So let’s say your company has a business casual dress code. You’re not exactly sure what that means, but while your co-workers come to work wearing all kinds of crazy attire, you want to pin down what, exactly, is appropriate. So what is business casual?
First, kudos for even bothering to find out!
While all your languid coworkers are trying to figure out what they can “get away with” wearing to work, you’re taking the initiative to package your education and experience properly, which will pay HUGE dividends now and for years to come. In an increasingly casual society, learning how to dress for success will allow you to stand out and move to the front of the line quickly. There is no “luck” about it – knowing the dress code, like studying for a test, puts on you the “A” list.
So what, exactly, is a business casual dress code?
Let’s start by taking a look at what it’s not. Because when people hear the words “business casual” the only one that usually sticks is “casual,” which they equate with comfort and dressing down. Next stop? Sloppyville.
Here’s what not to wear for business casual:
Unless you work in the athletic industry and are a coach or personal trainer, you should NEVER wear sweats or training clothes to work. Why? Well, it’s kind of like wearing a business suit to teach ballet or a ball gown to rock climb: completely inappropriate. Work clothes belong at work; work out clothes belong at the gym.
There are some industries that call shorts, tank tops, and flip flops work attire. Most of them are near a beach or swimming pool and operate only during warm weather. If that doesn’t describe your job, then don’t wear beachwear to work.
Looking to hit the club scene after work? Great! Then bring something to change into for after hours. Short skirts, high heels, and silky fabrics look great on the dance floor but – how can I put this nicely? – trashy at work. And if you should mess up royally on something on the job, your after-hours social life will be blamed, whether justified or not. Don’t be known as the party animal; be known as the competent one.
So now that you have some ideas of what not to wear to work, let’s define the business casual dress code:
Formal business attire typically requires a matching suit in crisp, tailored fabrics; business casual consists of non-matching separates in more relaxed fabrics. Key element: a collar.
Think refined yet relaxed, or the “country gentleman” world of Ralph Lauren. You know – like you’re dressing for a polo match or round of golf at an upscale club in the Hamptons.
You mean business casual isn’t the opposite of business formal?
Absolutely not! It’s just a more relaxed version of it. You still need to exude credibility and respect, and you can’t do that in shorts, flip flops, or a sequin top. Why downplay your education and experience in jeans and a t-shirt when you can properly showcase them in an eye-catching shirt and skirt?
Here are some examples of business casual:
All photos courtesy of Macys
Don’t be fooled by the “casual” in business casual. It’s still business attire, just not as formal as the traditional suit and tie. Don’t go down the path of least resistance like many of your coworkers; instead, keep it crisp, keep it professional, and do what’s appropriate instead of “what you can get away with.” Your bank account will thank you for it.
Want specific examples of the business casual dress code for your industry? Download a copy of Business Wear Magic to see how profitable learning the dress code can be.