Demystifying dress codes

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We’ve all been there: you finally land that coveted interview at your dream company, only to squint in confusion at the specified dress code. What’s the difference between business casual and smart casual? Just how formal is “formal”? And if you’re simply told to dress casually, is it ever okay to show up to the office in a T-shirt and jeans?

Learning how to navigate a multitude of different dress codes is a skill that every working woman should develop, not just in the office but in your personal life, too. But don’t worry if it all seems hard to understand – we’ve developed a handy guide to deciphering these cryptic codes and helping you look your very best!

It helps to think of different dress codes as points on a scale, ranging from super-casual to ultra-formal. When it comes to dressing for the workplace, there are generally four main dress codes you may be asked to adhere to: formal, business casual, smart casual and casual.

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Formal (also known as “business formal”) is the strictest, and is often required in high-profile client-facing roles like lawyers and bankers. It usually entails skirt suits or pantsuits, collared blouses and closed-toe flats or heels, with very little room for variation.

Still, a little creativity can transform your outfit into an appropriate look for your next meeting or presentation. Add a smart black blazer and a pair of sensible black pumps to Moonflower’s Blue Sheath Dress with Asymmetric Hem or Checkered Asymmetrical Button Hem Dress, and grab a leather briefcase on your way out the door. For some extra assurance, you can throw on a pair of tights or stockings – but remember to opt for neutral colours like black or grey over bright colours.

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Business Casual

One step down from business formal is its close cousin, business casual. Like the name suggests, you have a little more flexibility with your look, but it’s important to maintain an air of professionalism and formality. For example, you can add a splash of colour to your outfit by pairing Moonflower’s Yellow Front Zip Midi Dress with a smart blazer, giving you the confidence to do your very best work.

Colourful and confident

Smart Casual

Many non-client-facing workplaces institute a smart casual dress code instead, which allows you to experiment with more garments and accessories outside the traditional skirts-and-heels look. For example, you could try on Moonflower’s Asymmetric Ruffle-Trim Jumpsuit in Brick Red to really stand out from the crowd! Don’t be afraid to acccessorise, either; combine that with a white cashmere cardigan and a pair of white ballet flats to create an outfit that never goes out of style.

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As the landscape of work continues to change, a growing number of companies (in particular those in the tech sector) are opting for complete informality in their dress codes. Jeans and collarless shirts are common, while blazers and sport jackets are much rarer. Still, there are several ways to show up to work in style – for one, look pretty in pink by pairing our Fuchsia Front Zip Midi Dress with a cute purse or handbag. With an outfit suitable for both the office and a night out on the town, you’ll be able to go bar-hopping after work without ever having to change.

Understanding the different requirements might seem like a daunting task at first, but armed with these tips in mind, you’ll be dressing to impress in no time. Specially curated with you in mind, Moonflower’s collection of dresses and one-pieces is a great place to start looking for appropriate work wear. Our unique designs are sure to keep you looking stylish both inside and out of the office!