Professional Denim – and How to Do It

Your company’s dress policy should clarify  when – and whether – jeans are office appropriate.  Whether your office environment these days is physical or virtual, it’s important to polish your look to maintain your professional presenceWith added Spandex and brushed surfaces, today’s denim can be a cozy-comfy work-from-home choice. And building a coordinated outfit makes you feel as professional as you’ll want to look.

Jeans — by the way — are defined by the styling, not by the blue denim.  Details like a back yoke, rear patch pockets, stitched-down seams, bar tacks or rivets reinforcing the stress points and contrast topstitching typically put a pant into the jeans category, whatever the fabric or color.

Start with your choice of the RIGHT jeans.  Trendy frayed and distressed styles are strictly weekend wear –virtually  NEVER career appropriate.  A darker wash gives the most dressed-up look. Colors and even patterned jeans can be office-appropriate as long as the look is subtle rather than bright.

Contrast topstitching is more casual – matched stitching is best when you can find it.  Avoid excessive embellishment that draws extra attention to back pockets.  Narrow legs and subtle boot-cut styles are equally appropriate.  Save ultra-low-rise jeans for your day off (or for your daughter).

For tips on jean selection for adult women, check our instructional video.

Fit is critical.  Jeans are intended to fit close to the body, but scrupulously avoid panty lines or any bulge of soft tissue above the waistband.  Wider legs should end no more than an inch from the floor – no flood-pants or dragging.  Narrow legs should end low on the ankle.  Roll skinnies into a cute cuff if necessary; don’t let extra length scrunch up around your ankle.

Double-layer tops are your safest bet to add polish to a jean look.  A crisp shirt and blazer or a soft blouse and cardigan are great pairings.  A camisole or tank is a perfectly fine under layer, provided you wear a smooth-cup bra and keep the over-top on all day. Of course you’d never wear such a bare top uncovered in a work environment.



Accessories add polish to your jean look.  If the booties shown above would be killing you by 10AM, opt for a loafer, ballet flat or wedge style  instead, but not an athletic shoe (unless your office is a trendy ad agency or tech firm and your sneakers are ultra-hip).  Add a great belt and classy tote, usually in a color family related to the shoe.

Finish the look with a great earring and possibly a scarf or statement necklace to anchor focus at your face where it should be in any business situation  – in-person or virtual.

For more on jean fit and accessories see our second jeans video tutorial.

And if you need help polishing up your own Business Casual looks, I’d be happy to schedule a closet coordination session with you in person or on ZOOM.

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.

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