What to wear to work

Story by Mark Nielsen & Courtney Philpot • Photography by Michael Nielsen

The workplace can be a deadly world where fashion goes to curl up in a ball and quietly end its days. The repetitive nature of going to the same place five days a week can cause us to get into a monotonous routine of clothing choices. For men, that can easily become a regimen of khaki pants and polo shirts. Usually it’s a navy polo shirt. Tucked in. For women, it can at times be the same scenario as the men, which scares us more than we care to admit. Usually, though, it’s grey or black pants with some sort of blouse.
While for both men and women these outfits can be perfectly fine once in a while, unfortunately they often become the default decision every day — they’re easy, don’t typically need to be ironed, and conform to the expected dress code. However, these easy choices cause us to become just another worker going about his or her nine to five. We don’t stand out, don’t show we have a sense of individuality, and can even make it seem as though we don’t want to be noticed.
Dress codes are standards by which companies aim to make sure their staffs uphold a certain level of professionalism, typically by banning such items as jeans, shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops from the workplace. In other words, to ban the possibility of sloppiness. Carelessness. It should be understood that any respectable company, especially in the white-collar world, would want clients or outsiders to view them as put-together, accomplished, smart, and other five-dollar words. But slipshod knows no bounds and can easily find its way into a dress code.
Companies have a decision: to implement a dress code that bans such items as jeans and T-shirts — with the exception of the glorious casual Friday — or hold employees to a higher standard, no matter the dress. And as employees or associates, we have a decision to make as well: to continue with the humdrum routine of uninspiring work wear, or raise the grade whether there’s a dress code in place or not.


While dressing for the job can often be as dreaded as the arrival of a Monday morning, it can also be a gratifying creative outlet. Treat yourself like a blank canvas and seize the opportunity to showcase your sense of style. To help inspire you, we’ve put together some looks that will keep you well within the company dress code without sacrificing your individuality. We’ll show you three looks that cover the spectrum of what you can wear to work: casual, business casual, and business wear. You probably know which is right for your job, but take cues from each look and incorporate them into whatever you do.


Myles_L3_2012You’re the lucky guy who owns his own business or works at a company without a dress code. Just because you can wear whatever you want doesn’t mean you should wear whatever.
Have a level of respect for clients or your company, and dress like you care about what you do. Clean, dark jeans; good shoes; and a buttonup shirt are all you need. Some days you can
mix it up by throwing on a tie or sport coat to add a dash of sophistication to your ensemble, all while still keeping your cool.
Levi’s 510™ Skinny Fit Jeans
Levi’s Stock Workshirt in Chambray Rinse
Clarks Desert Boot
Filson Briefcase Computer Bag, Style # 70257


Here we take the aforementioned trap of khaki pants and polo shirt and show you how to do it right. And while we’re on the subject, “khaki” is a color, not a fabric. The appropriate name for these pants are “chinos,” and every guy should own a pair of them. Khaki chinos are a cornerstone of the work wardrobe. Get a pair with a flat front rather than pleated, and in anything other than a relaxed fit. Go for straight, slim, skinny, or tapered. Find something you’re comfortable in but that doesn’t look like you wrapped yourself in a tent. You may find that chinos are just the right thing for your workplace, where jeans aren’t allowed and anything else may be too dressy. If that’s the case for you, find a few different colors to mix up your wardrobe — khaki, navy, charcoal, earth, olive, brown, stone. You get the idea.
J.Crew Sun-Faded Chinos in 484 Fit, Dusty Khaki
Southern Tide Skipjack Polo from Nathan’s Menswear
Belt and watch: Model’s own


If you’re reading this section, you probably work in a law office or other professional practice. Dress shirts and ties are required, and a suit isn’t out of the question. Life can be hard, and we feel for you. The upside is you can look better than anyone in town if you try, and you’re already dressed for a nice dinner with the significant other after hours. First on the list is to get a good suit. If you’re buying your first suit — or starting your wardrobe over — your one suit should be charcoal, two-button, and fit perfectly. In Lakeland, go to a menswear expert like Nathan’s Men’s Store and ask for help. Tell them you want a good two-button charcoal suit and that you want it tailored to fit you. Don’t wear a suit off the rack — it won’t fit right, and you’ll never feel 100 percent in it. Usually you’ll want to shorten the sleeves, hem the pants, and maybe even slim things up a bit. Pair that with a lightcolored solid shirt, a good tie, and a pocket square, and you’re set.
Gant Rugger Dreamy Oxford Solid Hugger-Fit
Original Button-Down Shirt
Croft & Barrow Tie
Plectrum Cardigan by Ben Sherman
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When it comes to a work wardrobe, women have a few more choices than their male counterparts. Dresses. Skirts. Pants. Power Suits. The blessing of multiple choices can also be a
curse. Keep the 7 a.m. decision-making less daunting by investing in classic work staples and updating with of-the-moment seasonal items and accessories. We’ve put together three looks that represent three job categories that most women fall into: casual, business casual, and business.


Renee_L1_1828This is the look taken on by the woman who owns her own business, works for herself, or anyone who implements their own daily dress code. This category may also include casual Fridays. As we stated in the Men’s section, “casual” is not code for “no effort.” You can keep it casual while still maintaining a put-together, respectable look. Dark, straight jeans or a casual day dress. Layer with a cardigan or blazer as we’ve done here. Classic pumps or patentleather flats. Pearls work when thrown into a menswear-inspired look. Top it all off with a colorful day bag.
J.Crew Navy Schoolboy Blazer
J.Crew Green Plaid Shirt
Solid Purple Skinnies (neimanmarcus.com)
Zara Tan Suede Pumps with Graphic Heel
Kate Spade Bright-Yellow Day Bag
Pearl Necklace; multiple different vintage strands layered to create one statement piece


This is where most women find themselves when it comes to their daily dress code. It’s also where most can find themselves in a monotonous routine with their work attire. Resist the urge to throw on the wrinkle-free, button-down blouse and khaki pants. Have fun with your fashion choices and take advantage of the multitude of choices that fall under business casual. This category also provides you generous liberties to play with print and texture mixing. Try a straight-cut pant (can be cropped to ankle or right above, avoiding any capri length) with a nice-quality blouse and sweater or blazer. Or try a casual day dress or a fun midi skirt with a button-down.
BCBG Maxazaria Cream-Colored Blazer
Splendid Blue/White Check Button-Down, (nordstrom.com)
J.Crew Black Slim-Cut Pants, cropped at ankle
Anne Klein Burgundy Pointed-Toe Heels
Ray Ban Black-Frame Glasses
J.Crew Gold Chain-Link Necklace
Michael Kors Gold Watch


Renee_L2_2087Although the business style is the dressiest, it’s not reserved solely for power suits. While you definitely need to invest in a great suit or two if this is where you find yourself working,
you should also pick up a stretch wool sheath dress, a few pencil skirts, and a couple of button-downs and silk blouses. Printed pencil skirts are very big right now — try one with a solid top or blazer. When purchasing a suit, go for fit. You should also opt for versatility — make sure you can create multiple looks when separating the jacket and skirt. Wear the jacket over jeans and the pencil skirt with a chambray top to dress it down, or with a silk blouse for a more formal affair. When paired together, break away from the traditional suit/white button-down look. Choose a printed silk top or a tie-neck blouse. Even though this category is a little more buttoned up and refined, you can still bring a little flair, just save it for your jewelry, accessories, and bags. To take this look from day to night, simply ditch the suit jacket and day bag, add a clutch, and you’re ready for dinner and drinks.
Classiques Entier for Nordstrom Black/White
Tweed Blazer/Skirt Suit, with Zipper Front and Leather Trim (nordstrom.com)
Raspberry-Colored Tie-Neck Blouse – vintage, Goodwill
Boutique 9 Black Suede Peep Toes