Business Casual Attire – 3 Keys to Putting Together a Business Casual Wardrobe

Business casual is a wonderful idea for people who want to feel relaxed in the workplace. No more spending the day in a stuffy suit. Now you can dress to feel good.

But wait. If you think business casual means that anything goes, think again. It’s easy to go down the slippery slope from business casual to business casualty.

What’s the answer to looking professional while wearing business casual? Most companies opt for a list of do’s and don’ts. But understanding your industry goes a long way in helping you project a businesslike image when you wear business casual clothing.

Here are three key questions to help you put your wardrobe together:

1. What is the dress code for my industry?

Every industry has a dress code. In conservative industries, such as finance or insurance, you might wear a suit every day, and dress down only on casual Fridays if you are not meeting clients.

In creative industries, such as advertising or design, you should keep up with the new styles, and have a bit of an edge. But you have to tailor the runway trends to a work environment, and choose clothes that suit your body type, coloring and personality.

If you work in a high-tech firm, such as a software design company, the look is very casual. But you still have to look neat and clean. Grungy is not a business casual look.

2. What is my company’s dress culture?

Every company has its corporate culture. Some corporations institute a casual dress code without fully embracing it, and executives may be expected to dress up even if casual dress is allowed. If the CEO wears a suit every day, take your cue from the top and dress more formally. You’ll set yourself apart by projecting professional presence.

3. Who do I interact with?

If you represent your company to clients, tailor your look according to these questions:

a. What are your clients wearing?

b. How do they expect you to look?

c. What will make them most comfortable?

d. What will make them feel respected?

If you don’t have contact with the public, you have more freedom in what you wear. However, you should still take your cues from your superiors.

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.