Casual Friday – What It Really Means For Women, and How To Do It Right Without Breaking the Bank

shutterstock_188155589What does that really mean for female professionals?

An excuse to wear your leggings with an oversized sweater and boots with cute boot socks to work?  Not if you are looking to move up the corporate ladder.

Men have it so much easier, polo or dress shirt, no tie and chinos or slacks.  They don’t have to think twice about “work appropriate.”

But what do we wear? We all know that our choices will always face more scrutiny. The answer can be simple and affordable if you buy strategically

Tone down your work-week look. Simple changes – swap a dress shirt for a dressier t-shirt or a tank top under your blazer but ONLY if you aren’t taking the jacket off.  Swap a pair of more casual pants or a more casual skirt for your trousers or slacks.  Swap a cardigan or sweater for your blazer, pieces you probably already have but can rotate in on a Friday.

I wear a lot of pants, not because I am anti-skirt, but our meeting rooms tend to be cold and I am the computer trouble shooter before we call the real computer team – so pants are just more practical for crawling under desks.  My work week is a pair of dress pants and a blazer or a suit coat.  So toned down for me is a more casual (but still tailored) pant and a more casual blazer or just a dress shirt.  As a mom and someone no longer 25, I find that blazers offer a more figure flattering structure. If your work week choice is a skirt – then go for a knit version or a chino version that says professional without being overdressed.

The rule to live by: Take it down a notch , but be careful.

For fun, here are a few of my go to Casual Friday outfits

  1. Dark Denim – (No, not your I am painting my house jeans or your jeggings.) Ann Taylor Trouser jeans in dark denim complement a favorite pair of navy patent heels. The dark heel blends to elongate my legs and it adds a touch of sophistication.  In fall and spring, I have a navy and white Caslon blazer that I bought at Nordstrom Rack for $25.00 this fall.  Paired with an untucked white dress shirt in warmer weather or an ivory corduroy jacket that I bought on consignment when it is colder, interesting pieces (and this has a navy and red lining) can bump up your look. To switch it up, I add a navy turtleneck on and flip the cuffs so you can see the lining (and keep the ivory edges of the cuffs safe from  every day dingy wear when your cuffs rub a table or your desk.)
  2. Ponte Knit – I love a ponte knit pant. I had a black NYDJ trouser pair that I had for 3 years and finally had to accept the fact that I had worn them out.  I replaced them off for 60% off recently.  I pair these with a black sweater turtleneck and big jewelry that includes pearls (I usually buy a string of necklaces when White House Black Market runs them on sale). Simple pearls work, too, and black dress boots finish the look.  The black is post-baby or holiday forgiving and the knit makes for a comfortable day.  If cold, I add a black and white or solid color coat on top.  I have a wrap coat that is Hot Pink or a ¾ sleeve black and white check that just makes this interesting.  When warmer, I pair with a black or black and white boat neck sweater – sometimes putting a white blouse underneath.
  3. Chinos – I do have one pair I love, and they are circa Ann Taylor when the dress pants were still lined (I also air dry them and they have held up beautifully) – they are actually a true dress trouser fit, so they are dressier and they have no pockets. I wear them with a cute short sleeve navy sweater that has a fake dress shirt neck and cuffs attached that is navy and white.  I usually pair it with camel colored heeled loafers.  I add a denim jacket to come into the building to show my “fun” side to the staff but ditch the jacket in my office.  When too cold for short sleeves I pair with a green blazer with white piping I bought on sale at Gap.  It is also a knit but with more structure.  I add a dress shirt underneath and it dresses up the look.
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