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.

Putting together a polished, professional business wardrobe takes time and thought.

Do you know the biggest business wardrobe mistakes? Find out with this free report:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 Tips For Choosing the Best Business Casual Clothing

In the last ten years or so, the way people dress for work has changed dramatically from a generation ago. If you take a look around a typical downtown city center in America these days, more than half the people are wearing business casual clothing, such as jeans, tee shirts, and sports shoes. While there are still those professionals who wear classic corporate clothes such as suits, more and more people are enjoying the buttoned-down look of casual business attire.

Like any other cross section of humanity, people wearing casual business attire vary in style. Whether you are going to meet up with a potential client at the local coffee shop or enjoy a nice celebration dinner with a favorite colleague, there are some good rules of thumb to consider when considering your casual business attire.

They are:

1. If you like jeans, Choose ones that are free from tears, rips, studs, chains, or other decorations. Save these for a night out with your friends at the dance club. Also, make sure they are not too low cut. Showing off the thong while dining with important clients is not the message you want to send! While jeans are becoming more and more accepted in business situations, common sense still should be your guide when looking for a pair to slip into for your day at work. There are a variety of sophisticated washes and styles now in jeans to meet just about anyone’s business taste.

2. Business casual clothing should be presentable, but that does not mean it has to be boring! Remember that many creative and freelance professionals enjoy expressing their personalities through their clothes. What to wear to work should be a reflection of what you do, so it is okay to jazz up an outfit with a pretty scarf or a fun jacket if you are more artsy, or put together a more tailored look with a blazer, turtleneck sweater, and slacks if you are more conservative.

3. Think about who you will most often interact with throughout the day when selecting your business casual clothing. Choose key foundation pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on your schedule and events. I always like to have a good supply of dressy tee-shirts in my closet that I can pair with a beautiful coat or leather jacket or even a cashmere cardigan. For guys, tee shirts are fine as long as they ares void of offensive images or language, unless you happen to be in the kind of business that encourages that sort of thing. Also, it is best to leave the sleeveless muscle tees at home unless you are meeting clients for a game of beach volleyball.

4. Business casual clothing also includes footwear, and once again, common sense prevails here. There are so many great choices these days for both men and women that extend beyond the proverbial wing-tip and pump. Boots, flats, even athletic shoes pass as acceptable footwear in today’s casual business attire climate. They key is to choose shoes that fit well and allow you to walk comfortably, especially if you work in an urban environment.

5. Finally, business casual does not equal sloppy or anything goes. Humans are quick to judge each other on how we look, so it is worth taking the time to choose a basic workable wardrobe and invest accordingly. A very good friend of mine who is a professional fashion consultant suggests that no matter what, every business casual professional should own a really good coat or jacket. This goes for both men and women. Again, the style is not as important as is the quality and the fact that you feel good when you wear it.

When trying to make money in a competitive business world, knowing what casual business attire is and is not can do wonders for your bottom line. In general, use the wisdom of the 3 P’s my Mom passed on to me when I was getting ready to enter the professional world: Would my Parents, Principal,and Priest give me the thumbs up about what I have on? Perhaps a bit old-fashioned to some readers out there, but in all fairness, those age-old ideas last for a very good reason. And with so many choices today in business casual, it’s better to be safe than wish you had checked to make sure your underwear wasn’t showing through a hole in your jeans when trying to land that lucrative client!

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