by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Do you find yourself asking "what should I wear?" when headed to a trade show, meeting potential clients, working in your bead store or teaching a jewelry-making class? Well, you're not alone. As an artist your fashion statement serves as an extension of your brand and plays an important role in presenting a professional image and making a great first impression.

Chances are you've considered the idea of "business casual," which just might be the most confusing term in the fashion language. And even if you've been able to figure it out, is the idea of business casual the same for the jewelry-making industry as other industries? For example is the business casual dress that is considered appropriate for a banking conference or trade show the same as the business casual dress for a bead show? Here's where the idea of jewelry maker's casual comes in. Borrowing some of the concepts from business casual, jewelry maker's casual is a guide to showcase your own individual style, while still presenting a professional image.

We all know how important quality tools are in jewelry-making, and fashion is no different. You'll want to make sure you have the following tools: a full-length mirror, iron and an honest friend's opinion! Finding the right look can take some time and effort, but having the right tools makes it easier.

Business Casual vs. Jewelry Maker's Casual

The traditional idea of business casual for women includes pantsuits, tailored separates (such as skirts, slacks, khakis, blouses, sweaters, sweater sets and jackets), and sheath dresses with a cardigan or blazer. Here are some suggestions to make it jewelry maker's casual:
  • Add jewelry! This is the best part of being a jewelry maker and now's the time to show off your work.
  • Create a pop of color with a select accessory, such as a belt, purse, shoes or fun scarf.
  • Jean jackets are a great way to add a more casual piece to a dress or tailored outfit.
  • Break up the pantsuit, for example wear the jacket with tailored capris and the pants with a more casual shirt and jacket.

The traditional idea of business casual for men includes tailored separates (such as dress trousers, collared sports shirts, fine knit shirts and sweaters), sport coats, khakis, chinos and knit golf shirts. Here are some suggestions to make it jewelry maker's casual:
  • Add jewelry! This is the best part of being a jewelry maker and now's the time to show off your work.
  • Incorporate leather accessories, sport coat or collared shirt.
  • Place a sport coat over a dressy t-shirt for a more casual look.
  • Create a pop of color with a bright shirt.

Things to Consider

Here are some things to consider when putting together a jewelry maker's casual outfit:
  • Audience - Will what you're wearing make people feel comfortable? Consider how people will perceive you based on your dress.
  • Comfort - Comfort is key when putting together an outfit, especially if you plan to be on your feet at a trade show or teaching a class. Choose fabrics that breathe well and layering is always a good idea as temperatures are not always consistent.
  • Fit - It's important that clothing fits well; consider having select pieces tailored for a perfect fit. You'll also want to make sure clothes are neatly pressed, even when traveling.
  • Approachability - As an artist you want people to feel like they can easily approach you, so creating an inviting look is important. Often times it can be as simple as leaving your outer jacket/sweater unbuttoned for a less-formal look. Wearing your own jewelry is a great way to encourage others to start a conversation with you.
  • Versatility - It's smart to wear something that can easily transition from day to evening. Often times you'll end your day with an unexpected dinner, so it's a good idea to anticipate this. A scarf, jacket or a different piece of jewelry can be easily carried with you for a quick transition.
  • Seasonality - Keep in mind the time of year and current weather. While open-toed shoes may be appropriate during warmer months, they are probably not the best choice for colder conditions. The same goes for short sleeves, capris and other seasonal styles.
  • Beyond the Clothes - A professional look includes more than just the outfit. Pay attention to general hygiene as well, keeping nails clean and manicured, make-up fresh and natural looking and hair neatly groomed.
  • Quality Materials/Handmade Items - Nothing beats incorporating quality materials into your look, such as leather belts, shoes and accessories and of course, your own jewelry! Wearing handmade items is a great way to showcase creativity and support other artists.
  • Something New - Boost your confidence with a new wardrobe piece or accessory. Incorporating a new item keeps your look fresh, lifts your spirits and helps to avoid a "wardrobe rut."
Helpful Tip: View current color and style updates, including fashion and jewelry inspiration, provided in the Jewelry-Making Trends.

Things to Avoid

While jewelry maker's casual offers a more creative approach to traditional business casual, there are still some items you'll want to avoid:
  • Faded t-shirts and t-shirts with controversial/inappropriate language or graphics
  • Blue jeans
  • Athletic shoes
  • Shorts
  • Mini skirts
  • Torn, wrinkled or dirty clothing
  • Risqué attire including halter tops, strapless tops and cleavage exposing clothing
  • Anything sleeveless or too tight
  • Flip-flops or other beach-ready shoes
  • Baseball caps
  • Spandex
  • Exposed undergarments
Jewelry maker's casual is more formal than weekend wear. To ensure you are on the right track, ask yourself the following questions when putting together an outfit:
  1. Would I wear this to the beach?
  2. Would I wear this out in the garden?
  3. Would I wear this to the gym?
  4. Would I wear this to lounge around the house?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then it is time to change!

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