If you’re like most of my clients dress casual is the hardest look to figure out.  This doesn’t surprise me, as this type of dress requires a decent amount of thought to pull off well and, let’s face, few people have time for figuring in the morning.   However, you don’t need to look like a black pant, button-down shirt automaton just because you’re a little rushed in the morning.  You can be more stylish by heeding a few of my simple fashion tips.  Considering most of my clients are professional women and few work in a suited up environment, this is an area I’m more than well versed in.

I worked with a client years ago who was going for partner at her law firm.  She knew her image needed to be amped and was excited to work with me.  HOWEVER, there was one very big caveat; she told me she needed to be out the door, with shower, in 30 minutes.  I felt like I was on a game show with that request: Make client look good in 30 minutes or you get fed to the sharks.  Well, you know what, I did it.  My client has mastered dress casual and gets out the door in 30 minutes…and, yes, that includes her shower.   You see, if you really look at the architecture of a good looking work outfit, you’re not adding any extra components or complicating it in a way that shouldn’t be hard to pull off.  Take a look at some of my examples.

Look #1-

 The Black Pants and Colored Top Uniform

Should there even be a question why you’re completely bored in an outfit resembling this?  It’s dull, lifeless and blah.   First of all, the twinset is dated and a bit farty, the pearl earrings and silver bracelet are predictable and the handbag is snoozy.  It’s a fine, acceptable outfit that has the personality of a dial-tone.

Now, with just a few changes, we’re going to update this look.

Sticking with the peach colored cardigan, I ditched the matronly twinset and, instead, chose something a bit more updated.  Instead of a predictable matching under-piece, I went with a printed top that adds some more dimension and works with the cardigan.  To add some sophistication I chose a long necklace, a more stylish, yet understated earring, a better bag and, my favorite, a tan shoe.

Shop the look

#2- The Little Black Dress of Boredom

The little black dress is a staple for many, yet after too many wears it can get rather humdrum, especially if you wear it the same way too many times, like with the same boring string of pearls, that same go-to handbag and a cardigan that has just gotten too many wears.

So, let’s change it up, here is an option.

Recreate the look

First, I ditched the black shoes.  Yes, it is a black dress but that does not mean you’re limited to black accessories.  Grey, as they are saying, is the new black and it’s much softer and more elegant.  It gives this dress a much needed palette cleanser.  instead of pearls, I chose this gold and silver simple necklace and a pair of earrings that have a bit more zing, but are still work appropriate.  Lastly, instead of the basic cardi, I went with a more updated leaner, longer cardigan in a burgundy that works deliciously back to the grey.  Rather than the outfit being all about black, the black becomes a background player for these softer and more elegant colors to springboard off of.

#3- The Pencil Skirt of Death

Yes, the pencil skirt is the hot skirt style at the moment and a great way to look ladylike at the office without getting too dressed up.  However, if paired with the wrong components, like a boring button down and a predictable bag and shoes, it can be just as boring as a pair of basic trousers.

Let’s have some more fun and give this skirt some excitement.

Interested in creating a similar look?

Voila.  Keep in mind, button-down does not have to mean basic and tired looking.  Instead of a bland basic, you can go for something that makes a bit more of a statement like one with a bow (or if you don’t like bows) some other sort of novelty detail, and you can choose one in a more feminine fabric.  Next, the shoes, there is more to life than a pair of solid colored shoes.  What I love about the pair I chose is that it complements the violet shade of the blouse while bringing in a new color.  Lastly, the accessories.  I chose more of a statement earring because of all the activity going on around the neck, went with a understated, yet exciting bangle and chose a bag that may be solid, but has some textural interest.

You see, you can look great at work, all it takes some outside of the box thinking, a little planning and the willingness to take some risks.