Reader question: How to dress for Casual Fridays

By IN Create Outfits, How-To Tuesdays

How to Dress for Casual Friday
Madewell cardigan / J.Crew tailored shirt / Mango fitted jacket / NYDJ slim trousers / Zara leather pumps / Betsey Johnson black suede shoes

From the inbox: “I’m not really sure what to wear on Casual Fridays. The guys always wear the same khaki pants and polo shirts, but what are my options?”

This is such a great question. There’s a lot of confusion about what is appropriate for Casual Fridays (Level 3 in my 5 levels of working mom outfits).

Is it HR speak for the aforementioned uniform of khakis-and-polo? Is it anything goes? How casual is too casual?

Part of the challenge is the fact that every workplace is different, whether it’s due to the industry, the part of the country you’re in, or just that office’s specific dress code.

(And, of course, the Casual Friday dilemma almost exclusively applies to workplaces that are dressy the rest of the week. In informal offices, Casual Friday is really just … Friday.)

The process for creating a Casual Friday level outfit, then, is to start with what is appropriate for your workplace Monday through Thursday and take it down one level—khakis optional, but not required.

It’s a straightforward process, too. Although there’s more than one way to transform a Level 4 client meeting outfit into a Level 3 Casual Friday ensemble, each option simply involves a swap.

(In fact, it’s a variation on the process to take a working outfit from one level to another.)

How to create a Casual Friday outfit

  • Replace one item. Build a typical ensemble you’d wear to work and then change out one piece for a similar item that’s more casual: try dark denim instead of suit pants or a cardigan instead of a blazer. In some cases it can even be the same type of item, but in a looser or more casual shape.
  • Trade fabrics. Some fabrics are inherently dressier than others. Replace a garment made of a higher-end fabric with one that’s more casual and you’ll instantly take the outfit down a level. Think cotton instead of silk, loosely knit instead of finely woven.
  • Exchange accessories. Accessories go a long way toward making an outfit appear to be one level or another. Wearing a flat shoe instead of heels and removing a bracelet or necklace may be all you need to relax your workwear enough for Fridays.

In the end, it will come down to a bit of gut feeling. If you feel like you’re dressed for work, that answers the appropriateness question. And if you feel like you’re more comfortable than on other days, that should answer the “casual” question.

  • Fab mamas: Does your office have a dress code? What is it, and what kind of workplace is it? What’s your favorite look for Casual Fridays?

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