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Nobody wants to be embarrassed by dressing improperly for work. Many people are confused on how to dress professionally in a casual office work environment, as they want to express themselves individually, but don’t want to break any rules. Some individuals take a casual dress code to mean that they can wear whatever they want. Even though it’s a fun thought, this is rarely the case.

While the workplace may be termed casual, that does not give the employees license to show up in mismatched clothes or sloppy ensembles. It is important to make a good impression on bosses, clients and other coworkers. This means that there is a right and a wrong way to dress professionally in a casual office, with a whole set of rules to adhere to.

The following suggestions can be taken as a helpful how to guide.

Choose Appropriate Garments

When dressing for work, appropriate clothing should always be chosen. It’s best to select well fitting clothes designed in casual styles. Universally speaking, pairing a simple pullover sweater with a pair of nice slacks is always a great choice. Women can opt to wear a low-key skirt instead. Stay away from clothing that looks like it belongs in a nightclub. Anything too sexy is not appropriate office wear. Jeans may be fine if they are not worn looking. Before wearing jeans, check to see if others in the office are doing so. It is best to pair better jeans with a nicer top. Avoid T-Shirts with slogans, or obviously ratty attire choices.

Wear Classic Pieces

Look for clothing that is more classic in design. Neutral colors are usually good choices. Add touches of color with scarves, ties or under layers clothing. For instance, a lady could pair a blue top under a blazer. A man can wear a colorful tie with a casual shirt in a low-key hue. Women can pull together casual styles with cardigans or jackets. This tends to look more professional. If you have a bolder style, you can always showcase it in ways that add a touch of bold design to an otherwise classic look, but make sure your bold style additions are never brash. Classic pieces just have a simplicity that will always be elegant and chic.

Dress Up Outfits With Accessories

The right accessories can make a casual look seem more professional. Try adding a strand of simple pearls with a nice top in a modest style. The key is to not overdo the accessories, and to ensure that what you’re selecting matches the style of your outfit. Females have more options here, but guys have choices too. A man can wear better boots instead of shoes. He can wear detailed belts that have a richer look, or a chunky watch with mixed metal details. Hats may be worn into the office for an extra fashionable touch, however, hats are a bit more bold and should probably be tabled during work.

Wear Appropriate Footwear

Choose footwear carefully. While women have more shoe options, it’s best to wear low heels or boots, as well as fancier flats. Sneakers are generally frowned upon in the office setting, but simple slip-ons could always be considered for an extra causal look on a Friday or for special team-building events. Try to avoid extra flashy shoe styles that seem like nightwear – again, accessories can cheapen a look, so you’ll want to reconsider stilettos and over-the-knee boots, depending on your office environment.

In conclusion? Always follow the boss’s fashion lead, and tread lightly with trendy fads. Be smart and dress the way that makes you feel comfortable but productive. Of course, if you have questions, you can always speak with your HR representative and they can set the record straight.