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How to Dress for Casual Friday at Work

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Some days, you just can’t bring yourself to put on the heels, the matching blouse and skirt, the crisply pressed linen suit. Some days, you want to throw your hair up in a messy bun instead of frying it to within an inch of its life. Some days, mascara is the most you can muster!

Luckily, most offices have at least one day a week where they allow more casual dress. You don’t want to ruin all that good professional mojo you’ve been building up over the week by wearing an old college sweatshirt and flip flops to a client meeting, so here are three ways to make sure your “casual Friday” is still work appropriate:

1. Check your silhouettes: not too tight or too loose

Work clothes should not be too ill-fitted, in all senses of the word. This applies to your casual dress as well: jeans should be the correct length and shouldn’t be ragged at the bottoms; shirts should be covering all the necessary areas; and, gigantic sweaters that look more akin to ski weekend cover ups need not join you at work. Shorts? Let’s not even go there–unless it’s 90 degrees and the A/C is kaput, in which case, reassess your company atmosphere.

Wear items similar to what you would normally wear with the silhouette maintaining its professional look, and the other parts of the clothing speaking for its casual nature. Button downs in chambray or cotton are a nice change from starched dress shirts. If wearing jeans instead of pants, choose those that hit at your correct waist, like your usual dress pants would, and make sure your shoes fall somewhere between slip-on sandals and Vegas heels. Dresses shouldn’t be too festival-like, but also shouldn’t be too inappropriately fitted. If you wouldn’t wear it to meet your significant other’s parents at a casual brunch, don’t wear it to the office.

2. Check your fabrics: not too sheer or too fuzzy

Fabrics are another great way to gauge your formality. Stiff collared shirts can be replaced with cotton or a stretch blend, but stay away from shimmery or see through materials for the office. Depending on your company culture, leather pants may not be appropriate even for “casual” days, but corduroy or colored denim could make the cut. The fabric of a piece can drastically change the look from heavy to flimsy to cheap–fur, feathers and sequins are probably not going to work, so do a double check before you leave in the morning! Stick to cottons, linens, wools and other natural fabrics that reflect how seriously you take your position, even when not wearing the standard office uniform.

3. Check your colors and patterns: not too bright or too busy

Finally, have an extra cup of coffee if you need to, and really think about that skull-print button down shirt before getting on the train. The colors of a piece can drastically change its appearance, sending your look from laid back to laid off. Alright, it probably won’t be that bad–but you don’t want to be the subject of any water cooler gossip for your leopard print dress, or your sheer white top, or your hot pink pants. In some offices, and some industries, these pieces might totally fit in–and in others, they will be the elephant in the room, and you along with them! Make sure your company culture works with your intended outfit, and see if you can save the leopard print for small accent pieces, or for later on Friday night. Choose a skull print scarf (so in right now) instead of an entire shirt. Choose bright colors to complement your overall outfit, not dominate it.

No matter what day of the week your office encourages you to dress more comfortably, these tips should help you choose an outfit that will make your colleagues comfortable, too. Or, at the very least, not get talked about on Monday morning.

Photo: Jamie Grill / Getty Images

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