Workplace dress codes can vary so much from office to office and industry to industry. There's the flexible and ever-popular business casual, to the conservative and esteemed business formal. It's fairly easy to find resources with suggestions on building your work wardrobe for the various dress codes. But what about when your workplace doesn't have a dress code? How do you dress each day? How much do you take advantage of the flexibility?
The two full-time jobs I've had in my adult life have something big in common: no dress code for the studios at either of them! That's pretty common for on-air folks in the radio industry. Since I've had a few years of practice of setting my own dress code, I wanted to share my tips with you today. As well as one of my favorite casual looks from this summer that would be a great for a more casual workplace!
One of the biggest differentiators between being on-air in radio vs. television (aside from the lack of cameras) is the lack of a professional dress code. It's common for on-air personalities at radio companies to have zero dress code. That's been the case in both of my own full-time jobs that I've had so far. While the radio station's sales team and administrative staff often has a business casual dress code, on-air staff don't have one. Obviously someone can't wear something that would be so revealing or sloppy that it would be an HR violation... but other then that there aren't really rules. I've had three direct supervisors (station managers) so far in radio and two out of three of them have mainly worn athletic clothing over regular clothing most days if that says anything! As much as I do enjoy total freedom with my work wardrobe, sometimes I do wish I had a news anchor's dress code so I could wear cute dresses and pumps every day and not be overdressed!
While radio can be a bit unique for being so relaxed with this, it seems like more and more types of industries and workplaces are doing the same. (And this was before so many people were WFH for COVID!) If you're working in a job or internship that doesn't have a dress code, I think that can seem overwhelming at first. It definitely was for me! I didn't want to be underdressed but I didn't want to be overdressed. I definitely experimented with both ends of that spectrum before finding a sweet spot that was casual yet classy.
In general, I think my work style has evolved to dress very similar to a teacher. I rotate between jeans or pants and dresses and skirts. I almost always wear flat shoes or boots- wedges at the most if I feel like something with a heel. I'm always covered enough to be modest but I definitely have more fun with color and patterns in my outfits than some friends in more formal industries. Whenever I search "teacher style" on Pinterest, I often get results that are very similar to my own work outfits.
Anyways - I did want to share a few guidelines that I've set for myself regarding making my own dress code. These will help you enjoy but not abuse the flexible policy that your workplace might have.
My Personal Work Dress Code Tips (When There's No Dress Code):
Embrace Casual Friday - First and foremost! I try to set my own dress code to some extent M-Th, but on Fridays I take full advantage of my workplace's lax policy and anything goes. This is the only day of the week I'll wear athleisure to work or ripped denim for example.
No ripped jeans - I only wear distressed denim on certain Fridays, otherwise I try to stick to darker solid denim.
No visible spaghetti straps - If I wear a spaghetti strap top or dress, I always keep a cardigan or jacket on over it at work. I use the three finger rule on my tops and dresses- if the straps aren't as wide as three fingers I have to stay covered on top of it at work. Don't worry- I have nothing against spaghetti straps outside of work! It's just a personal professional thing for me that I've set as my own rule for being around coworkers.
Hand test for skirts - I also use the hand test for skirts- if the skirt is shorter than wear my hands end on my leg, it's too short for work! I save those for weekends or going out.
NO shorts - I tried wearing shorts once or twice my first year working full-time, and it just felt too casual for the workplace, despite no formal dress code! This includes athletic and dressier shorts. I do think Bermuda length shorts are totally appropriate for a job like mine, however I don't think they're very cute so I don't own any.
Only thick leggings - I used to work with someone that would constantly wear thin black leggings to work with short tops. It looked extremely unprofessional and if she ever bent over for something... YIKES! I try to only wear super casual athleisure pieces like leggings on Fridays, but occasionally I will on another weekday if I overslept a bit or really didn't have much time that morning (Hey- when your alarm goes off at 3:30am it happens!). I only wear my thicker pairs of athletic leggings to work, like my Lilly Pulitzer luxletic ones. I try to always wear a longer top or sweatshirt over them that covers my butt, but if I don't at least I know they aren't see-through if I move around and don't show underwear lines- that's so unprofessional at any job!
So what do my work outfits actually end up looking like? Well- a lot of them this summer look like the outfit pictured here in this post! I've been wearing white jeans a lot to work this summer, and I love how this outfit came together with chunky heels and this embroidered top. (I'd just switch the blue clutch for my trusty Tory Burch work bag on a M-F!) You can also see many more of my work outfits each month here on the blog- I do a monthly round-up every month! Here's the one for July.
If you've also worked in a super casual job with no dress code or uniform- how did you dress for work? I'd love to hear!