When the invite for that office activity requires “Business Casual” dress code, it doesn’t mean “dress as comfy as you want.” And as much as you would love to wear your beloved 2003 oversized jeans, when it comes to business, it is important to keep things professional. Starting with your outfit.
Do not mistake, however, business casual for boring casual. This is a dress code that intends to relax the formality of a business suit and allows you to dress more comfortable, but still professional. So yes, you can wear some color, take some fashion risks, and add your own personality to your business casual outfit.
Dos and don’ts of an often-ambiguous dress code
Do know the basics. These pieces are the bread and butter for a business casual attire, and you should always have them handy in your closet:
- A pair of dress pants with a matching jacket. Not necessarily the same color and fabric
- A skirt with a twin set sweater
- A classic dress to pair with a knitted jacket
- Chino pants with a blouse and scarf
Do add some flavor. Mix and match with your classic, solid color staples with some floral prints pieces, stripes or polka dot blouses, scarfs and shirts.
Read about beyond the traditional executive presence definition here.
Don’t show too much skin. If you think of your company’s Sunday brunch as an opportunity to boost your self-steam by feeling a little bit sexy, well… that is neither the time nor the place. We are not talking about looking boyish, but feminine, classy and appropriate all the time.
Avoid a neckline that falls 3–3 ½ inches below your clavicle line. For skirts, they shouldn’t be shorter than 3–4 inches above your knee.
Avoid wearing tight clothes, and save those romantic transparencies for that blind date your best friend is arranging for you. Always wear medium to long shirt sleeves and leave your favorite tank top at home unless a jacket conveniently covers it.
Do use denim very carefully. Before jumping into a fabulous pair of jeans, consider the people you are meeting and where the event is taking place. My advice, don’t take the risk when the dress code is business casual. Just save them for casual Fridays.
Here's a great video with more dos and don'ts for business casual dress code.
Business Casual Accessories, the “Danger Zone”
Business casual is the perfect dress code to add some color and “fab factor” to your outfit. Accessories are the right tools to do it. When it comes to work attire, however, the line between looking cool and modern, and dressing inappropriately, is too thin. So let’s be careful.
Shoes and bags. You are not going to a barbecue, a movie, or a restaurant with friends. Then, resist the temptation to wear those trendy, enormous platform shoes you are dying for, and choose a pair of shoes, sandals or boots that are nice, fashionable but suitable for business.
Say yes to high heels, but wear those with a medium height, 4 inches or less. You can always marry bright color shoes with a neutral outfit and matching jewelry.
When its come to bags, prefer medium size handbags or purses. However, an oversized tote as a focal point could be great if you keep the rest of the outfit as simple as possible.
Jewelry. Avoid chunky necklaces, big earrings, and high fashion accessories in general, unless they are used as a subtle accent. For example, a touch of rose gold, a nice vintage piece of jewelry or a designer watch. Quality materials and impeccable design are the number one rule when it comes to business casual attires.
And last but not least, do pay attention to hair, makeup, mani-pedi and perfume. When in doubt, rely on the “less is more” mantra. I promise you will ace your business casual attire.