday, June 12, 2009

How to Style Business Casual

I am 44 and starting a new job at a in a few weeks. People there wear business casual with a lot of jeans thrown in. I am 5’2” and a size 10 - so no skinny jeans for me! However, I would like to look stylish without looking like I’m trying to be 25. Do you have any suggestions without breaking the bank? Thanks, K. C. in Seattle

Dear K.C.

Congrats on the new job! You are absolutely correct about the business casual/jeans aspect of the industry (been there, done that, bought the tee shirt). I find that many women who work in a casual office make the mistake of being too laid-back in their attire. The key is in finding a good balance between casual and professional without, as you mentioned, looking like you are trying to be a college student. The good thing is that there are so many alternatives these days to the basic jeans and tee shirt.

A pair of great khaki trousers is a good place to start. Khakis or chinos are very versatile because they can be dressed up or down, depending on the look that you want. Update a basic tee shirt with a knit v-neck with feminine details like shirring and delicately puffed sleeves.

For footwear, since you are petite, you can go with a platform or wedge heel for added height as well as added style. I love platforms because they are easier on the arches of your feet and more comfortable. Same with wedges. I also find that a more substantial heel is great for ease in movement.

Finish with workable accessories. Bracelets and bangles tend to get in the way when you are working at a computer, so go with statement necklaces and fun earrings. And don't forget a great handbag for toting around all your goodies!

Another great option is a casual dress, like a wrap-style dress, a fitted shirtdress or perhaps a casual pencil skirt and feminine top. Again, platforms or wedges are a great way to go with footwear.

When it comes to jeans, especially for casual Fridays, I would opt for a trouser-style jean. They are a little dressier and more flattering to your petite frame. You can also dress them up with your choice of top, instead of a basic tee. A chic pair of platform MaryJanes and an edgy handbag will finish the look.

1 comment:

Geraldine said...

I think this is great advice, and also suited to grad students. I'm a grad student and let me tell you, we don't want to look like the students we teach! Plus, academic work wear leans towards business casual, particularly for conferences (I can only speak for social sciences and humanities here - lab wear might be very different).
So this advice is perfect also for a new grad student!