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What is Business Casual? (Avoid Mistakes)

What Is Business Casual Attire? How to Choose The Right Outfit? Mistakes To Avoid

Business casual attire is a dress code that combines traditional business wear with a more relaxed style, yet maintains a professional appearance appropriate for an office environment. This dress code offers flexibility and enables employees to feel comfortable, while still looking polished and presentable.

Men’s Business Casual

  • For men, business casual attire includes slacks or dress pants, khakis, chinos, or dark jeans without holes.
  • Collared shirts, such as polo or button-down, are paired with the pants.
  • In colder weather, sweaters or blazers can be added for warmth and a more formal touch.
  • Footwear choices include loafers, oxfords, or dress sneakers.
  • Socks should be professional looking, and belts should match the color of the shoes.

Examples of business casual for men:

  1. Navy chinos, white button-down shirt, brown loafers, and a brown belt.
  2. Dark jeans, polo shirt, and dress sneakers.
  3. Slack pants, a long-sleeve sweater, and oxfords.
  4. Grey slacks, a light blue button-down shirt, a navy blazer, and black oxford shoes.
  5. Khaki chinos, a white polo shirt, and brown loafers.
  6. Dark denim jeans, a black sweater, and dress sneakers.

Women’s Business Casual

  • Women’s business casual attire may consist of slacks, tailored pants, knee-length skirts or dresses, and dark jeans without holes, rips, or tears.
  • Tops can vary from blouses, polo shirts, sweaters, or cardigans, and blazers can be added for extra polish.
  • Footwear options include pumps, loafers, boots, flats, or oxfords.
  • Accessories should be kept minimal and professional, with simple jewelry and belts.

Examples of business casual for women:

  1. Tailored pants, a blouse, a blazer, and pumps.
  2. Knee-length skirt, a sweater, and oxfords.
  3. Wide-leg dress pants, a cardigan, and flats.
  4. Black tailored pants, a red blouse, and black pumps.
  5. A knee-length sheath dress, a cardigan, and flats.
  6. Dark jeans, a white button-down shirt, a fitted blazer, and ankle boots.
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Business Casual: How to Choose the Right Outfit

Assessing the Workplace Environment

When deciding on a business casual outfit, it is essential to consider the environment in which you will be working. Different industries and companies have varying interpretations of what constitutes business casual attire. For example, a creative agency might have a more relaxed dress code than a law firm. Pay attention to what your colleagues are wearing and seek feedback from supervisors or HR representatives if you are unsure of the expectations in your workplace.

Considering the Occasion

The specific event or occasion can also dictate the type of business casual attire that is appropriate. When attending meetings, conferences, or company events, consider any dress code guidelines provided by the organizers. If you can’t find any information, look for cues from the event’s location or past events. For example, a company picnic or team-building event might call for more casual clothing, while a client meeting or networking event may require a more polished, professional appearance.

Examples

Men’s Business Casual:

  • Dress pants, khakis, or chinos
  • Button-down or polo shirts
  • Sweaters, sports coats, or blazers
  • Closed-toed shoes such as loafers or oxfords

Women’s Business Casual:

  • Dress pants, chinos, or knee-length skirts
  • Blouses, button-downs, or polo shirts
  • Sweaters, cardigans, or blazers
  • Closed-toed shoes such as flats, pumps, or boots

Important Elements of Business Casual Attire

Fit and Tailoring

An essential aspect of business casual attire is the fit and tailoring of clothing items. Clothes should not be too tight, nor too loose; they should fit the wearer comfortably and allow for easy movement. Moreover, well-tailored garments give a more polished and professional appearance, contributing to the overall image of business casual.

Color and Pattern Coordination

Another key element in business casual attire is color and pattern coordination. A general rule of thumb is to stick to neutral and classic colors like black, Navy blue, gray, and beige. Patterns can be included to add visual interest, as long as they are kept subtle and complementary to the overall outfit. Contrasting colors and patterns should be used with caution to maintain a professional look.

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Season-Appropriate Choices

Considering the season is also crucial when it comes to business casual attire. Opt for lighter fabrics and colors during warmer months, while choosing thicker materials and darker shades in colder seasons. This not only helps maintain comfort but also ensures that your outfit is suitable for the current weather conditions.

Examples

Men’s Business Casual:

  1. A well-fitted button-down shirt, dark dress slacks, and loafers.
  2. A polo shirt, khaki pants, and Oxford shoes.
  3. A sweater, collared shirt, dress slacks, and tie-up shoes.

Women’s Business Casual:

  1. A tailored blouse, knee-length skirt, and pumps.
  2. A knee-length dress, cardigan, and flats.
  3. A dark-colored blazer, wide-leg dress pants, and loafers.

Business Casual: Footwear and Accessory Selection

Business Causal: Men’s Footwear and Accessories

When it comes to men’s business casual attire, selecting the right footwear and accessories is crucial. Shoes should be closed-toe, such as loafers, oxfords, or brogues. Dark dress socks are preferred, and it’s essential to avoid athletic or casual socks. Accessories should be minimal and professional. A belt that matches the shoes and a wristwatch with a leather or metal band are suitable options.

Business Causal: Women’s Footwear and Accessories

For women’s business casual attire, footwear should be stylish yet comfortable. Flats, low heels, or closed-toe pumps are appropriate choices. Avoid overly casual footwear, such as sneakers or flip-flops. Women should wear dress socks, tights, or pantyhose when wearing skirts or dresses. Simple jewelry, such as a pendant necklace, stud earrings, or a delicate bracelet, can complete the outfit. A belt can also be a functional and stylish accessory for women’s pants and skirts.

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Examples

Men’s Footwear and Accessories Examples:

  1. Brown leather Oxford shoes, dark dress socks, and a matching brown leather belt
  2. Black leather loafers, black dress socks, and a black leather belt
  3. Brogues with dark dress socks, and a matching leather belt

Women’s Footwear and Accessories Examples:

  1. Black flats, black dress socks, and a delicate pendant necklace
  2. Nude closed-toe pumps, nude pantyhose, and stud earrings
  3. Low heels, sheer tights, and a thin leather belt

Business Casual Attire: How to Avoid Mistakes

Common Mistakes

  • A common mistake in business casual attire is wearing clothes that are too casual, such as sneakers, athletic clothing, or beachwear.
  • Flip-flops, clogs, and rubber-soled sandals should be avoided.
  • Stay away from torn or frayed clothes or visible undergarments: these are considered unprofessional.
  • Another frequent mistake is to wear clothing that is too formal, such as suits, blazers, or ties. In a business casual setting, it’s essential to strike a balance between casual and formal wear.

Examples

For men:

  • Do: Button-down shirts, polo shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, and collared shirts.
  • Do: Sports coats, jackets, dress slacks, khaki pants, and dark or light dress socks.
  • Do: Loafers, Oxfords, and tie-up shoes.
  • Don’t: Shorts, sneakers, athletic clothes, hats, hoods, casual denim. (Dark denim jeans may be allowed if they don’t have holes or tears.)

For women:

  • Do: Slacks or business dress pants, khakis, chinos, knee-length skirts, and dark jeans without holes.
  • Do: Short-sleeved shirts with collars or blouses that can be worn without a blazer.
  • Do: Casual dresses (not too revealing) and dress shoes.
  • Don’t: Leggings, sweatpants, beachwear, halter tops, tank tops, crop tops, or flip-flops.

 

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