How To Rock Casual Fridays

Here's how to nail that confusing part of your office dress code.


by Alicia Adamczyk, Of Mercer Contributor

So you perfected your resumé, nailed your job interview, landed the perfect new gig and are ready for your first day on the job. If you’re anything like most people, you’re going to be excited, proud and nervous — especially about what to wear on your first day.

Usually, company policy will set out the rules and guidelines, and even if they’re a bit unclear it’s still a safe bet to dress as professionally as possible and adapt to what others in the office around you are wearing.

But there’s another part of the dress code that can get a bit more confusing than typical day-to-day wear, especially in the summertime: Casual Fridays.

While Casual Fridays are supposed to offer a respite from the buttoned-up oxfords and stiff pencil skirts donned during the week, they also provide the opportunity for a major fashion faux-pas (or two).

Lisa Quast, a career coach, business consultant, and trainer and a former Fortune 500 Executive, provided the following four insights into faux pas-free summer casual dressing:

1. When in doubt, overdress

“Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean it’s okay to wear shorts and flip-flops to work on Casual Fridays. When in doubt, it’s better to error on the conservative side by being slightly over dressed than it is to show up underdressed or too casual.  You never want your manager to be forced to pull you aside to discuss your inappropriate attire.”

2. Dress for the job you want

“How you dress at work can directly affect your chances of being promoted.  While you might think dressing super casually on Fridays during the summer months will make others see you as fun and creative, it can also have the opposite effect – they may take you less seriously.”

3. Casual doesn’t mean sloppy

“Climbing the career ladder isn’t just about what you know (or whom), it’s also about your image. Like it or not, people do judge books by their covers. So avoid summer attire that might imply laziness or sloppiness that could overshadow your work ethic and achievements.”

4. Scent-free is the way to be

“Never wear perfume or cologne to work during the summer months. Heat can make perfume and cologne even more potent, which can create issues with coworkers.”

So, what should you wear on summer Casual Fridays? Like Quast said, flip-flops are definitely a don’t. Put a pair of ankle-strapped sandals or conservative wedges are stylish and appropriate (just make sure your pedicure is fresh!).

If you’re comfortable wearing jeans, make sure they’re a darker wash, are hole-free and aren’t skin-tight. When in doubt, you can never go wrong with a pair of black skinny jeans. A colorful or patterned oxford or a statement necklace take the look to the next level.

And if your office is super conservative, color-blocking your professional pieces is a fail-safe way to look put-together while still rocking a little personality. The Houston Blazer in cobalt adds a fun pop of color to every LBD and the Perry Dress takes care of the color blocking for you.

Have any other tried-and-true tips or suggestions for appropriate summer Casual Fridays dressing? Tweet at us, @OfMercer.