Business Casual Explained

What is Business Casual?

Ask ten different people and everyone would have a different interpretation on what it is, and what can be worn. This has lead to dress down confusion and frequently inappropriate office attire. The key word is “business”. Business casual is not casual dress, but a more casual way of business dressing versus business formal. Problems arise when business casual in the workplace gets too casual. It is not weekend casual, sporting event casual, gym wear such as jogging suits, night club attire, or beach wear. Business Casual means dressing in a professional more relaxed way, yet still looking neat and pulled together.

Whether business casual is designated to Friday or everyday, clarity should be provided in a business casual dress policy. The policy should provide specific guidelines to the employees. Employees who call on clients should be asked to keep a change of clothing in case they have to go outside the office to see a client.

Guidelines:

Clothing should be pressed, clean, and not show signs of wear.
No offensive clothing that has words or pictures that could offend others.
No clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, chest, stomach or your underwear.
Clothing shouldn’t be too tight or too baggy.
If jeans are allowed they should be dress jeans in a dark denim.
Avoid trendy.

Guidelines For Women:

Casual pressed pants, tailored pants or dressy capris. Avoid shorts and leggings.
Skirts. Avoid too short, floor length and high slits.
Tops: Collared shirts, conservative sweaters, cardigans and sweater sets.
Casual dresses. Avoid party dresses, floor length dresses, and sundresses.
Hosiery is not essential in the summer for business casual.
Shoes: Can be opened toed or a dressy sandal for the summer. Avoid thongs, flip flops or beach like sandals. In the winter a closed toe shoe or conservative boot.
Jewelry: Avoid extremes.

Guidelines For Men:

A sports jacket
Collared Shirt, polo shirts, knit shirts with collars
Ties are not necessary
Dress sweaters such as a turtleneck or crewneck
Tailored pants, Khakis
Socks
Shoes can be more casual such as a loafer. Avoid sandals, flip flops, athletic shoes and hiking boots.

One last word of advice, think business before casual.

Pat Elke, Founding President of Advancing With Style is a leading authority and executive advisor in the areas of professional image, business and social etiquette, workplace civility, international business etiquette, and cultural awareness.

Since 1982 she has worked with over 600 corporations and delivered more than 1500 seminars worldwide. Clients range from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies, and from political leaders to financial CEO’s.

Business Casual Dress – What is Business Casual?

Business casual dress causes a great deal of confusion in the workplace. What exactly should you wear? Are jeans acceptable?

Here’s an explanation of what business casual means, and how you can put together a wardrobe that still looks professional.

Business casual dress is a combination of the formal, dark colors of business wear, with the relaxed, comfortable look of casual wear. But be careful. It’s not weekend wear, or sportswear. It’s somewhere in the middle ground. It combines the professionalism of business dress with the comfort of casual dress, to create a smart, polished office look that’s a step below business formal.

Here are 5 tips to guide you in planning your wardrobe.

1. If you wear business formal dress (a suit) to work everyday, and are now allowed to wear business casual on Fridays, dress one notch down. So you can wear a jacket and pants, but men can remove their tie. Or women can wear a pants suit instead of a suit with a jacket.

2. If your company allows you to wear business casual dress every day, when you are working in the office or for sales meetings, you still need to look professional. You don’t have to wear a suit, but you should wear neat separates. This would include a crisp blouse or shirt, or a nice sweater with pressed business pants (or skirt for women).

3. Keep a jacket handy for unexpected meetings or client visits. Most companies that allow business casual in the office still want their employees to dress up when meeting clients.

4. Dress to make your clients feel comfortable. Even if your office is informal, if you visit clients who are more formal or conservative, it’s a good idea to dress to match their environment. You’ll make a better impression, because you are showing them respect when you dress up.

5. Ditch the jeans. Few companies allow jeans with business casual. If you work in an extremely casual environment, such as in software development, and your clients dress the same way, or you don’t meet with clients, jeans may be alright. Again, take your clues from your boss or manager, and from the people you meet with.

Business Casual

Did you know that the whole business casual fashion was started by an oil crisis? It’s true. Back in the 70’s we went through one of the first real shortages of oil and OPEC became a household name. The government in part of its response to the shortage asked all businesses to up the thermostat setting in their air conditioned work spaces to cut down on electrical power and thereby save on oil that fired those electrical power plants.

You probably already know that a suit and tie are not really designed to be worn in an 80 degree environment. So the memo comes down from management basically saying that formal business attire is not required during the national air conditioning crisis and business casual was born as a fashion.

That memo back in the 70’s typically defined business casual by defining what was not acceptable rather than what was. Pantyhose still had to be worn by women. Jeans, T shirts, sandals, shorts and basically anything that management deemed inappropriate was specifically banned. As a result, business casual meant no jacket and no tie for many men and it didn’t mean much more for women.

When the crisis passed so did the business casual dress for everyday. Replacing it was “Casual Friday” a human resources gimmick to make everyone feel good about the company just before the weekend. And then something happened. The fashion industry smelled a new market and started promoting the idea that companies that were cutting edge and hip, like two new hot stocks Microsoft and Apple, understood the value of letting their employees have some freedom in dress rather than conforming to the company uniform.

Today 43% of all businesses have a casual dress code.

While each organization sets its own idea of what casual is, typically their policies include some common ground. The employment counseling office at American University defines business casual as half way between business formal and street wear. They give their graduates looking for a job this guidance on what is and isn’t casual business.

For women it’s a skirt or an informal dress so long as the length is appropriates (no minis). The skirt can be topped with a dress shirt, polo, sweater or sweater set. Pants are OK so long as they are full length and not made of denim. For men it’s a collared shirt, casual slacks, a belt and shoes with socks. The shirt has to be tucked in and the pants can’t be jeans.

Now understand that American University is located near Embassy Row in Washington DC so their idea of casual is just a tad more formal than say businesses in Los Angeles. The bottom line is the company sets the standard but in almost every case, regardless of the restrictions; working in casual dress is just so much more comfortable than a suit. Thank you OPEC.

Business Casual Examples

In today’s modern world, there are no longer many work settings where one must wear a suit and tie to work every single day. Some work places have, in the last 25 years or so, been deemed “business casual” or many have a business casual day each Friday. But what exactly does this somewhat subjective term mean? What should you wear to a business casual office?

When determining what to wear to work, you will want to put a little more focus on the word “business” and a little less on the word “casual.” This term was created in order to prompt people to be more comfortable in the workplace. But you still need to look professional every day. So if the term were slightly more accurate, it would perhaps be called “business comfort” instead. Key pieces for this type of wardrobe are:

Flat front pants in cotton or wool, in black, gray and khaki.
Button down shirts in pastels, pinstripes, and dark/brights such as aubergine and teal.
Lightweight knits such as cotton, wool and cashmere.
Patterned ties.
Sport jackets.
“Non-sneaker” shoes such as boat shoes, penny loafers, or derby shoes.

One of the keys to creating a stylish and appropriate business casual wardrobe is look for staple pieces that you can mix and match. For example, a pair of charcoal gray wool pants can be worn with a lightweight knit, a button down shirt and tie, or a button down shirt with a sport jacket. A solid colored cashmere v-neck sweater can be worn over a button down shirt and tie, layered over a ribbed cotton crewneck, or worn underneath a sport jacket. A button down shirt with a light pin stripe can be worn by itself with the sleeves rolled up (on a hot day), worn with a tie, layered underneath a sweater vest, or worn with a suit.

Wait… a suit, you ask? In a business casual setting? Yes, there are times when a suit is definitely still appropriate and even warranted. If you are going to be meeting with clients or if you have a business meeting, it’s time to suit up. Earth toned suits such as those in brown, khaki and olive green are generally regarded as more casual than those in black or navy. You can also look for a suit with an interesting pattern, such as light plaid or pinstripe. A key to appearing a little more relaxed and casual in a suit is also definitely in what you wear under it. You should avoid character or novelty ties. But this is a good time and place to experiment with different tie styles. Try wearing a tie in a lively color such as purple, mauve, orange or yellow. This is a great way to add a touch of personality to your outfit, and it appears much less conservative than, say, a traditional navy and red diagonally striped tie.

The bottom line to building an appropriate business casual wardrobe is that while it is supposed to be “business comfort,” you are still in a work place. It is a great idea to wear ties with a bit of color in them, to casually roll up the sleeves of your button down shirt to your elbows, or to wear a sport jacket with a pair of khakis or wool pants instead of a suit. However, it is not a good idea to wear tee shirts with written slogans or sports teams on them, faded denim, plastic sandals, or anything with holes in it. Remain conservative and professional with your wardrobe, but inject some comfort and creativity into it.

Guidelines for Dressing Business Casual for Women

Now that summer is in full-swing, we have a tendency to want to dress more casually. This is true in all facets of life whether they be play, travel, or work. While no one really cares how you dress when you are playing or traveling, aside from dressing appropriately, people do care how you dress at work. There is a difference between business casual and just plain casual. In fact, dressing too casually can even cause some bosses to think that you are not serious about your job and therefore not promote you. On top of that, the more casually you dress, the more casually people will treat you in the office. This is bound to cause some, completely avoidable, tension in the workspace.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a double standard about business casual for men and women. Business casual for women needs to be a little more business and a little less casual. Here are some tips to maneuver the murky waters of what business casual for women means.

First of all, do not even consider those really comfortable but ripped jeans (you should actually avoid jeans altogether unless they are a dark wash and high-waisted). All seams should be finished, all holes patched, and all frays cut. Also, avoid clothing with writing on it, unless the writing is the company logo. Keeping this in mind, let’s consider what is considered appropriate such as slacks, skirts, dresses, blouses, and shoes/accessories.

Clothing: The fabric of your clothes can be anywhere from luxurious to linen or cotton. Make sure that your clothing fits appropriately, meaning not too tight, too short, or too low-cut. Under no circumstances should you wear something see-through unless you intend upon wearing a camisole underneath it. The best way to dress business casual is to wear only half of a suit. This does not suggest that you should walk around half-naked, but rather only wear the slacks or skirt of a suit and not the blazer. Another alternative is to wear the blazer over a simple cotton dress.

Shoes and Accessories: First of all, stockings are not necessary in the summer and it is way too hot for them anyhow. Your shoes should, however, still be nice. Sandals, especially flip-flops, should only make appearances at the company picnic or outing. If you don’t want to be stuck in your work stilettos every day of the summer, try wearing some wedges or strappy heels. They are more comfortable anyway and infinitely much more summery. Your other accessories should be tasteful. The general rule is to wear one statement piece and keep everything else small.

This means that if you choose to wear huge, dangling earrings, don’t wear a chunky necklace as well. This is true of your make-up too; if you want to focus on your eyes then wear a nude lipstick and vice versa. A great way to make an outfit more casual is to switch up your laptop bag. Try bringing one in a fun color instead of just a black protective case. Remember, your laptop bag and other accessories, do not have to match what you’re wearing. 100%

To conclude, if your mother wouldn’t have let you go to school ‘dressed like that’ in high school, you shouldn’t wear that outfit to work either. Of course, these are just guidelines. Every office is different and some offices may even have a section in the Employee Handbook about appropriate clothing. Make sure you double-check with human resources that there isn’t a list of specific do’s and don’ts somewhere. However, these tips should get you to work in fine fashion while still staying completely appropriate. And remember, always dress the way that you want to be treated: if you dress casually you will be treated casually!

Great Tips on Business Dress and Business Casual For Men

Adhering to a business casual dress code often poses a challenge for many men. You want to be comfortable and relaxed, yet still maintain a professional look. On the contrary, when maintaining a business dress etiquette, where do you draw the line on incorporating sportswear? Whether you’re a young professional just starting to build your wardrobe, or are well seasoned in the business world and want to add new inspiration to your men’s apparel, you’re in luck. Discover the differences between business dress and business casual for men and how to incorporate the appropriate style for your situation.

What to wear: Every work environment is different. What may be considered appropriate for business casual in some work spaces, may be too casual for others. Your best bet? Check out what your co-workers and leaders are wearing. You don’t have to copy their style, but it will give you an idea of how to dress business casual.

Suits and suit separates: A fine suit is the prime differentiating factor between business dress and business casual. The standard business dress code always requires a tie. A suit made from fine materials, well-fitting dress shirt, and silk tie are go-to items for business dress. However, make sure your suit, shirts and ties are clean and pressed each time you wear them. Wearing fine clothes that sport stains, rips or tears can be worse than not adhering to a business dress code at all. And in most cases, you can remove your jacket once you’re in the office or a meeting.
Dress trousers and khakis: Dress trousers are always suitable for any business casual dress code. Depending on your work environment, khakis will most likely be considered appropriate business casual apparel. Pair either with a sportshirt or turtleneck, sportcoat and leather shoes for a professional yet comfortable look.
Dress shirts: Dress shirts balance the look of your outfit and visually complement your accessories. For a business casual dress code, try pairing a pinpoint dress shirt with tweed trousers, penny loafers, a leather belt and cashmere scarf, and you’ll look instantly dashing. When adhering to a business dress code, a point collar is the most versatile for business or dress. Button-down collars look best with a sportcoat and khaki pants; they are not typically worn with a suit. Also, look for dress shirts that come in wrinkle-free and stain resistant materials. They’ll keep you looking fresh even during your busy travel schedule.
Shoes: Shoes are a versatile category. Many dress shoes that can be worn with a suit, can also be paired with your business casual attire. Tuxedo shoes, or black patent leather dress shoes, are too dressy for the office and should be reserved for black tie affairs. Historically, sneakers have been too casual, although designers are coming out with more sophisticated styles that may be appropriate for your work setting. Choose a pair of shoes that offer clean, crisp lines and are made from genuine leather. Be sure to treat them with a leather protector and clean them regularly, as a shoddy pair of shoes can instantly spoil an entire outfit.
Briefcase/laptop bag: A distressed leather mail carrier style bag, messenger bag and laptop case in subdued shades is acceptable for a business casual work environment. For business dress, however, a briefcase is best. Look for a classic case in a versatile shade such as cognac, burgundy or black.

What not to wear: Be forewarned in case you were debating wearing any of the following to work:

Obnoxious t-shirts: Wearing a soft tee shirt made from finely woven cotton underneath a V neck sweater is perfectly fine for business casual apparel. However, wearing your Spring Break tee from 1999 is not. Prominently displayed logos can look tacky as well. Save the raucous bachelor shirts for weekend use only.
Jerseys of any kind: Absolutely not. No. Not ever. A basketball, football, baseball, or any other kind of sports jersey is never appropriate for the office. The same goes with baseball caps, giant finger gloves, track jackets, or any other sports apparel you’re tempted to wear on a day when you’re not feeling so fresh. Others will notice your lack of effort and inappropriate attire immediately.
Sandals: While flip-flops have a charming, beach-hippie sort of appeal, you should avoid wearing them in a business casual work environment. No matter the designer or materials, they are simply too casual for the office.

Handy Tips for Wearing Business Casual Clothing

Smart casual attire means a variety of outfits you can wear on business casual meetings, dinners, birthday parties, holiday functions, business casual nights, family get-togethers and date nights. Your dressing style really matters a lot while attending different occasions. So, it’s important to dress up with the right clothes that look suitable and are well appropriate for different events. Casual dressing generally incorporates a lot of basic clothes and accessories but it can be changed according to the person’s preference and style. If you are looking for some smart casual dressing ideas that give you a stylish and more graceful look, here you can find different ways to create various business casual ensembles.

For Business Causal

· Men should consider light colors like light blue, light brown and khaki, instead of dark colors such as black, gray or navy for business casual dress code, as light colors look more casual than dark colors.

· Consider button down shirts in polyester, cotton twill fabric that allows comfort and gives a professional casual look. You can layer a button-down shirt with a casual blazer or sweater for a stylish casual look.

· For women, avoid wearing sleeveless top as it will not be appropriate for the business environment. It’s better to go for casual shirts, blouses, dress shirts or knit shirts, pair your shirts with blazers, lightweight cardigans or jackets.

· For bottoms, men should consider dress pants and avoid wearing shorts, trousers and sweatpants.

· Women can wear knee-length skirts and pencil skirts with leggings.

For Casual Parties

· Consider bright, bold or even light colors for casual tops like t-shirts, available in different styles like V-neck, crewneck, boat neck shirts. These shirts have quality fabrics made up of polyester and cotton, allowing comfort and give a casual chic look.

· When it comes to bottoms, men can go for khakis, jeans, sweatpants, while women can wear skinny jeans, capris, leggings, miniskirts, shorts and trousers.

· Sneakers and joggers go well for casual Fridays. Women can wear flat heel sand strappy sandals.

· For dinner parties, ladies can wear high heels while dark colored boots work well for men.

· Ladies can accessorize their casual outfits with jewelry items like earrings, necklace and chunky bracelets. Moreover, they can wrap a colored scarf around their neck to get a classy and versatile look.