This is the fourth in a series of 4 posts brought to you by Think Less Buttoned-Up—it’s a New 9 to 5.

You’ve got dinner plans, or are meeting friends for drinks straight after work and there is no time to go back home to change. Of course, there is nothing wrong with heading off to your after work engagement in the same work clothes. If you’re comfortable doing so, go for it. But with a few outfit tweaks you could also dress your business casual outfit either up or down.

Bring a couple of extra items along that day, swap them out in the rest room or in the car, and voila! You’re wearing a new outfit. Aside from being dressed more appropriately for the occasion, the change in ensemble might also help you to switch from work mode into a more relaxed state of mind for the evening.

Here I am going to illustrate two scenarios. Dressing your professional ensemble down for a casual evening supper, and dressing your ensemble up for a fancy engagement after work.

Dress It Down

The Professional Ensemble:

The Transition:

  • Before you arrive at your casual destination, swap out the cardigan or jacket for a denim jacket, like the one above from the Loft. Pop it over the dress and scrunch up the sleeves for a more relaxed vibe.
  • Swap out your heavy handbag for a fun and lightweight clutch or wristlet like Hobo International’s Zoe Clutch. Make sure the clutch is small enough to fit into your handbag. In the morning, pack essentials like some cash, a credit card, keys, phone and lipstick into the clutch. That way after work, just whip out the clutch and leave your handbag in the car (this won’t work if you commute to work on foot unless you can leave your other bag in a safe place).
  • Swap out heels for more comfortable footwear. I’d wear something like Born’s Adele because I like to wear ballet flats with dresses. But you could also wear a low heel, sandal, or wedge.

Dress It Up

The Professional Ensemble:

  • Classiques Entier Belted Silk Blouse is fantastic for many reasons. It’s dressy sans the addition of an indoor jacket and covers the top arm. You can also swap out the belt or tuck the blouse into a skirt or trousers. Find your sweet spot with the belt (you might need to wear it higher than the position of the belt loops). And hallelujah! It does not need a camisole.
  • Tahari’s Theora Pants are flat front, high in the rise and without pockets. A great fit. You could wear a pencil skirt instead of trousers with the Tahari blouse.
  • If you need to cover up in the morning or at night Kenneth Cole’s New York Sateen Studded Trench Coat is fancy because it’s sateen, which makes it perfect for your dressy engagement after work, but also just fine for a professional work environment.
  • Ink blue bags are a nice alternative to black, and they are extra fab in my book with a bit of texture like Dooney & Bourke’s Croco Medium East/West Grommet Shopper.
  • Isola’s Della Peep Toe Patent Sandal looks divine under trousers and adds just the right amount of extra interest to black trousers. They are adequately dressy and there is no need to swap them out for other footwear.
  • Simple fresh water Pearl Stud Earrings are an easy finishing touch.

The Transition:

Changing out of your professional outfit is not essential when going directly to a casual or fancy engagement after work. However, the simple outfit tweaks shown here demonstrate the power of footwear and accessories, AND how small outfit details can change the dress code of an ensemble. You don’t need to do all of the tweaks at once. Sometimes a single change can make all the difference.

Finally, these tips can also help you to save money by stretching the outfit possibilities in your wardrobe.

Please share your own tips on how you dress up and dress down your professional ensembles. I’d love to hear them.