What to Wear When There's No Dress Code

Today's workplace is not one of the past. Now more than ever, company culture is shifting to allow employees greater flexibility in terms of when they work, where they work, and what they wear to the office. In some ways, this is a perk. Forget the stuffy suits, the dry cleaning appointments, the high heels, and tight collars.

However, more freedom can also make it more difficult to get dressed in the morning. When there's no company dress code, you may be unsure of how to dress for work. In this case, you will need to set your own rules in terms of appropriate work attire. Your appearance says a lot about who you are, and you want to be sure to give the correct impression, especially to those in the workplace. The following tips can help you determine appropriate work attire for your situation.  

01
Wear What Makes You Feel Confident

Casual office attire
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A modern office, without a dress code, affords you the option to wear clothes that make you feel confident while allowing you to express your personal style. Take inspiration from the employees in the picture. Their styles vary significantly, from the refined but rugged look of the man in the red pants to the dressy athletic style of his coworker in the blue crew neck and sneakers.

Though each person has a very individualized look, there is one common denominator. Each appears polished and put together. Although there are jeans and sneakers in the mix, if one of them had to make a presentation on the spot, they at least wouldn't have to worry about a wrinkled shirt or stained pants.

That's really the key. Put the effort into making casual clothes look office-ready, and you're good to go, as long as you look and feel the part.

02
Think Casual Restaurant

Casual office team
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If a workplace has no dress code, most likely it has an informal casual dress code. You can wear what you want, though keep in mind some aspects of your appearance are assumed, such as a neat, clean look.

Consider what you would wear to a Sunday brunch or casual dinner with friends. You'd probably want to look nice, but still feel comfortable. This could be a helpful guideline when dressing for work

03
Polish Your Look With Easy Accessories

Casual office
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If you're accustomed to a more formal office style and don't feel comfortable in a basic t-shirt and jeans, but still want to fit into the company culture, consider dressing up a basic outfit with simple accessories.

Wear a scarf, or add a statement necklace or pair of earrings. Put on a casual blazer over your t-shirt. There are many ways to refine a casual look without resorting to button-down shirts or dress pants.

04
Choose a Nice Shoe Over a Dress Shoe

Wedge heels versus tennis shoes
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In a no-dress-code office, dress shoes may feel too formal for the environment. If you are uncertain about wearing certain shoes, such as sandals or sneakers, check with your supervisor. Just because another worker is wearing flip flops, doesn't mean that it's acceptable work attire. As a rule, make sure that whatever shoes you wear to work are neat and clean. 

05
Play Prints and Colors for a Fun but Professional Look

Woman leaning against a whiteboard
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In a casual work environment, you shouldn't feel bound to wearing all black or grey. Incorporate prints, textures, and patterns into your look to add some brightness to a casual outfit.

Swap out your everyday denim for a pair of jeans in a subdued floral print. Or, opt for khakis in a salmon color rather than beige.

Adding an unexpected but still workplace-appropriate touch can be a good way to strike that balance between "too casual" and business casual.

06
Wear Workplace-Appropriate Workout Clothes

Woman stretching
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Thanks to a variety of brands who are designing refined athletic apparel, it is now possible to wear certain styles of exercise clothing to the office. Clothing may include stretchy work slacks with pockets, casual jackets, and long-sleeve t-shirts.  If you style your outfit tactfully, you can make it work for the office. 

07
First Impressions Are Still First Impressions

business team
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If you are preparing for an interview and need to decide what to wear, it's always a good rule to dress up, as you want to make a good first impression. This is important even if you are told the company doesn't have a formal dress code. 

Note that even in a low-key environment, first impressions are still first impressions, and you should go the extra step to make sure you look and feel your best in an interview.

The Bottom Line

If you work for a company that does not have a formal dress code, it's a good idea to determine what is acceptable casual work attire based on the work environment as well as your career goals. While formal work clothes may not be necessary, it is a good rule to always appear well-groomed, wearing clothes that are neat and clean. By following some personal guidelines, your clothes can make you feel confident about yourself and your job.