It’s time to trade in those sweats for “real” clothes. But what constitutes professional attire now? If you’re not sure what the rules are anymore or if you simply want a wardrobe refresh, here are some things to think about so you can stay on the right side of casual.

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Have you heard the joke about the real estate professional who spent a year having meetings on Zoom and never wearing suits — or shoes, for that matter? For many of us, that describes most of the last year, a time when business casual meant putting on a “real” shirt with pajama pants and calling it a day.

Whether you began your real estate career during COVID or shifted your existing business online, you may be wondering what professional apparel looks like now. Can you wear a hoodie to a listing appointment? Can you wear sneakers to an open house? Do you need to revert back to pre-COVID professional-wear or are there new norms you should follow?

Has your business casual gone too far?

One of the lasting effects of more than a year spent working from home may be that business casual will be more casual than ever in the years to come. Although some people are excited to go back to a dressier lifestyle, many others have chosen to change the way they think about dressing for the office.

If you’re not sure what the rules are anymore or if you simply want to reconsider the way you dress for work, here are some things to think about so that you can stay on the right side of casual.

1. Dress for your market

Different markets have different ideas about what constitutes dressy and professional. Coastal and resort areas may have a more laid-back vibe, even for formal and professional occasions. Clients in urban areas may expect you to dress more professionally, while those in high-income suburban enclaves may favor a flashier style.

Southern clients may expect a dressier style than those in the upper Midwest. East Coast clients may have different ideas of professionalism than West Coast clients. Understand what’s expected in your area when putting together your work wardrobe.

2. Dress for your age

If you’re a younger agent, you may need to dress up a little more in order to make a professional impression. However, unlike your older counterparts, you can probably get away with some fun casual touches in your professional attire.

If you’re an older agent, your professional attire may come across as dowdy or overly fussy, especially to younger clients. While you don’t want to constantly chase the latest trends, make sure you are dressing for today’s professional landscape and not the one that existed 20 or 30 years ago.

3. Dress for your niche

If you are working with investors and commercial clients, you’ll probably want to convey a more upscale professional image through the way you dress.

If you are working with farm and land listings, you won’t score any points by showing up in high heels and impractical workwear. Make sure that you’re dressing for the requirements of your day and the tasks you need to accomplish.

4. Work with a shopper or subscription box

You don’t have to be a Kardashian to have a professional stylist on your team. If it’s been a while since you updated your professional wardrobe or if you simply need a style reboot after spending so much time at home, check out stylists and personal shoppers in your area.

They can help you evaluate your current wardrobe and add pieces that give you more options and make you look more put-together as you move back into business-as-usual.

Bree Jacoby

Bree Jacoby, CEO and founder of Bree Jacoby, Home of Style, offers great advice for real estate style: “You are selling a dream and a lifestyle when you sell a home. Show up looking great and like you belong in that home. Mirror what you’re selling and who you’re selling to.”

If you’re looking for convenience and affordability, a subscription box is an easy way to give your professional wardrobe a reboot. Most of them have a shopper or stylist dedicated to your account, so you can communicate your style, preferences and clothing needs one-on-one.

Here are some of the most popular:

  • Stitch Fix is one of the better known subscription boxes and offers clothes for men and women, with plus-size and maternity options as well as accessories.
  • Trunk Club is Nordstrom’s personal styling service with upscale brands at a variety of price points plus a style quiz to get you started.
  • Trendy Butler is focused specifically on men’s clothing, blending workhorse everyday pieces with more high-end designer options.
  • Rent the Runway is a shared designer closet that allows you to wear the latest fashions without investing in pricey purchases.
  • Similarly, Eloquii Unlimited offers trending designs that are rentable and come in a wide range of sizes.

One of the advantages of this cultural moment is the opportunity it offers for a personal and professional reset. This is your chance to think about the image you want to convey and remake your wardrobe and personal style in a way that works for you while still allowing you to put your best foot forward.

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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