Dress codes for business have changed. Before, there was business and there was casual, it was considered bad form to get the two mixed up, and there were (and still are) definite codes defining each of the categories.
And since the COVID-19 pandemic working from home is the new norm, it's time for yet another shift in how we define business casual. Casual chic is the new way to dress for business!
Use the table of content to jump right to your Season or topic of interest.
Business casual for the Seasons
I recently read an excellent article on Mr. Draper, a personal shopper help website for men, explaining the Business Casual dress code. I encourage you to read the whole article, you'll find it HERE. They say that there are certain items that should be in every man's business casual wardrobe: A lightweight blazer, button-down shirts and polos, jeans and chinos, sneakers or trainers, and accessories. They also say it's better to err on the side of over-dressed than on the side of under-dressed and has several pointers for how to achieve the perfect balance, and includes a fascinating piece of information about the origin of the business casual dress code (read his whole article to get the details). And my favourite quote from the article is this one: "a dress code sends out a clear signal that you not only value your job but also yourself".
Over the years, the lines have blurred, and in some professions more than others.
And lately, with home office becoming the norm in many workplaces, it's a new definition of business casual: Business on top and casual on the bottom. And don't tell me you haven't been tempted to do this: yoga pants and bunny slippers, and silk blouse and blazer on top, for the Zoom call with the boss...
All sets and outfit collages in this blog post are created in URSTYLE.
You'll find my URSTYLE page HERE if you're interested in seeing more sets than those shown in this article.
The next video in this series will appear on Linkedin.
Connect with Nordic Simplicity on Linkedin to see it as soon as it appears there.
Light Summer business casual - Clearly confident
This video has some great tips on business casual dressing for Light Summer, how to look formal in a world where everyone else thinks that in order to look formal you have to wear black.
Wearing black for a Light Summer means that you look like a supporting actor in The Addams Family, but without the capacity for influence.
There are several much better neutrals for you to use than black, and they will all help you radiate muscle and command. Have a look at the video and find out!
True Winter business casual - Use colour to look in control
True Winter usually doesn't have a problem with business attire, being one of the more formal and regal Seasons.
Where True Winter (and actualy anny of the other two Winters as well) can go wrong, is not using their colours. You end up looking wishy-washy and nondescript.
In this video, we show some examples of excellent colour combinations and outfits for True Winter business casual looks.
In the video, we show some tops in TW colours, because wearing colour on the top half is so important in the age of Zoom, Teams and other video meetings.
Here you see one of the panels we talk about in the video.
As you know, I'm a great fan of versatile items, and using what you have in many different ways.
So I chose three of the items from the video and made more outfits based on these, showing both formal and casual choices for each.
This pink top is pretty easy to style up or down, because the shape is rather soft and gently informal, but at the same time has a smooth and styled style in itself. So pairing it with a cute scarf, a leisure jacket and some sneakers, the outfit definitely lands on the side of casual. In the middle is what I could call "smart casual", depending on the shoes you choose. And to the left we've made the outfit super formal.
I had a lot of fun styling this green sleeveless top, as it lends itself to both super casual and super formal outfits.
Notice how I've given white a chance to play the role of main neutral in three of the outfits! I find white so refreshing and crisp for True Winters.
This red shirt was more of a challenge. Because the inherently relaxed style of this rather roomy shirt, I had trouble making it super formal.
Tucking definitely helps, as you see with the leather skirt on the left, making the look instantly more formal.
Using a belt to cinch the waist is another trick, and when paired with your more formal heels it lifts the outfit up a notch.
On the right, I paired a little black dress and some super heels with the shirt used as a jacket, kind of taking the edge off the formal look, making it a little more playful.
Bright Spring business casual - The energetic leader
Every Season has benefits and challenges. Bright Spring has the benefit of vibrant colours and boundless energy. When harnessed and channeled these benefits are an asset to any professional appearance.
This video is about creating business casual outfits with an undertone of dazzling Bright Spring energy.
In the video, we use the very common white shirt as an example of how when used together with a Bright Spring palette, it becomes anything but common.
We also show a vibrant and floral dress in beautiful Bright Spring colours, and in the video I promised to show a few ways to style this dress.
Bright Spring has a great variety of lovely neutrals to choose from, and I picked a few tops in different neutrals from the Bright Spring palette ( from TCI) and no matter which neutral you choose, it will blend seamlessly with any of the colours in the palette, here I have chosen a top in BSp white, a pale yellow cardigan, a ndtaupe/beige cardigan and sweater in a cooler version. You see that both harmonize with the neutrals in the palette.
Here are some more options, I always like the idea of stretching the season for a summer dress, and pairing it with warmer tops, some fabulous boots and some scarves to keep your neckline warm, you can easily use this dress in the cooler months of the year.
And since we're all starved for socializing, I threw in a few alternatives to style this dress a little snazzier, for dressing up for an important client at work, or for your special Other Half.
So you see, the exuberant energy of the Bright Spring palette can be beautifully expressed in a business casual capsule wardrobe. Do watch the video, and let Christine and me know what you think, in the comments!
Soft Autumn business casual - Confidence in quiet colours
The quietly confident Soft Autumn people have no trouble at all looking professional in a business casual wardrobe.
This video explains how, and has a great story of shopping for a Soft Autumn man.
Soft Autumn's superpower is to make softly subdued items look like statement items.
Take the hushed pink eyeglasses for example. On another Season, these might look subdued and muted, but on this gentle Season, they stand out and make quite the statement when used with clothes and accessories from the palette.
Add a nail polish in the same colour, and you'll look put together in a very professional way.
Knits and prints for Soft Autumn
In the video we also present some items picked with business casual/casual chic in mind, and I selected some comfy tops with knits and prints, which are so versatile and easy to combine into casual outfits.
These are the knits and prints, and below you'll see how I have combined them with other clothes in the Soft Autumn palette to create outfits so you can spend your workdays at home in style!
True Summer business casual - Gentle is the new strong
True Summer is a Season who knows how to be powerful in a non-threatening and unassuming way.
The gentle leadership is in no way a reflection of a soft and pliable personality, quite the opposite. But True Summer leads in a way that comes across as strong, but not bossy.
The palette of True Summer glides smoothly from one colour to the next, and looks splendid in colours that are next to each other in the colour wheel, so-called analogous colours.
In the video, we show examples of colour combinations and also a capsule wardrobe for a woman, and also one for a True Summer man.
Business casual capsule wardrobe for True Summer
In the video, we talk about how we can expand the basic capsule wardrobe by adapting it to different seasons with warm cozy accessories for cooler weather, and adding cute sandals and sunglasses for summer.
And also, by branching out into other colours, for example pink:
There are several lovely pinks in the True Summer palette, from a cool pastel petal pink to the softly hazy True Summer coral.
I've added these two tops to the capsule wardrobe, and below you can see some outfits that are possible to create in combination with some of the bottoms from the existing capsule wardrobe.
When all the basic elements are in colours from the palette, all tops, bottoms and accessories can be combined freely and effortlessly.
The sand coloured simple shift dress is perfect for layering. Because it is sleeveless, it carries no bulk when worn under a top, and creates the impression of a two-piece ensemble.
Yellow for True Summer
Yellow is a trend colour spring of 2021, so it is time to hunt for your Season's special version of yellow.
The Summer yellow is hard to find most of the time, but it looks like it is available these days, so for True Summers, it is time to go shopping for that yellow summer dress!
The True Summer man might find a T-shirt or short sleeved shirt in this fresh and cool yellow, to add to his wardrobe.
Dark Winter business casual - Reclaim your power
Dark Winter is a subtly powerful Season, and with the licence to wear black.
But is all black outfits the best choice? As we point out in the video, the answer is: Almost never.
Using the colours in your palette gives you ever so many more communication possibilities!
The Dark Winter man
This outfit, even though it is dark and very within the Dark Winter palette, has no black in it, except for the shoes. The trousers are navy the sweater a lovely dark burgundy red and the watch is that espresso brown with a touch of burgundy in it.
Now, the shoes are black. On the right is a pair of classic boots, which repeats the espresso brown from the watch face.
If this Dark Winter man would like a walk on the wild side, the boots on the right would be great. With their double zippers and chunky soles they make quite the edgy statement.
Let's look at how we could dress this Dark Winter man up in even a little more colour. The outfit on the left has a dark blue shirt with the navy trousers, and a navy belt with a green stripe, which is quite effective without going overboard.
The grey and navy sweater has a red stripe in it, which is repeated in the bold socks. Socks are underestimated as statement items. With socks you can go wild without being construed as wild, because they are low on the body, and are not the first thing people notice when they see you, but the surprise of interesting socks represents a nice personal touch.
Capsule wardrobe for a Dark Winter man
For the Dark Winter man who works in a creative environment and would like to lighten up his business casual wardrobe, say if he's a teacher, has many alternatives to choose from in the bolder, lighter end of the palette. Look at how the red pants and sweater can make quite a difference in this business casual capsule wardrobe. To tone it down slightly, he just adds that formal navy blue blazer as a top layer.
The Dark Winter woman
Let's not forget about the Dark Winter woman. Below is an example of a capsule wardrobe using the colours from the Dark Winter palette, for a casual business look. The accessories repeat the colours are interchangeable to create variation whilst still keeping within the chosen colours for this capsule wardrobe.
For more business casual ideas for Dark Winter, visit my URSTYLE profile.
Light Spring business casual - Make the impression you want
Light Spring is a light and energetic Season, and people in this group of colouring is blessed with a colour palette that has light radiating from each and every version of their colours, even the neutrals. In this video that Christine Scaman of 12 BLUEPRINTS and I created for LinkedIn, we show some examples of Light Spring business casual outfits, and also some tips for Light Spring winter clothing.
Tropical landscape as inspiration for winter clothing
We sometimes compare the feeling of a Light Spring colour palette with a tropical landscape, delightfully lush and infused with light.
It might seem like a contradiction to put winter outfits next to it, but Light Spring people need clothes in cold weather too, and one of the challenges for people of Light Spring colouring is to find winter clothing in their colours.
It is difficult, but not impossible. All three Spring Seasons benefit greatly from using colours, even though their neutrals can be captivating and lovely.
Here's an example of a winter outfit for Light Spring, where I have kept the coat in a neutral and chosen accessories from the colours of Light Spring.
Another outfit, this one with a fabulous yellow winter coat, and then keeping the accessories neutral.
Using only neutrals is a possibility, but if you're a Light Spring, it's such a shame to let all that good energy go to waste, so of these two options, the colourful combination on the left is a far better choice.
Another very casual example of a Light Spring winter outfit using all colours, not a neutral in sight, and looking all the better for it!
The Light Spring man
Let's not forget about him. Light Spring men have a very gentle and persuasive manner about them, asserting their power in a most gentlemanly fashion.
Like Christine says in the video, all three Spring Seasons look so much better when they really use their colours, and it's a little disappointing when they don't...
Check out these outfits. There are some neutrals involved, but they are nicely balanced by the selection of colours from the Light Spring palette.
Let's look at an example.
Here's a Light Spring man's outfit, using only his neutrals.
Nothing wrong with this, but it leaves a little something to be desired.
Scroll down for a suggestion to how we can add a little Light Spring energy to this outfit, without going overboard...
See what a world of difference it makes to add just one element of colour?
Light Spring truly casual
The examples above have been business casual, but I couldn't resist the temptation to add some genuinely casual clothing ideas for the Light Spring man. Nobody rocks the Hawaii shirt quite like the Light Spring man!
And I did add a couple of neck ties in there also, just to keep the pretense of business in this casual line-up.
True Autumn business casual - Look put together
I sometimes have the feeling that especially all men would love to be the ruggedly handsome, earthy and grounded Autumn coloured Marlborough Man, and men often dress like this regardless of Season. Which is a pity, because they would look much more like themselves if they dressed in colours that are true to their Season.
But let's talk about the lucky people who have the True Autumn colouring and really belong in this Season.
True Autumn is a season warmed by glowing firelight and one of its main characteristics is a solid, sturdy earthiness that so many of us envy and try to emulate. And of course it falls flat on anyone but the person of True Autumn colouring.
True Autumn people have strong architecture in their features, even the ones who have petite body frames. As we talk about in the video, any Season can be expressed in any body type.
For True Autumn, imagine a landscape that is warmed by the golden light of a low sun, with copper glints and soft brown, orange and rust in the plants and trees. The greens have faded slightly and are much softer and toned down than the feisty, juicy greens of the Spring Seasons. There is depth in this landscape, and we're sensing a clear foreground, middle and distance.
The darkest areas are best described with images of tree trunks and shaded bark, not pitch sharp black.
How a landscape reflects into business casual outfits
This is one of the panels we used in the video on LinkedIn.
It shows the relation between the landscape image and outfits for True Autumn man and woman.
The grid on the left show examples of colours from the True Autumn palette, all of which can be found in clothes and accessories and easily be combined to create useful and practical outfits.
Here is another example of a True Autumn business casual outfit.
I always find tortoiseshell glasses the most perfect frames for True Autumn, and these ones have a sweetly nostalgic Sexy Librarian vibe without compromising the True Autumn sturdy sensibility.
True Autumn business casual capsule wardrobe
Here is a capsule wardrobe that follows my own Nordic Simplicity formula for building a capsule wardrobe. I also refer to it as my 1-2-3-4 formula.
...and here's how it might look when you use the items of this very simple capsule wardrobe to create six different outfits, looking put together in no time at all!
It really takes the effort out of dressing, doesn't it?
If you're interested in details about my Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe formula, read THIS ARTICLE.
Accessories for true Autumn is a symphony of textures and glowing warmth.
All kinds of natural materials are wonderful, like wood, leather, bone, and tortoiseshell is perfect in eyeglasses, buckles and bangles.
Distressed and rustic leather is great, and also the more refined but still appropriate suede.
And nobody wears fake fur like an Autumn.
Everything in colours from the glowing colours of the Autumn landscape.
Business casual for the True Autumn man
How a landscape reflects into business casual outfits for men
Here is an example of a selection of items for a True Autumn man with a casual lifestyle.
It blends beautifully with the landscape photo
Branded website for True Autumn
If you're a solopreneur or want to really develop your personal brand, use your Season's colours to really stand out and infuse your branding with the truest, most authentic look. To explore colour combinations from the True Autumn palette, read this blog post about Branded Website for True Autumns
Bright Winter business casual - Look better tomorrow
Bright Winter is one of the two bright Seasons. Bright Winter is a neutral/cool version of Winter, a Winter that has moved one step towarsds the sunny Spring Seasons. Bright Winter shares the quality of high chroma (bright, highly pigmented colours) with the neighbouring season Bright Spring. And when putting together outfits, it is important to keep the contrast level high, both in the light/dark aspect and in colours (look at the examples below)
Winter Seasons are calm in their expression, and most likely to come across as worth listening to when using their powerful neutrals in larger areas (and not only black!) with one or two bold statement colours in smaller portions.
Bright Winter, being the Winter that is closest to lively Spring, has the ability to wear more colours at one time than the other two Winter Seasons, but my experience is that they prefer to do colour combinations with a certain amount of restraint. This is particularly the case in dressing for business, but as in all other situations, Bright Winter should never compromise on intensity. Keep the largest blocks neutral, and bring in the highly pigmented colours in small areas or details.
As we showed in the video on LinkedIn, there are so many colours to choose from to brighten the neutrals of an outfit.
Picture a winter landscape of snow on branches and some bright red berries. We see colours of medium grey, silvery white, a bit of black and a splash of vibrant Maraschino cherry red.
How a landscape reflects into business casual outfits
Imagine an outfit created with this image in mind.
Bright, but with the restraint of winter. Utterly professional but also casual.
Here's another winter landscape, one of the examples we used in the LinkedIn video.
Two women's outfits, one quite casual with jeans and navy and white, and one a little more formal, charcoal grey and a deep almost black grey and white, with a crystal necklace adding a little sparkle. Notice the third colour we snuck in there? The happy yellow stripe at the bottom of the navy cardigan?
In the LinkedIn video we use nine squares of seven colours as a starting point for combinations.
You see them here. Let's see how we can use these as a small capsule wardrobe and create some business casual outfits out of them.
From these nine items of clothing we've managed to build quite a few different outfits. All of them are based on two neutrals and one accent colour.
The brightness of the accent colour is nicely displayed on the background of those neutral blocks of colour, just like the bright berries were displayed against the backdrop of white, grey and black in the photo further up.
The art of dressing as a Bright Winter is to find the balance between the calm neutrals and the highly pigmented, clear accent colours.
Accessories are the what creates energy and interest, avoiding a bland and austere expression, and an opportunity to express your personality and style.
Business casual for the Bright Winter man
The Bright Winter man uses the same colour palette, and has several wonderful neutral options. Combining large areas of neutrals with some accents in his colours will come across as professional and present, adding the energy needed to catch and keep the attention in a good way.
This is a Bright Winter man casual outfit inspired by the same winter landscape as the woman's outfits above.
The steel watch with the sapphire face makes for an interesting accessory detail.
Notice how the neutrals are still the largest areas of colour, forming the backdrop dor the accent colours.
Here are some examples of accessories for a Bright Winter man.
They may seem overly bright, but keep in mind that he will only wear one of these at a time, and together with large portions of crisp Bright Winter Neutrals.
See examples below.
The large blocks of crisp Bright Winter neutrals are nicely balanced by highly pigmented accessories.
Two examples: Bright Winter man dressed in his neutrals, for a business casual look he puts on a tie with vivid stripes in pink, white and black for the Zoom cal with his boss.
Later, when leaving the house to buy groceries, he is nicely casual when he wears a warm wool scarf in red and black.
How to dress as a Bright Winter
I have created a Masterclass for Bright Winters, to help you unlock the superpowers of your Season and dress as a Bright Winter!
Read more about the Bright Winter Masterclass HERE.
Soft Summer business casual - Take the guesswork out of buying colour
Same as for the Bright Winter business casual video, we used a nine square grid of seven colours, and created different outfits inspired by these colour combinations. We also discussed accessories. There is an accompanying blog post on 12 BLUEPRINTS that you might find interesting, about Eyeliner Colours for Soft Summer.
Soft Summer is one of the eight neutral Seasons, needing cool/neutral versions of the colours, and the colours should be soft, not bright, the overall effect medium to dark and the contrast should be kept very low. This means that Soft Summer would not pick bright white and black, but a range from soft kitten/cotton/cloud white to charcoal grey, and can use an even narrower segment than that, say medium taupe to charcoal grey. Also, the superpower of Soft Summer is the ability to wear monochrome combinations and come across as quietly radiant.
How to use Summer neutrals
I have created a Mini-Course for all three Summer Seasons, to help you recognize your neutrals and about which colours are perfect to use as basic colours in your wardrobe!
Read more about the Neutrals for Summers Mini-Course HERE.
The spice and life of any wardrobe. Soft Summer picks from the softspoken elegance of her colour palette, and when doing so, all accessories can be used with virtually any outfit.
Business casual for the Soft Summer man
Men wear colours too, and for the Soft Summer man, he has the same colour palettes of soft hues of a neutral/cool colour dimension, thrives on low-contrast combinations, can use monochrome combinations with great effect and let's not forget his versions of red, ranging from an antique pink to deep burgundy.
Using your colours to make your brand stand out
If you're a solopreneur or want to really develop your personal brand, use your Season's colours to really stand out and infuse your branding with the truest, most authentic look. To explore colour combinations from the True Autumn palette, read this blog post about Soft Summer Branded Website