How to Wear a Maxi Dress to Work

A working woman wearing a maxi dress and laughing with coworkers
Tired of wearing suits to work? A maxi dress is a comfier alternative that will keep you covered and feeling feminine all day long.

If you ask me, a maxi dress should be what we wear to work. It’s modest, elegant, and easy to throw on, so you won’t waste time in the morning. But most of all, this dress is extremely comfortable. And isn’t comfort something people should aspire to have at work?

Unfortunately, the maxi dress has earned a reputation as a casual fit. People who see you in a maxi dress assume you are going to the beach or a party.

I am here to refute and dismantle this sentiment. Maxi dresses have all the makings of office attire, with the bonus of being super comfortable. But because the corporate world has a certain set of rules when it comes to dressing, you have to style your maxi dress in such a way that it passes for formal wear, or at least semi-formal on Fridays.

Here’s how you wear a maxi dress to get a professional look.

1. Choose Solid Colors and Straight Fit

As you may have imagined, not every maxi dress can make the mark for work wear. Some are just too casual and relaxed for their own good. A professional and work-appropriate maxi dress should have a straight, but not tight silhouette. This fits the structured look the corporate world wants for its workers.

It should also be dark colored and free of any excitement. Sure, you can take your chances with bright colors or prints, but bold and darker colors are the safest way to ensure a maxi dress looks formal enough. The dress may be straight, pleated, or even a wrap dress as long as it fits these two conditions.

This dark blue pleated dress I got from John Lewis, for example, has made it to work countless times, even on days I have serious meetings with the boss. 

2. Match the Print to Your Office

Luckily, companies are different when it comes to dressing. While some, like law firms, insist on traditional formal wear, others are a tad relaxed on what formal wear means. So gauge the culture of your office and see if you can get away with wearing prints or bright-colored clothing.

For example, people who work in the hospitality industry, art gallery, or entertainment field can try their hand at prints. The point is to match your maxi dress with your office culture to avoid getting into trouble. If you are a risk taker, try a darker maxi dress with small prints to test the waters first.

3. Check the Length

The rules of wearing a maxi dress say it should touch the top of your foot. This length looks great in sandals and stiletto heels. However, it’s also the reason why maxi dresses look so casual. A work-appropriate maxi dress should be ankle length and not floor length. This length looks more formal and allows your office shoes to show.

4. Go for Modesty

This should be common knowledge, but it’s important to say it all the same. A maxi dress for work should be modest and professional. This means strapless dresses and deep necklines are out. In fact, your dress should have some sort of sleeves or at least thick straps to ensure your bra isn’t showing. Likewise, anything that is see-through or tight is also out, and so are ruffles and embellishments.

How to Style a Maxi Dress for Work

Now that you know what maxi dress to wear to work, let’s style it for the office.

Layer with a Formal Outer Piece

The perfect formal maxi dress doesn’t need much in terms of styling. You can simply add a belt and a scarf to accessorize and wear the right shoe. Most maxi dresses, however, require an extra piece to push them to that formal line. I am talking about a blazer or a cardigan to ensure the proportions are right and the outfit is well structured.

Though the dress may be casual on its own, throwing on a structured work-appropriate blazer transforms it into something you can wear to work. I recommend doing a color contrast with this. For example, if the maxi dress is black, choose a bright-colored blazer like white, pink, or beige and vice versa.

Alternatively, wear a thin knit cardigan over the dress, especially on casual Fridays.

Belt Up

It’s fascinating how much a simple belt can transform an outfit. I like to wear a large belt over the dress and an open blazer to show off the belt. You can also wear a belt over the blazer or the cardigan if you think that will look better. Besides creating structure and drawing attention to your waist, a belt makes it look like you are wearing a long skirt, not a maxi dress.

Choose Appropriate Shoes

Shoes, like the outer garment, will push a simple maxi dress to that formal ledge. The same way sandals and stilettos make a maxi dress look casual, formal shoes will also make it look office appropriate.

I recommend closed shoes like nude or black pumps and elevated flats for office wear. If you can find open shoes that look good as formal wear, don’t hesitate to pick one up. After all, maxi dresses always look best with open shoes.

Go Small on the Accessories

Last but not least is the accessories. The point of accessories when wearing a maxi dress to work is to add structure and elegance to the outfit. A belt and a scarf do that very well, and that’s why I recommended those two at a different point. The only other accessory you can add is small, dainty jewelry. Pick an elegant watch and a simple set of necklace and earrings to bring out your eyes.

There you have it, the simple ways to dress up a maxi dress for work. Hopefully, these tips will help you unleash the dresses you have been hiding at the back of the closet since last summer. Although they are not universally accepted as office wear, maxi dresses are a great way to look and feel feminine and cover your legs when it’s cold.

Wear a Blazer or Jacket on Top

Pairing your maxi dress with a top is another excellent way of making it suitable for the workplace. There’s no need to stress about this if you already have a blazer or jacket in your closet. You only need to ensure that the style and color of the blazer harmonize well with the dress or the accessories you’ll wear. Learn more about the best outerwear for maxi dresses

A jacket is also great when you want to hide the upper section of your maxi dress. Some maxi dress designs have deep necklines that may not be appropriate for work. In such a case, wearing a blazer or jacket on top will help you conceal your collar area and make you appear more formal. 

What to Avoid When Wearing a Maxi Dress for Work

There are some things to avoid when styling your maxi dress for work. By avoiding these things, you’ll make your outfit more formal. 

1. Deep Necklines

Deep necklines aren’t modest because they reveal your cleavage, making the dress inappropriate for work. So, you should consider a neckline that conceals as much as possible to ensure your maxi dress is okay for the corporate environment. 

2. Informal Accessories

There are some accessories that aren’t suitable for work. Unless you want to look like you are on vacation in the office, you’ll want to avoid items like sunglasses since they’ll give off a casual appearance. Also, you should avoid wearing hats or luxury jewelry that won’t seem appropriate.  

3. Light Fabrics

The fabric used to make the maxi dress also matters. If the material is light, the chances of someone seeing through your dress increase. So, you should avoid wearing sheer dresses, usually made from silk, nylon, or rayon. On the other hand, materials like cotton, fleece, or linen are opaque and won’t let anyone see through them, making them great for workwear. 

Can you wear a maxi dress to work?

Contrary to popular belief, maxi dresses are very appropriate for work. It is modest, elegant, and easy to style for any occasion. To make a maxi dress work as office wear, pair it with a blazer and closed shoes and accessorize sparingly.

How do you wear and style a maxi dress for work?

The secret to styling a maxi dress for work is adding structure. Of course, you should pick a straight dress, but you can also add structure with a blazer, a cardigan, and a belt. Make sure the outfit looks like you are wearing a long official skirt, and choose jewelry pieces that accentuate the look.

Related Posts

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.