The Do’s and Don’ts of Business Casual Attire

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business casual attire

Dress for success. But success does not mean wrapping yourself in thick black clothes.

In a 2018 survey, 50 percent of businesses said they allow casual attire every day. Many other businesses allow casual attire for one day a week.

Business casual attire provides the best of formal and casual clothing. But the definition of business casual is rather broad.

What constitutes business casual attire? How does it work for men, women, and gender-neutral spaces? What should you prioritize as you prepare to go to the office?

Answer these questions, and you can figure out the right office clothes for you. Here is your quick guide.

What Is Business Casual Attire?

Business casual is a cross between casual and business formal attire. The employee should dress comfortably while remaining considerate of the office space.

Formal attire is appropriate in any office setting, even casual ones. But a full suit or dress can be hot and stifling. Business casual allows employees to wear looser clothing.

Informal attire allows employees to be at their most comfortable, but it is often inappropriate. Business casual office outfits create a respectable appearance. Clients will see the employee as respectful without being too conservative.

What Counts as Business Casual

There is no exact definition of business casual. Every office space has different standards, though most have some overlap. Talk to your HR department to understand what works for your office.

Men

Men have several options for business casual clothing. They should wear a full-sleeved shirt, though they can roll up the sleeves for comfort.

A T-shirt may be acceptable in certain circumstances, like an outdoor event. The T-shirt should be a polo shirt with neutral colors like blue or beige.

A man can wear a blazer. It is semi-casual, making it ideal for an interview or a group meeting.

Pants should have full legs and straight cuts. Khakis and corduroys are often best. Pastels offer the best colors.

Formal shoes can accompany any business casual outfit. If formal shoes are too constricting, a man can select loafers.

Men should groom themselves and style their hair. Being clean-shaven is often best, but a trimmed beard or mustache can work.

Women

Business casual for women is a little different than attire for men. Women can wear pantsuits, and the jacket can remain unbuttoned. A white or blue light shirt tends to work well underneath.

Dresses and shirts are acceptable, provided that they go down to the knees.  They should allow for movement throughout the body. Simple colors and designs are great.

Women can wear tights to cover up their legs. Opaque tights with dark colors work best. A woman should try to wear a pair that complements their skirt.

Blouses with buttons work with pantsuits or on their own. The blouse can have a lighter fabric and color.

Chino and dress pants are always acceptable. Jeans are becoming more acceptable in different office spaces. They should be clean and free from wear and tear.

Flats and loafers are fine for shoes. Heels of any length are also okay.

Small jewelry around the neck or wrist can add style. Wedding rings, bracelets, and necklaces can be made out of material. It is acceptable to wear light perfume and makeup.

Gender-Neutral

More and more offices are opening up to gender-neutral dress codes. For the warm months, buttoned-down shirts work as tops. For fall and winter, all employees can wear sweaters.

Bottoms can be pants, but they should cover the entire leg. All shoes should have closed toes, and they can be made of leather or canvas.

What Does Not Count

Though each office space is different, there are many articles of clothing that are rarely acceptable. Hats and hoods are not okay. Athletic clothing is also unacceptable, including leggings.

Clothing should not be tight, revealing, or low-cut. This is especially important for tops. Shorts that go above the fingertips are not permissible.

No article of clothing should ever be torn, frayed, or wrinkled. All clothes should be clean and pressed.

Clothes should not have offensive materials on them. Certain designs may be permissible, but try to avoid wearing words on your clothes.

Cover up tattoos and body piercings, especially around the waist and hips. Underwear should never be exposed.

How to Dress for Work

The first priority is to seem professional. When in doubt, put on completely formal attire. It is better to overdress and seem a little stodgy than underdress and seem unprofessional.

Some scenarios like client meetings may require more professional clothes. Keep some in your office. Before you enter a meeting, you can put on a tie or pull a blazer over your top.

Spend a few minutes every morning finding the right clothes for you. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and try out your different options.

You should select clothes that speak to your personality. Feel free to toy with the colors a little, wearing dark blue while others wear black. If you dress exactly like everyone else, you won’t stand out.

Read guides on how to properly dress. Go to someone who specializes in providing business clothing. You should also talk to someone in your office, namely an HR or PR professional.

The Essentials of Business Casual Attire

Business casual attire is sweeping the country. It is business-appropriate dress that allows the employee to remain comfortable.

Men can wear full-sleeved shirts, blazers, and khaki pants. Women can wear pantsuits, long dresses, and button-down blouses. Gender-neutral spaces focus on sweaters and pants.

Tight, damaged, and provocative clothing is never acceptable. Every employee’s body should be covered as much as possible.

Dress in a way that shows off your personality. But be willing to adjust to conservative clients’ needs.

Fashion is important everywhere, including in the workspace. Follow our coverage for more fashion guides.