Since graduating, I’ve been working at an office with a pretty relaxed dress code (we get emails the day before a client visits, telling us to suit up). This has been good because those Freshmen 15 turned out to be way more than just 15. But I’m at a place in my life now where I’m ready to start getting my wardrobe in order as well as stop dressing like I’m running out of bed to get to class.
I love three-piece suits but they’re way too formal for work. My typical get-up: a T-shirt, jeans and boots – really do love my boots! I want to add polish to my usual outfit so that I don’t feel underdressed or the need to change just to grab a drink after work – what can I do?
I’m 6′, 160lbs, and rather skinny (38L suit jacket, 32”x34” pant).
Brooks, 27/ New York, USA
Brooks darling, looks like it took you some time to figure out you need to work on your wardrobe! But since you live in New York City, aka Fashion Capital of the U S of A. I think that should motivate you to give your closet a makeover. Plus, with stats at 160lbs and six feet, I can’t imagine what (small) size you were wearing before your Freshman Fifteen. You’re at a good place now, Brooks – don’t fret about it! In terms of your wardrobe and style though, that’s something you should always be on top of, whatever you weigh and however you look!
Office wear is one of the easiest dress codes to play with. You’re pretty much restricted to the dress-shirt-and-fitted-pants uniform, which means you’re free to play with color and fabric choice. You’re absolutely right about one thing though – if your office style code is predominantly casual, you’ll definitely stick out in your three-piece suit, as much as you probably do in a crowd of petites. It takes someone pretty gutsy to pull that off! There are a lot of things you can vary even with your regular uniform of tees, jeans and boots. Check out these ideas!
Take Your Three-Piece Suit Apart
Take the same elements (or even the same pieces!) of your three-piece suit apart and wear them separately, and mixed with denim for a smart casual spin. A vest thrown over a tee or button-down shirt will give you that preppy look while a suit jacket or blazer can add instant sophistication to your jeans and boots.
Cardigans Make Great Jackets
Cardigans are an all-time menswear favorite too. The cozy knit is less stiff than the blazer and is versatile enough for you to create endless combinations. A dark, solid-colored knit piece means business, whether it’s tossed over a tee or a dress-shirt. Layer preppy color-blocked or striped knits over pastel shirts to make a fashion statement. Details like a notched lapel or shawl collar ensure your cardigan is a great outerwear piece.
Button-Downs Exude Smart Casual
Button-down shirts with subtle patterns are less formal (and boring) than the starch-collared corporate shirts. A hint of checks and grid patterns on those button-downs will add just enough casual flair to get you office-ready.
One last tip: anything tailored or fitted looks instantly smart and sophisticated. If anything, make sure your jeans are straight or slim-fit!