I’ve lived and worked in the San Francisco start-up world for a full year now, and am continually amazed at how casual many professional environments are here. While the Zuckerberg hoodie is still nowhere in sight for me, it’s still surprising how many of my business meetings really demand a more relaxed denim look over anything remotely business formal. Of course, it always depends on the day and the meeting, but there are many instances where a casual outfit like this one is actually more professionally appropriate due to company cultures here.
So what’s a pant-suit-loving boss lady to do, you ask?
Move back to New York where they dress like real people.
I kid. It’s flipping freezing there right now. Also, more importantly, we just painted the apartment a couple months ago. There’s literally no way I’m going to allow the ten hours of my life that I spent applying painter’s tape to 8,765,937 inches of crown molding to be thrown away.
While business formal environments certainly present their own set of challenges, business casual offices often get disregarded as “easy” environments where you can “wear whatever you want!”
As I’ve learned from working in both environments for long periods of time, they’re actually both extraordinarily challenging for women—especially women that have an interest in hanging onto their sartorial souls while simultaneously looking work appropriate.
In a business formal environment, if you’re really desperate, pretty much everyone knows you can throw on a dark suit and be safe. But in a business casual environment—certainly one in the San Francisco area—you’d look crazy coming into work on your first day at Google or [insert cool start-up here] clad in Brooks Brothers’ latest wools.
So, for the start-up or otherwise casual workplace, what’s a girl to do?
To be honest, there’s no cut and dry answer. For me, it all comes down to that intangible element of polish. The look featured today is a casual outfit that I sported for a work day filled with casual meetings last week. Even though I’m wearing trendy, faded wide-leg denim, I’ve offset that casual element with a more tailored cable knit turtleneck sweater and loose curls. My pointed-toe brown leather booties are bookended by this brown leather moto jacket, gratifying my inner love for a touch of the matchy-matchy, and really uniting/finishing the ensemble.
Whether its curled hair or a neat top knot, a fresh cable knit sweater or even a crisp tee (like the one in this post), there are so many ways to finish off a “casual” outfit to make it look really polished… and thereby more professional. This might mean abandoning those sweaters that are covered in pilling, those t-shirts that are all stretched out at the neck, and those jeans with hems that are frayed for days. It’ll really help your professional rep, and you just might be surprised by how much it boosts your performance as well.
Plus, it’s a good excuse to go shopping… Amiright?
JEANS: 7 For All Mankind | SWEATER: Zara (old, but similar HERE, HERE and HERE in blush) | LEATHER JACKET: c/o Bernardo (on sale! and also very similar HERE) | BOOTS: Steve Madden (similar HERE) | BAG: Phillip Lim (black version HERE and other colors HERE) | LIP: Neutrogena (Warm Caramel – my favorite nude!) | SUNGLASSES: Retro Super Future c/o Ditto