Many industries have made business casual attire the norm in terms of dress code. Even though it is true that business casual provides a great deal of flexibility on what you can wear, it also brings a lot of confusion to the table. It is easy to misunderstand the meaning and mix-up the guidelines by wearing the wrong clothes.
If you have recently started to wonder what is the exact definition of a business casual attire – then that normally varies from company to company. Moreover, “business” and “business casual” has a subtle difference, so this is another reason people mix things up. Now if you are planning to go to your workplace in a sundress or one of your regular tees then that may just end up being too casual. On the other hand, if you wear your best suit, it will not raise a serious problem but that will simply make you look too formal. This is why you need to find that fine line to balance your attire and not only feel comfortable but also meet the dress code guidelines of your workplace.
Many people do not know this, but business casual dress code can be a blessing in disguise. If you are well-aware of what to wear, then you can easily make your regular work clothing feel more comfortable. This is especially the case for people who wear a three-piece suit regularly. Although it may look classy, at times it can become a cause for discomfort. Amidst all the confusion on what to wear and what not, are you looking to clear your doubts? Well, then you have come to the right place. We will be going over the essentials of business casual attire for both men and women to make sure you always look classy and professional.
Business Casual Attire for Men
Most men often think that business casual simply means no tie. While that may be true for many offices, you can still find numerous exceptions to this. Just to be on the safe side, there are a couple of guidelines that you may need to be aware of. So let’s explore from head to toe what is acceptable in the category of business casual attire for men.
Shirts are one of the most important and the easiest part of a business casual attire to go wrong with. Button-down or collared shirts are known to be the most common choices for men. However, some offices even allow polo shirts, so that heavily depends on your workplace and how progressive they are with the dress code. As for the color of your shirt, there are not many restrictions. This is perhaps the only part of the attire in which you could go with just about any color. However, there is one thing you want to make sure of and that is, regardless of which color you wear, it must be matching with the rest of your attire.
Deciding which sweater falls in the category of business casual can be difficult. Mostly you are going to see the guidelines only for pants, shoes, and shirts while the sweaters would be ignored. This is why, to clear your confusion, you can wear a fine-knit sweater to your workplace to battle the winters. These sweaters leave the collar visible giving your attire a classy look. If you are still looking for other options, then a chunky-knit sweater may be appropriate as well, but try to keep both of them in solid and clean colors.
Blazers and Jacket
Not everyone is inclined towards wearing sweaters. Of course, you need to know what options you have for blazers and jackets. Sometimes you may find that wearing the right blazer or jacket would add a more professional touch to your attire. Jackets hide most of your shirt, so if you do not like the shirt you are wearing or find yourself short on options, then jackets can be a lifesaver. Solid jackets are widely accepted, and as for the color, just do not try to go for something too flashy. Blazers can especially be great if you are going to an interview as they further enhance the look of your attire. Otherwise, if it is just a regular day at work, then you can go with just about any option you have available at that time.
Pants are another important part of your everyday attire that can easily leave you confused. There is endless variety when you are considering what type of pants you should wear at your workplace. There may be some offices where jeans are allowed. However, if you are uncertain and want to make sure that you meet the dress code standards then you cannot go wrong with chino pants. Chinos (also known as khakis) offer great versatility. They are normally preferred for business attire by both employers and employees because they go along with almost every type of shirt. Even though chinos offer a lot of flexibility in terms of color, it is often easy to get carried away with it.
Similar to your other attire, make sure that the color of your chinos does not look too flashy. Normally, sticking with darker colors such as grey, black or tan would be the ideal choice. It is worth mentioning that you should always try to wear a belt (with a regular and simple buckle) to represent yourself more professionally.
Last but not least- the choice of footwear. This is one thing that you do not want to go wrong with. Your footwear is going to determine your comfort throughout the day. If your job requires you to move around a lot then you are going to have a hard time making through with inappropriate footwear.
Are you a fan of wearing sandals? Well then, we got bad news for you. Sandals are rarely allowed at any office and look highly unprofessional especially when you need to attend meetings. As for the sneakers, they may be allowed, but not recommended either for business casual. To always stay on the safe side, wearing loafers or dress shoes is the way to go, as they are widely accepted all over the world.
In case you are wondering about what color to choose, then generally, there are not many restrictions regarding that. However, to represent yourself more professionally, make the color of your shoes match the rest of your attire, and make sure they are always well-polished and clean. This is one of the reasons people prefer black shoes, as they can go along with just about anything.
Business Casual Attire for Women
This is where things can become a bit tricky. The definition of business casual attire for women can vary significantly depending on where you live and your profession. This is why below we will go over some of the widely accepted standards to help you make the right choice.
Skirts and Dresses
Picking the right dress can already be difficult as it is. On top of that, keeping in mind the dress code of your workplace can make the task even more staggering. Even though some offices may have a great deal of flexibility in terms of skirt and dress length, it is normally more professional to go for knee-length. There is one thing you may want to keep in your mind and that is the tightness. Avoid going for skirts and dresses which may appear to be too tight, or too dressy.
As for the color, women’s business casual attire does not normally have too many restrictions. You could go for a color that aligns with your preferences, as long as you make sure that it looks simple enough.
Blazers can always add a distinct look to your dressing and further enhance your appearance. However, understanding what type of blazers fall under the category of business casual is also important. It is normally recommended that when you are buying blazers, they are either black, blue, or grey. Those colors usually go along with just about any outfit and in the long run, you would not find yourself short on options as they can be easily used in your rotation.
There may not be any restrictions with a more vibrant color, but it is normally not advisable to buy one as it may rarely match with the rest of your outfit. So, your aim for business casual blazers should be to go for a more versatile color.
There is a wide range to choose from when it comes to pants. Similar to men, jeans may not be allowed so you should stick with chinos to align with the dress code requirements of your workplace. Choose the color and design of your pants while keeping the atmosphere of your office in mind. It is always best to be straight-up and ask the management if you think there are any color restrictions to be on the safe side. Although no one is normally going to have an issue with what color you wear as long as it matches with the rest of your attire.
The tightness of the pants is also another aspect you may need to keep in mind. In some work environments, tight pants may be considered unprofessional, so you might want to check-in with how things go around at your office.
Button-downs and Blouses
This is also another part of your dressing that heavily depends on the policies of your workplace. But if you are looking for an option you could not go wrong with, then an ironed and well-fitted blouse is the safest choice you could go for. The same applies to button-down as well. There may not be many restrictions with it but try going for a simpler and professional design. In the end, Regardless of what your preference is with this one, make sure that it is comfortable enough for you to go through the day.
The footwear is undoubtedly one of the most difficult parts of women office attire. You may already have countless options at your disposal, so knowing what goes along with your current clothes can already be challenging as it is. On top of that, you need to also keep in mind your job requirements and if you need to move around a lot then heels would not be recommended. The last thing you want is your feet to be sore at the end of the day.
Although women have a lot of flexibility with footwear, it is normally advised to go for flats or loafers. Sandals and sneakers are almost always frowned upon at workplaces, so you might want to stay away from those. If you feel that closed-toe heels are not going to get in the way of your job and other activities, then they may be a suitable option as well. In terms of color, there is normally a freehand. If you want to make sure that the same footwear goes along with the majority of your attire then black is the best option you could go for.
There is a wide range of options when it comes to clothing for both men and women. This is why it is not surprising that they often feel confused about what to wear for their semi-formal outfits as it is so easy to misinterpret. The dress code normally varies from country to country and the profession you are in can also make a difference. Although you cannot wear everything for a business casual dress code, you still have a great deal of flexibility with it. If you have always been keen about your dressing, then business casual opens the door for a lot of creativity as well.
After reading this article, we hope that your confusion is now cleared up a bit, and the next time you are going to work, making the choice is going to be easier for you. Regardless of what you wear, as long as you follow the given guidelines mentioned above and keep things simple, it should not become a cause for extra stress. So always look classy and professional, and make sure that you fully utilize the benefits of business casual attire by wearing comfortable clothes.