Smart Casual Teal & Toffee

A new outfit from Kimberly Smith of Penny Pincher Fashion, whom we introduced to YLF in October 2013.

Kimberly is sporting black faux leather skinny pants with a toffee crew neck sweater. Semi-tucking the sweater lengthens the leg line, so does pairing the pants with high-heeled booties. The suede booties add extra textural interest and echo the sweater colour. Our blogger’s chain-strap crossbody in toffee and black complements her outfit beautifully. Kimberly then adds a bouclé coat in a tailored Modern Classic cut. The rich jewel-toned teal is unexpected and fab with the warm-toned toffee of her sweater and footwear. A chevron scarf with subtle toffee accent, on-trend rib-knit hat with faux-fur pom-pom, and a simple gold pendant finish off the look to perfection.

Kimberly Smith - 1

Kimberly Smith - 2


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Outfit Formula: Casual Holiday Dress

Holiday parties are a lot more relaxed than they used to be, which brings me to the casual holiday dress. It is comfortable, sleeved and insulating. No form-fitting silhouettes that need shapewear. No need to find the right topper because it’s sleeveless. No worries that your outfit looks best with a jacket, because the dress does all the talking. And you can wear comfortable and practical footwear.

A shout-out to Artful Home where they sell eclectic and arty holiday attire from an XS to XXL (size US2/4 to US18/20). Silhouettes are fluid, a little architectural, and provide ample coverage. I found this site through the wonderful Brenda Kinsel, who wears their items with panache.

Here are some neutral and understated renditions to get you started, but feel free to add more colour and pattern. You might also like the combinations for settings other than casual holiday parties.

1. Arty Tartan

A sleeved A-line dress in a pattern made of substantial fabric WITH pockets and a versatile neckline ticks off all the boxes. It’s warm, comfortable, interesting, festive, forgiving and elegant. Throw it on over leggings or hosiery with a pair of flat or heeled shoes, and Bob’s your uncle. Add bling, a clutch, lippie, and possibly fingernail polish. Brenda Kinsel wears this dress with grace and panache. I love her dressier additions of fishnet hosiery, matching specs, low-heeled ankle strap pumps, and sparkly expressions. You can also keep the look more casual with leggings, skinnies, flats or casual boots.

Artful Home Ainslie Dress

2. Magical Movement

This type of drapey dress works on most body types. It’s just structured enough through the sleeves and upper torso, and lets the volume and colour-blocking below the bust create movement and interest. Wear it over leggings, skinnies or hosiery, and add anything from ballet flats, booties, and shooties, to oxfords, Docs, pumps and ankle strap looks as footwear. Add festive bling to dress up or dress down this look as much as you like.

Artful Home Kelsey Dress

3. Cosy Cardi Layers

An A-line shift dress in a jersey or silky fabric looks surprisingly good with a tailored maxi cardigan worn loose like a casual jacket. A fine gauge knit cardigan is dressier than a chunky knit, and can be longer than the dress. Finish off the look with hosiery, boots or pumps, flats or oxfords, and some bling.

Expresso Pebbles Jurk Zwart

4. Sweatered & Booted

A great sweater dress is a beautiful thing because it’s the warmest and most versatile option. The turtleneck midi here has been layered with a cardigan, but you can wear the dress on its own with hosiery and your choice of dressy or casual footwear. You can add a scarf instead of a necklace. Finish off the look with bling and bag that make you smile.

JOSEPH Sally Wool-blend Turtleneck Midi Dress

I wore formula #4 to a few casual events last year, but more frequently when I work with clients. It’s a workhorse olive sweater dress from Banana Republic that is my go-to Winter dress. It’s gorgeous quality and hasn’t pilled, stretched out of shape, or shrunk. I wish I had it in other colours. I dress it up with hosiery or boots, shooties, pumps or heeled oxfords, and pick from my large capsule of handbags and outerwear to change up the palette and the mood. I’m happy to pattern mix up to three patterns in an outfit. I’ve also dressed it down with cream hi-top Converse sneakers and a guitar-strap crossbody bag. I often wear it with a scarf for warmth, which I either drape around my neck indoors or take off. Here are the exact items from my wardrobe that I mix and match to create an assortment of outfits.

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Business Casual Shoes

Business casual today is one of the most widely spread dress codes yet it’s often vaguely defined. There’s no point in following all the advice we provide in our videos if your company is extremely casual or extremely formal. You simply have to figure that out and the best way to do that is to observe what others are wearing or to ask your supervisor.

Well-made shoes from quality leather that is expertly polished can really upgrade a cheap suit, at the same time, a cheap pair of shoes can bring down a $ 5,000 bespoke suit.

Traditional White-Collar Environments

Because you’re in this traditional environment, chances are even business casual is more formal than in other places. Now that doesn’t mean that you should wear your black cap toe oxford because that would still be too formal and while it’s good with suits for business casual, you can be a bit more daring.

Brown Derby Shoes

For one, that means wearing a derby shoe. Derbys have an open lacing system and because of that, they’re always slightly less formal than an oxford. Also, I would stay clear of black derbys, instead I would opt for brown ones because brown is one of those shades that have just a hundred or thousand different colors with little variations and so you can never have enough brown shoes.

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

Cognac Brown Derby Full Brogue with 2 inch cuff

When I say brown I also mean red shoes, either reddish brown, burgundy, or oxblood. These are all fantastic colors for business casual even in a formal environment. My favorite derby shoe of mine comes in burgundy, it’s made of a Parisian last which is still quite elegant and so I can work with a suit or for business casual very easily.

Dark brown double monks paired with OTC socks from Fort Belvedere

Dark brown double monks paired with OTC socks from Fort Belvedere

Monk Strap Shoes

Alternatively, I could wear a burgundy monk strap, either in dark chocolate brown or maybe in red. Apart from that color scheme, I would not branch out into others because it would maybe be too casual for such a traditional environment. That means no gray shoes, no olive green shoes, stick with shades of brown and you’ll be good. Whether that’s a very dark brown, a medium brown, chestnut brown, or very light tan, is up to you but just keep in mind the lighter shade of brown, the more casual the shoe.

Flannel Pinstripe with red socks and suede chocolate double monks

Flannel Pinstripe with red socks and suede chocolate double monks

Likewise, the more broguing you have on the shoe, the more casual it is. Apart from the color, leather texture can also have a huge impact on how it’s perceived. For example, suede shoes are always softer and more casual. So for example, a dark brown suede shoe will look about as informal or casual as a regular polished leather tan shoe. Overall, it’s very important that your shoes work well not just with the rest of your outfit but with the socks and the pants in particular because they’re right next to your shoe.

Trade, Service, & Sales Industries

 

If you work in the service industry, in sales, or other trade positions, chances are you still have client contact and even though it’s not required of you to be well dressed, and sometimes it may come off as aloof or not appropriate, people will still judge you and if you look frumpy in sweatpants, people will think less highly of you, they will assume that you’re less competent than if you would wear let’s say a nice dress shirt with a pair of chinos.

Sneakers are not suitable for office wear

Sneakers are not suitable for office wear

If you are just at the office and never have client contact, your employer will likely have specific ideas of what’s acceptable and what’s not. If that’s not your office, I suggest to just stay clear of sneakers because they are quite casual and not work-appropriate shoes.

Go For Green

Oxford full brogue wingtip shoes

Oxford full brogue wingtip shoes with Fort Belvedere shoelaces

In this segment, one of my favorite colors is green which is highly underrated in menswear. Just think about adding a dark green oxford full brogue wingtip shoe in suede, it’s quite dark, people wouldn’t notice it right away yet it’s very different than a traditional dark brown wingtip oxford.

Olive green shoes with navy trousers

Olive green shoes with navy trousers and Fort Belvedere socks

Alternatively, a nice olive green with a beautiful patina on an elegant long last is really something that will provide a lot of contrast with the pants and slacks you’re wearing therefore, it’ll stand out in a way but it’s still subtle enough that it could be mistaken for a dark brown shoe at first glance.

Black "dress shoes" with blue soles

Black “dress shoes” with blue soles

Dress Shoe Trends

In recent years, dress shoe uppers with white rubber or sneaker soles have become extremely popular. Now personally, I don’t wear those because I either want to go casual and wear boat shoes or some sneakers or I wear leather dress shoes with a leather sole.

That being said, if you really dig the white rubber soles on a shoe, simply go for it, it’s something that you can wear, you can pull it off, it’s definitely more of a statement and I’ve even seen like red soles, yellow soles, or blue soles, so assume that people will judge you, they will make assumptions about you, and if you’re okay with that and you can wear it confidently, go for it. Of course, if you’re into classic men’s clothing and a traditionalist, this is not an option for you and in that case, stay with nicely polished leather shoes.

Rubber soled double monk strap

Rubber soled double monk strap

What about regular rubber soles? While they are acceptable and no one will ever call you out for it, personally, I much rather prefer leather soles. The sound they make, the way they roll on my foot, the way they feel, all of these are attributes I appreciate about the leather sole and I would not switch to a rubber sole.

So what do you do if it rains heavily you might wonder? Well, I have leather boots with rubber soles because they’re usually a little more casual and if it’s raining a lot, having a lace-up boot that is above my ankle always comes in handy to protect my feet from getting wet and cold.

Stand out in this pair of spectator shoes

Stand out in this pair of spectator shoes and Fort Belvedere socks

Choose Spectators

Apart from the shoes mentioned, you can also experiment with spectators in this segment which again are quite loud and traditionally, you have black and white ones which I think is not such a good combination because it is black, quite formal, white makes it informal.

square toed shoe

square-toed shoe

Instead, a brown and maybe off-white spectator or a navy with a gray spectator are really great. You could think about saddle shoes or just more unusual shoes. In general, though, I always suggest you stay clear of square-toed shoes, rubber soles or any kind of metalwork or reflective letters such as silver or gold because they’re not really part of a gentleman’s wardrobe.

This is too casual for business casual unless you work in a young tech company

This is too casual for business casual unless you work in a young tech company

Start-Up Environments

Frankly, the sky’s the limit and it can be anything from flip-flops over vans to very extraordinary Gucci loafers. Most startups won’t even have a dress code and so it’s all about what you’re comfortable with and about their culture and how you fit in.

Gucci Horsebit Loafer 1953

Gucci Horsebit Loafer 1953

Now, just because you can wear anything doesn’t mean everything has the same level of benefits for you. That being said, a nice pair of leather shoes or boots will always make you look more dapper and more grown-up than wearing some colorful sneakers or tennis shoes. In terms of colors or leather textures, really anything under the sun goes here. Even flip-flops or alpargatas are acceptable but frankly, I would simply not wear that but I guess I’m not telling you anything new here.

General Guidelines To Stay Stylish In Your Workplace

Don’t Invest In Shoes That Fuse Modern & Traditional Style

Why you might wonder? Well, matching together formal and informal elements will mean it’s a very trendy shoe and it may be great at the moment but it’s just a fashion and a fad and it will disappear in just a few years of time. So even if you have the highest quality leather shoe with a blue sole, chances are you will be tired of it in a year from now.

Ace Marks Penny Loafers

Ace Marks Penny Loafers

Instead, buy classically styled shoes and try to find something that works with your style. For example, you can go with medium brown penny loafers or you could go with cordovan tassel loafers. Alternatively, if you want even more casual, you can have suede green tassel loafers which are very casual yet still classically rooted.

Because it’s business casual, broguing or hole perforations or decorations are always welcome and an element you should incorporate if you want to tone things down and make them easier to look at and less formal.

Know When To Step Up Your Shoe Game

For example, think of important meetings with the board, maybe with their most important client, or the CEO who is known to be a clothes horse. In those situations, you definitely want to take it up a notch and put your best foot forward. During work-related events, conferences or symposia where you represent your company or maybe during a media interview, it really pays to have nice leather dress shoes in a darker color because they won’t stand out and people won’t just focus on your shoes but rather on what you say and the point you want to bring across. Likewise, if you’re interviewing for a position, it always pays to put on the proper interview attire.

A perfect outfit for a casual Friday at the office

A perfect outfit for the office

CONCLUSION

In summary, the dress-code business casual is not easy to master when it comes to shoes because it can mean different things at different times at different companies, however, using the three-tier approach of formal environment, less formal environment, and casual environment, it can really help you to nail it and put your best foot forward.

Last but not least, if you’re unsure whether if something is appropriate or not, chances are it is inappropriate. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have thought about it in the first place and if even that doesn’t help, always keep in mind being slightly overdressed is always favorable to being slightly underdressed.


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Outfit Formula: Casual Maxi Cardi

Most of my clients wear long cardigans with a lot of enthusiasm. They enjoy the comfort, ease, relaxed vibe, and forgiving fit over the shoulders, bust and midsection. Long cardigans are especially good for a work-at-home lifestyle, or as a topper to keep at the office for when it’s chilly. 

The maxi cardigan is extra long and dramatic, and that’s the showpiece for this outfit formula. If it’s a little too long for your taste, substitute the maxi for a shorter version that is just above the knee.

Here are four easy outfit ideas that look fresh. Choose any colour palette and feel free to throw in patterns.

1. Draped & Booted

Combine a pair of slim-fit jeans or pants with a draped knit or woven top that’s worn over the jeans. Top it off with a maxi cardi and scrunch the sleeves for structure. Finish off the outfit with booties, pumps, oxfords or loafers.

Eloquii Lightweight Duster

2. ‘90s Fabness

I’m not a ‘90s gal, but I do like the subtle allure of this combination, and that the boots are flat. Combine a soft and flowy midi dress with a maxi cardi. Scrunch the sleeves for structure. Finish off the look with a pair of tailored and high-shaft tough boots. This is a fab way to insulate a dress, and dress down a dress. Add hosiery for warmth.

Treasure and Bond Belted Long Cardigan

3. Wide Crops & Waisted

Combine a fluid or fitted top with a pair of wide crops (culottes will do just fine). Tuck or semi-tuck the top for structure. Wear a shorter top if tucking is not your thing. Top it off with a maxi cardigan and a pair of shoes that work with the outfit. The white sneakers here effectively pick up the white of the tee and bookend the model’s blonde hair.

Belstaff Sherdley Cardigan

4. Bootcuts Your Way

Combine a pair of bootcuts or wider flares with a fitted or fluid top. Wear the top your way — tucked or untucked — and create a high or low contrast with the bootcuts. Wear flats or heels but make sure the length of the flares are perfect (as you see here). Top the lot off with a maxi cardigan. Finish off the look with jewellery, eyewear and watch as desired.

Mango Faux Fur Knit Cardigan

I will sit this one out because I’m not a cardigan gal, and especially not a long cardi gal. They make my narrow shoulders look even narrower, and further lengthen my very long neck. As a result I don’t feel fab in a cardigan, unless you take me back to the ‘80s when I wore long cardigans with gigantic shoulder pads and loved it. I will enjoy this look on YOU.


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