Business Casual for the On the Go Girl

1The agonizing throes of final exams are almost over and the school year is coming to an end! (Unless you’re on the quarter system, that is.) Some of you might be about to graduate and head into the workforce. Or maybe you’ve got your dream summer internship lined up. Whatever your plans, don’t forget about fashion! Depending on your field and your particular workplace or internship, your dress code might be casual or super-corporate and formal.

These days, it seems that the majority of workplaces, especially for college students or recent graduates, are “business casual.” This is an admittedly vague term that can leave a bit too much room for interpretation. For more info, check out this CF article that breaks down the different dress codes you might encounter.

The most foolproof way to make sure you’re dressed appropriately is to ask ahead of time and to look at what coworkers or other interns are wearing. Although looking extra-stylish is always fun, you should consider dressing comfortably as well. I’ll outline why below:

Why It’s Important to Dress for Comfort

I just got a clinical research job at a hospital that requires me to split my time between interviewing patients and inputting data at a computer. When I asked my supervisor about the dress code, all she said was, “Closed-toed shoes. No jeans.” After my first day of training, it became pretty clear that business casual would be the way to go. And since I wound up spending most of the day standing while I spoke to patients, boy was I glad that I wore flats!

If your job requires a lot of movement or standing, what you wear will make a big difference in how well you perform. It’s hard to focus on doing your work if all you can think about is how much your toes hurt or how itchy your skirt’s waistband is.

Even if you have a desk job where you’ll mostly be sitting, it’s worth it to factor comfort into your wardrobe choices. You’d be surprised how many times you get up and sit down to run errands, go to the bathroom, deliver a message, etc., and it can wind up being pretty hard on your feet. And when you’re not on the go, sitting can also wreak havoc on even the most polished of outfits, resulting in wrinkly shirts and creased skirts.

Pretty in Pink

This outfit is on the more formal side of the business casual spectrum, but a pair of slim-fit trousers in an eye-catching hue keep the look fun and fresh. Personally, I think a tucked-in shirt is one of the most uncomfortable and squirm-inducing articles of clothing ever (the winner: turtlenecks!) so I like to wear a flowy blouse that will look polished whether it’s tucked in or not. Plus, it won’t wrinkle!

The ankle cut of these trousers draws attention to your feet, so make sure you’re wearing nice shoes! I like a pair of sleek loafers: the higher vamp means a higher comfort level. Finally, a coat of sheer pink polish is pretty and appropriate for any workplace (unless, of course, you’re not supposed to wear any at all!).

Spring Classics

For a fun springtime outfit that leans more towards “casual” than “business,” try out a cute shirtdress in an always-classic gingham pattern. I like shirtdresses because they’re almost always an appropriate length (a couple inches above the knee to just below); plus, the button-down feature makes them seem a little more dressed up than they already are.

Like loafers, oxfords are a great choice if you’re going to be on your feet a lot, since the extra coverage provides extra support. Add a few pops of color with a textured scarf and fun nail polish (check to make sure it’s okay), then accessorize with classic pieces, like gold studs and a timeless watch with a feline twist.

Bold & Bright

If you love bright colors, pencil skirts are another stylish option to try out. The trick to pulling off bright colors in the office is to maintain a classic silhouette, and this jersey skirt fits the bill. In addition, the stretchy fabric means that it won’t pull uncomfortably while you’re sitting or wrinkle the way a woven skirt might.

A lightweight cardigan in a complementary color and a boldly patterned blouse keep up the bright palette without clashing, while a pair of trendy ankle-strap flats and a classic tote complete the look.

 Business Casual Blues

While denim is usually a no-no when it comes to office attire (although dark wash denim can sometimes fly under the radar), a chambray shirt is a great way to get your denim fix without breaking dress code. In a classic cut, a well-fitting chambray shirt can pretty much pass for a light blue dress shirt. Pair with printed trousers and sleek accessories for a modern prepster look!

Musings About Pants

imagesI still remember the intense disdain I had for straight-legged pants as a kid. Why was my problem with them exactly? I’m still not sure, but apparently my obnoxious younger version had self-appointment herself as the fashion police, and straight-legs were unacceptable.

It’s not like the pants in question were anything abrasive or offensive. In fact, I own many pairs now that closely resemble the straight legs I once turned my nose up at. So what was my issue?

Let’s remember that this was a different time. This was the age of flared jeans and waists so low they were barely decent. High waisted and skinny? To me, that was the greatest fashion faux pas of all time.

Obviously, not everyone back then had such a narrow idea of what constitutes a good pair of pants. However, there’s a tendency that we seem to have as a culture to get tunnel-vision on one style. When I was in junior high, it was low-rise flares. When I hit high school, it was high-waisted and skinny. Sure, the movers and shakers of the fashion world dressed with more diversity, and styles like boyfriend jeans came in to mix things up, but certain pant silhouettes tended to reign supreme for years at a time, eclipsing all others.

It’s a strange idea, and not one I can necessarily explain. Why are pants only allowed to be widely accepted in one shape at any given time? Everything goes through trends in the fashion world, but the drastic back-and-forth of pant styles takes it to the extreme. With all the variety in fashion sense out there, why do we let the pant industry get so flat and one-note?

Enough is enough. It’s time to stop playing the exclusion game with your outfit bottoms! After years of skinny and straight-legs dominating, flared styles are well on their way back into mainstream popularity. It’s a welcome change for those missing the wider style, but an ominous one for fans of the skinny. Will tapered legs once again go the way of the dinosaur? How do we choose where to align ourselves?

I have a proposition, ladies. Let’s not choose.

This fall, fashionistas everywhere have the opportunity to find affordable pants in both skinny and flared, with both styles available at popular retailers. It’s an early holiday miracle, and I hope it’s here to stay. Many of you might be passionate about your style of choice, but I promise, everyone can and should pull off a medley of different pant shapes and cuts! Let this fall season be about freedom, and allow yourself to embrace the whole spectrum of styles, even the ones that you might have written off as dated or ugly.

Sweet Skinny Jeans

I’m sure you all have your fair share of skinny jeans, so this should be an easy look. As we head into chillier weather, grab a sweater and a beanie to wear to class. Foliage colors are always a slam dunk in the month of October, so don’t be afraid to mix your red and orange tones!

Fun with Flare

Okay, no one’s saying you need to immediately fill your wardrobe with ’70s bellbottoms. However, there are plenty of very cheap ways to try out a gentle flare right now, like with this dark wash pair from Forever 21. Maybe this is just my association, but the more flared jeans get, the more I tend to write them off as only boho or laid-back.

In reality, flared jeans can work for any number of different aesthetics. For example, if you wear these jeans with some fun stripes, classy flats, and a blazer, they take on a polished, preppy vibe.

Comfy Boyfriend Jeans

Boyfriend jeans are a wonderfully airy alternative to the painted-on jeans and jeggings you often find in stores. A tighter shirt, like this green crop, helps keep the silhouette balanced. A long necklace and loose coat complete the laid-back vibe.

Going Back to Fashion Basics Dress to Impress

indexWhether it’s an interview, first day at work or first date, there are times when you want to look your very best. You need to be classy, smart and polished. However, it can be difficult to choose an outfit that looks and feels great. Sometimes, it’s best to go back to the fashion basics.

The Items Every Girl’s Wardrobe Needs

Great Underwear – it doesn’t have to be expensive, but make sure your lingerie fits! A well-fitting bra can completely change the appearance of your outfit whilst your choice of underwear or shapewear will create the perfect figure under your clothes.

The Accessories – accessories can make or break the perfect outfit and are often the first thing that people will notice about the way you dress. Handbags and leather purses are more than just somewhere to stash your must-have items; they are also one of the biggest fashion statements there is.

Shoes – whichever height you prefer to wear, they should be clean and polished. It doesn’t matter too much if they’re not the height of fashion as long as they are comfortable. Don’t waste money on fake ‘designer’ goods, as people will notice. It’s worth splashing out on quality handbags and leather purses as they look great, will make a good impression and will last much longer than cheaper, faux leather or PVC copies. It’s the same with jewellery; wearing no jewellery at all is better than being laden with cheap jewels or fake gold.

A White Top – whether it’s long-sleeved, short-sleeved, a tee or a shirt, a white top is versatile and will never go out of fashion. Choose one that skims over your figure, rather than clings, for a flattering, wear with anything style.

A Beautiful Blouse – it can be silk or cotton with stretch. Choose a gorgeous blouse that you can pair with trousers or a skirt. Neutral colours such as cream or stone offer the most versatility.

The Perfect Cardigan – knitwear is important for style as well as warmth. Longer-length cardigans in a neutral shade look great and are adaptable.

Great Jeans – every girl’s best friend, jeans can be dressed up or down for almost any event (even the office for dress down Fridays!) Splash out on a decent pair that fits you properly as you’ll want to wear them again and again.

An A-Line Skirt – the A-line cut suits most women and looks good with flat pumps, heeled shoes or even boots.

Smart Trousers – for work or formal do’s, smart trousers are an essential. Black, navy or grey are flattering and easy to pair with a selection of tops.

The Little Black Dress – no wardrobe is complete without a Little Black Dress (LBD). Perfect for nights out, cocktail parties, dates and even for the office, your LBD is timeless and can be worn with a cardigan or jacket to suit every occasion.

A Statement Dress – a gorgeous, printed dress or tunic will add a splash of colour to your wardrobe and can be dressed up for an evening out or paired with leggings for casual daywear. Big, bold prints are flattering and florals are ever present in every fashionista’s wardrobe.

A Well-Cut Jacket – wear to the office or with jeans at the weekend. Splurging the cash here will add a polished look to any outfit you choose.

So, there you have it – the fashion basics that will help you to create the perfect capsule wardrobe and an outfit that’s just right for every occasion!

What Do I Wear to my On Campus Job

qWelcome to the latest edition of Ask CF! Every two weeks, we select a reader fashion question and answer it here on the site. Do you have a specific fashion question for us? Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to send it our way!

Ask CF Question

I recently was hired to be an office assistant in one of the campus dorms (at Eastern Michigan University, no less!!). I’m super excited, but super stumped about what to wear that’s both comfortable and on trend for class, and appropriate for my dorm office job. I’m allowed to wear jeans and dresses, but I have to be “grandma appropriate” since I’ll be helping new students and their parents during move in. Any suggestions?

Thanks so much!

Pam of the College “Office”

Our Response

Dear “Pam”,

First of all, congratulations on your new Office Assistant Position! My best friend was an OA when she lived in the dorms at Eastern, and she loved it! However, I do understand the confusion of what you should wear to an on-campus job.

It’s tricky. You want to look somewhat professional, yet still like a student. Luckily OAs aren’t bound to business casual, so you have some leeway.

My first tip would be to get some nice, button down shirts or chiffon tops in basic colors or prints. You can never go wrong wearing button-downs, because they are always worn in the workplace. And, always make sure your cleavage is covered, and button them appropriately.

Also, investing in some cute flats and comfy boots should be mandatory. You’ll be sitting at this desk for a period of time, and you’ll be getting up and walking around your office, so the right shoes can make or break you.

I’ve created 3 outfit ideas that you can easily wear to class, around campus, and your new on-campus job.

Good luck, fellow Eagle!


Note: An OA job is typically much more casual than the average office job, so these outfits reflect the dressed-down environment and may not be appropriate for other office settings. For more formal office outfit ideas, see our business casual section.