As workplaces continue to allow a more business casual dress code, women are finding the lines between their work wardrobes and their weekend wardrobes getting blurrier. This can be a good thing. Less division is created in the closet, clothing can be more versatile, money is saved, and, with just a little mixing and matching, a woman can easily take her workwear into the weekend.
While women are happily bidding farewell to their uptight suits and stuffy looks, many have realized they traded one set of problems with new ones, how to look stylish at work and on the weekend using their more casual pieces. Mixing and matching in theory may be fun, but executing it is another. I can’t tell you how many women tell me they wish for the days when all they had to think about was what tops to wear under their closets full of suits.
How to Wear Your Business Casual Pieces on the Weekend
If you are daunted, relax. You read my blog, remember? This is what I do. So I am going to give you some tips and outfits so you can take pieces from your wardrobe and style it for business casual and for the weekend.
Base and accent
You want to look at your wardrobe in two parts. The first part is the grouping of clothing that sets the bases of your looks. Do you remember my chicken analogy when referring to creating outfits? You want to think in these terms when creating versatile looks. Basically, the base of your outfit is the chicken and what you do to it is the flavoring that makes the chicken different. By swapping out the flavors you can create different recipes. The same is true for the outfits you create. You’ll see examples of this below.
Keep your base pieces simple
Next, the simpler your base pieces are (aka- the chicken) the more you will be able to do with them. A dress that has a intricate neckline, a top that has novelty sleeves, or pants with lots of details will be difficult to style as many ways as a simple black dress or great pair of navy pants will. These basic base pieces may not be winning any excitement awards, but that’s okay. You will be using the seasoning of your accessories and additional outfit pieces to add the flavor. You certainly can choose more interesting base pieces, but try to keep the silhouettes basic enough that you can style them multiple ways.
Shop with a versatility mindset
Last week I wrote a post on telling the difference between needs and wants when shopping. If you work in a business casual environment, one of the things you should be asking yourself when shopping is if something you are considering can be worn to work and on the weekends and how you will be styling the piece both ways. You want to run the options through in your mind. The more scenarios where a piece can be worn the greater the chance you will wear it to work and on the weekends once you get it home.
Look for fabrics that can be dressed up and dressed down
There can be a big difference between work fabrics and weekend fabrics. You want to make sure you are choosing ones that can be worn both ways. For example, a tropical weight wool pair of pants might be good for work but not great for weekend. However, a pair of ponte pants may translate more easily from business casual to weekend. Should you purchase pieces in cotton or denim, like a smart pair of khakis or a pair of work appropriate jeans, attention should be paid to the quality and professionalism of these pieces.
Think ahead and prepare
Lastly, think ahead and prepare. Have your outfits planned out. The outfit sessions with my clients continue to be the most important time spent because we create multiple looks using one piece and tailor these looks based on their lifestyles. Often, my clients find more options for what’s in their closets than they assumed they had. Instead of trying to cobble a business casual look together on the fly, carve out some room in your schedule to make time for this exercise.
Business casual to weekend outfits
Below are three outfits that I styled for work and weekend using one piece as the base.
In these first business casual to weekend outfits I used these ankle length pants from Theory as the base. On their own, these pants are very basic, which is helpful when creating versatility.
On the left, I created a business casual work look by styling the pants with a simple black tank from J. Crew, a long ivory cardigan from Ted Baker, cognac heeled sandals from Sam Edelman, purse from MICHAEL Michael Kors, pendant from Nordstrom and tortoise hoop earrings from Lauren Ralph Lauren.
For the weekend look, I created a more casual look using this easy-care ruffle collar top from Banana Republic, chose these more casual sandals from Splendid, burgundy tote from Madewell and leaf drop earrings from Aqua.
Challenge: The options don’t stop there. Here is a challenge for you. You can easily take some other pieces from these outfits and make them business casual and weekend. If you are looking to challenge yourself, select one or several pieces from these outfits and see how you can dress them up and down.
These next two looks show that not all your versatile pieces necessarily need to be basic, they just need to be versatile. What I like about this Reiss dress is how the colors in the print can pull this dress in several directions. However, what is important to keep in mind is that while the dress is in a bold print the silhouette itself is very classic.
On the left, I styled the dress for business casual by toning down the print by playing up the black. I added a shrug cardigan from Elie Tahari in black, a pair of soft blue ankle strap flats from Shoes of Prey, a black tote from Tory Burch and station necklace from Kate Spade.
What I like about this midi skirt from J. Crew is that the tonal blue shades in the dot pattern can be treated like a solid navy which makes it interesting yet versatile. Additionally, it being in cotton is a perfect example of when weekend fabrics can be suitable for the workplace.
Of course, styling a weekend-friendly skirt for business casual is dependent upon how it is styled. Often, more elevated pieces are required to balance out the more casual nature of the work-to-weekend piece. As you can see on the left, I styled the skirt with a bodysuit button down from Tuxe Bodywear to ensure the shirt stays tucked in and doesn’t get sloppy, d’orsay pumps from Sam Edelman in bright pink, navy satchel from Tory Burch and navy necklace, for a pop, from Stella & Dot.
For casual weekend, I swapped out the work-friendly button down with a slim t-shirt from Theory, flat sandals in soft pink from Sam Edelman, blush crossobdy from Kate Spade and seaglass necklace from Bauble Bar.
You can get more from your wardrobe by learning how to take your pieces from business casual to weekend with a little planning and by purchasing pieces that can easily transition.