Creative work environments like public relations and digital marketing agencies usually have a more relaxed dress code compared to other 9-to-5 companies. While being comfortable with what they wear allow employee creativity to flow, there has to be a balance between being comfy but still looking like you mean business to be taken seriously by potential clients.
Here’s how some of our partners at worldwide agency network PROI do it.
“Our standard business attire seeks to impress without looking ‘flashy’. Our ladies like to mix it up with feminine silhouettes and strong structures—cue Anna Wintour-esque fashion. Our gentleman, on the other hand, like to be more traditional, but a hint of fashionable socks do make their feature when required,” says Michelle Johnson of SenateSHJ in New Zealand.
Fashionable socks? Now that’s dress code advice we can get behind.
The men and women at Publicum in Lithuania show off their agency style
Over at Publicum in Lithuania, the dress code rules are deliberately kept simple, according to managing director Daiva Bumblytė. “There’s no policy at all!” she says. “[It relies] on private wardrobes, the thickness of the purse and maturity of each person.” In general, their dress code lies in that sweet spot between “fashion wear, business attire, and a creative look.”
Any no-no’s? “Shorts, feathers and all things [that have] printed cats,” comments Johnson. And if SenateSHJ has cat-o-phobia, Publicum frowns on showing some skin: “No bikinis, and no swim suits,” declares Bumblyte. Also, for the men, no flip-flops with suits, please; some Publicum employees actually showed up to work in that get-up. “It’s obvious that levels of creativity between us differ,” says Bumblyte.
The bottom line? “First impressions count in communications,” says Johnson, “so it’s important we both dress for our clients and also dress to our own business style.”
Here are some tips for both men and women to nail the agency dress code.
Upgrade #1: Invest in differently colored leather shoes
Nowadays, leather shoes don’t just come in black and brown. They now make them in more contemporary colors, and if you’re looking for comfort, some even come with comfy rubber soles. Nail business casual with style with a pair of these.
Upgrade #2: Invest in a white button-down shirt
It’s a versatile piece to have in your wardrobe. When worn with good fitting trousers and the right footwear, button-downs equal business-like. Wear it with a pair of denims, or jean shorts and sneakers and you look more casual. Just make sure that it fits you just right, says professional stylist KC Leyco-Mempin. When it flatters your body, you look more put together.
Upgrade #3: Invest in dark jeans
Nowadays, fashion insiders say that wearing a pair of dark jeans is considered dressy enough—even for business casual occasions. Pair with a button-down shirt and a blazer to get instantly presentation-ready. Take the jacket off, fold the sleeves of your shirt, and you still look dressy enough should a client happen to pass by your office.
Upgrade #4: Have a blazer handy
“A blazer is one of the best pieces that can transform your casual outfit to make you look dressier. Layer it over a tank top or tee and pair it with a nice fitting skirt or trousers and you’re good to go,” says Leyco-Mempin. You can also add a statement necklace to polish off your look. Want to go back to being casual? Simply take your jacket off.
For guys, this piece of advice works just as well. (Except for the whole, you know, tank top and skirt bit.) Don’t be afraid to don light or pastel-colored jackets, too.
Upgrade #5: Get a pair of go-to pumps
A pair of pumps is handy because of two unbeatable reasons: they gives you the height- (and confidence-) boost you need at just the right time, and those closed-toe shoes can instantly make you look dressier. Leyco-Mempin suggests getting pointy ones in black as you can easily pair with any outfit. “Nude-colored pumps, meanwhile, elongate your legs,” she adds.
Upgrade #6: Invest in an elegant timepiece
Sometimes, less is more when it comes to style. That’s very true when it comes to watches. Invest in a simple leather strapped watch. You can wear this for formal occasions or even during client presentations. Because you’re not wearing something that resembles major bling, you’re already making yourself stand out from the pack.