Have you thought of wearing florals to work then backed off because you feared they may look too girly or unprofessional? 

 

 Florals like all prints and patterns have a set of characteristics subliminally linked to them that when worn transfers to the wearer. Floral prints are normally linked with femininity, passiveness, frivolity and non-serious endeavors and as a result have often been avoided for business wear – especially for more serious professions such as finance and law.

However, contrary to conventional wisdom, you can wear floral prints in a business casual environment and not suffer the stereotypical afflictions or sacrifice your take-charge image at work. The secret lies with selecting the right floral prints and/or implementing some smart styling.

There are three potential outcomes to avoid when wearing floral prints to work.

These are looking:

  • Too feminine: the outfit is overall too pretty or too light colored.
    If you desire is to be seen as serious business or professional woman use the power of color psychology and stereotypes to get your intent across. Dark colors are perceived as more powerful than light colors and curved shapes and floral designs take a backseat to diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines. Also keep avoid adding other girly elements when wearing florals i.e, ruffles, bows. frills and lace etc  
  • Too overwhelming or distracting: the outfit is all floral, the print is too large or too colorful.
    The larger and/or more colorful the floral the less seriously you risk being taken.  Traditionally the patterns worn for business by men have been dark and small and this has leaked over into the world of women’s professional wear. With the acceptance of business casual wear these boundaries have been expanded but stray to far and you do run the risk of being seen as a lightweight.
  • Too informal: not enough skin is covered or there is insufficient tailoring / structure to the garment.
    In the workplace, the less skin exposed, the more seriously you will be taken. A female exposing an excess of skin runs the risk of being seen as using her sexuality to gain an advantage.
    If you wear florals and an unstructured garment you’ve immediately altered the tone of your look to casual and feminine. 

The following tips will assist in overcoming these issues.

Forgo Realism for Stylistic or Abstract Prints

Too feminine will definitely be the result if the print is too realistic looking (especially if in a watercolor print). Instead opt for an abstract, stylistic, graphic or digital style. The angularity and modernity of these type of floral prints will give your overall look an impression of progressiveness and creativity – think edgy instead of girly.  You may even want to consider pop art/mod prints since the 60’s are such a hot trendy decade at the moment. 

Look for floral prints with angles to give extra edge to the print.  

Graphic prints

 Source: Image 1, Image 2,  Image 3.

AbstractversesRealistic

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Embrace The Dark Side

Dark colors are seen as more serious than light colors. As a result floral prints set against a dark background have more gravitas than those on a light background.

Dark florals are especially suitable for the colder months. For maximum impact and visual presence, wear your dark florals with moody colors like plum, burgundy and midnight blue as accents.

Dark Backgrounds

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 4 (PretaStyer)

Go Minimal

Adding a dash of floral to your work ensemble will endow it an unmistakable feminine edge and can be just the thing to soften an otherwise severe look. You can use anything from a peep of floral emerging from a sweater, to a scarf or maybe even your handbag. A floral top is one of the easiest items to pull off as part of a professional outfit. You can pair it a blazer, vest or cardigan.

Minimal

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Opt For The No Fail Floral Combo

Black and white is a color pairing that you cannot really go wrong with. You can trust this classic combo to hold you in good stead at the workplace, most especially when you select a floral print done in black and white.  A floral print in monochrome will definitely be just as commanding as your standard pinstripe for the office. Being done in black and white, the femininity of the floral is toned down a bit and its inherent design sensibility and modern look is played up even further. 

Black and WhiteSource: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3.

Blush on a Solid Canvas

Work is not the time to experiment with fashion or show your creative side. Wear one floral item at a time and anchor it with a strong, solid color. Tradition business colors of charcoal, black, white and navy are always a great choice and will provide a stark contrast to the floral. An added bonus to this is that the floral print pops even more against a solid canvas of color. For the summer, all white is your route to looking both fresh and polished at the same time. A white pant-suit is the ideal setting in which to showcase your floral print of the day. 

A Solid Base

Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3.

Add a Structured Topper

When in doubt, opt for a statement topper with a lot of structure. This is a no-fail way to dress up anything including floral prints. Whether it’s a cropped boxy jacket with strong shoulders or heather gray cape, the hardness of the form and silhouette of outerwear balances the softness of floral print impeccably.

Get SeriousSource 

Statement TopperSource: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Pair with ‘Man-Style’ Pieces

Pull your florals into line by pairing them with man-style pieces. A tailored dress shirt, jacket or pants will instantly elevate your look and have you set to take on the day.

Also pay close attention to how your clothes fit; you may even want to consider having your pants and blazers altered to fit your body. That being said, you can pretty much get away with wearing any type of floral print (within reason, of course) if you wear it layered under an excellently tailored ensemble. 

Manstyle PiecesSource: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

Think Conservative, Think Polished

Floral dresses in the workplace call for a sleek and conservative silhouette that is paired with a dark modern floral print. You can both tone down a bright floral dress and give some edge to a dull print solid colored, neutral jacket or blazer.  Keep lengths appropriate and accessories understated.

Floral Dresses

  1. Hi Ann
    I always enjoy your articles. The look I struggle most with is ‘Casual Evening’ for times when you want to look a bit dressed up but not too formal eg a party at a friend’s home. Do you have an article on that?

    Thanks
    Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne,
      No I don’t have a feature on Casual Evening but let me think on it for a little while. I’ve placed it on my list of upcoming posts.
      Cheers, Ann

  2. Absolutely love this article! Shows how to take the boredom out of business dressing and make it interesting, feminine yet still keeping that edge of professionalism. All the looks say: “Take me seriously but I can still be fun and fashionable.” Well done! Keep them coming.

  3. Hi! Love your articles, but the typeface is tiny and difficult to read on my iPad. I can’t seem to make it bigger. Is there a setting you can change that will allow us to zoom in and out? Thanks!

    1. Hi Claire,
      I think the problem may lay with the settings for text size on your iPad as I have checked the feature on an iPad and it is quite readable.
      Same I can’t upload an image 🙁

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