Work events or general office dress codes can be tricky. You might be asked to dress in full business attire or business formal or maybe you’re starting at a very casual office. But what does it mean when a company requests a business casual dress code? And can you get this wrong? Here, we are looking into it a little more closely for you.
We’re basing this blog mainly on womenswear so if you’re on the hunt for what’s right to dress business casual for men, scroll to the bottom and we’ve done a section just for you.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is traditional business attire?
In a traditional work environment, a strict business dress code might well be in place. So, what does this mean? For men, full suits are a must. This means dress shirts, dress pants or dress slacks and blazer or sport coat. For business attire, a tie should also accompany your collared shirt and the outfit should be finished with leather shoes.
For the ladies, this also really means business suits or very formal business-style dress or pencil skirt with a button-down shirt, finished with dress shoes or heels.
What is business casual attire?
Business casual attire is a more modern approach to office wear, which is now just as common as traditional business clothing. Business casual is the balance between formal business and weekend attire, allowing employees more freedom with their choices but with restrictions to ensure staff still look professional.
The problem with business casual dress codes is there is not a strict and absolute set of rules. Every business will conduct business casual differently and if you’re starting somewhere new with this dress code then it’s always best to ask for clarification if you’re not sure before heading into the office.
Top Tips for a Business Casual Wardrobe
Here we crack on with our top tips for a business casual wardrobe and some sneak picks from Shop It To Me.
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Embrace the Midi Skirt Trend
As trends go, this is a huge one for both workwear and casual wardrobes. So, it’s perfect for a business casual wardrobe. No matter the fabric, midi skirts are flattering to every figure and are modest and professional yet stylish and feminine, allowing you to show off a little of your personal style at the office.
Style midi skirts with anything from simple knitwear to a crisp white shirt and team with heeled mules or pointed flats to keep the look sharp and chic.
Thought midi skirts were frumpy? Think again.
Try a knitted skirt for fall and winter, which is a great way to stay snug in cooler weather but keep your look feminine and on-trend.
Don’t be afraid to do colors. The utility trend is big again for fall but if you’re not keen on the khaki and cream hues of the trend, why not opt for a bright and feminine pink which is super-girly yet office attire appropriate.
If you love a touch of leather, a knee-length leather skirt is a perfect balance between a dressy and professional outfit and a more casual look. We love this A-line skirt from Halogen.
Invest in A Small Selection of Blazer Jackets
Blazers instantly dress up any outfit so find yourself a small selection of blazer jackets that you can then pair with anything from jeans to a satin midi skirt. Even layering a blazer over a tee instantly makes it more business-friendly.
You can never go wrong with a classic black blazer.
Opt for a print in neutral hues that goes with anything.
Tailor Your Pants
If you don’t want to do suits or dresses, tailored pants are a great way to look professional while allowing you to them pair them with a comfy t-shirt or knit. Finishing with pointed pumps keeps your look sharp with a casual edge. The perfect combo for business casual attire.
A pair of black tailored pants will make your life so easy. A classic choice that will never go out of style.
Neutral palettes are good for every season and add a casual twist to your look.
Power red always looks good at the office. Especially with super-chic and elegantly tailored trousers. Add a tee and chunky necklace and you could even wear these with sneakers.
Do Office-Appropriate Denim
Business casual means you can wear denim to work. Hurrah! However, wearing jeans to work doesn’t work for every office dress code, so if you’re new, remember to ask and clarify first! Depending on the formality of your office, rules will be different.
Some offices are so casual that ripped boyfriend jeans are acceptable. Some would find this too casual. If you’re not sure, air on the side of caution and avoid light wash, ripped and loose-fit jeans and stick to more dressy styles that look a little more like a tailored trouser.
Black denim is a great choice. Not only does it look and feel smarter than blue denim, but it’s also a great way to wear your jeans without it being too noticeable in the office.
Another great way to do denim is to choose a chic print. A subtle print like these Paige jeans pairs perfectly with a simple shirt or cami for a smart take on denim that’s still an appropriate business look.
Coated denim is another chic way to wear denim to office. With an on-trend finish, these jeans pair perfectly with white finished with chic pointed-toe shoes.
Finally, let’s round off with some of the key points for dressing for an office-appropriate, business casual dress code.
Business Casual Do’s
· Do still dress up if you want.
Just because your office says business casual, doesn’t mean you can’t still dress up if you feel better. The more professional you look and feel, the more productive you’re likely to be at your desk so if you like wearing a smart suit, go for it.
· Do take note of your co-workers.
If you’re starting somewhere new with a business casual dress code for the first time, always air with caution at the beginning and check out what your co-workers are wearing to suss out how casual you can go.
· Do denim. But get it right.
Denim is acceptable at most smart casual offices. However, keep your distressed jeans for the weekend and opt for sleek and chic choices instead.
· Do opt for a mid-length skirt.
Take advantage of this on-trend piece and stock up chic midis that you’ll wear all year round.
· Do go chic in neutral colors.
Neutral color palettes are super chic. Don’t feel like you have to always wear dark hues or power red, opt for natural khakis, creams and tans too.
· Dress up with blazers.
A sharp, well-tailored blazer jacket can dress up most outfits. If you’re not sure about your look, add a blazer and it will push your outfit over the edge into the perfect smart-casual territory.
Business Casual Don’ts
· Don’t wear low-cut necklines.
It’s just not cute at the office to have too much skin on show. Make sure you’re being noticed at work for all the right reasons.
· Don’t stick to dark colors.
Be daring and opt for other hues and forget sticking to just blacks and greys like in more traditional offices. Be playful and get creative with your style! Why not!?
· Don’t think of business casual wear as casual Friday.
Don’t get too casual. You want to look and feel professional so air on the side of business when deciding your looks.
· Don’t do flip flops.
No matter how cool your boss is, flip flops are not for the office.
· Don’t stretch it with sweatpants or leggings.
They might be comfortable and perfect for “work at home” days but your leggings and sweatpants don’t belong in the office. This look would be far too focused on the casual in business casual.
Business Casual for Men
A huge portion of offices are now dressing business casual. This change of dress code arguably affects men even more so than women because it means an end to the traditional business suit that so many men are used to wearing at work.
Here are a few pointers of things to try out if you’re heading into a new business casual work environment.
You don’t need super formal button-up shirts anymore. Opt for prints, colors and even a selection of different and more casual fabrics.
Fine knitwear works well for business causal instead of a shirt. Keep it chic and avoid sweatshirts - try crew and V necks and even simple turtlenecks with slacks or denim.
Smart Polo Shirts
Simple and effective. A polo shirt is good for business casual because it’s the perfect balance of a shirt and a t-shirt. Wear polos with smarter slacks or chinos for a look that still feels professional.
Without the need for suit trousers or dress trousers, you can experiment a little more with anything from chinos to corduroy. Colors often dictate formality with men’s trousers so see what works for your office and go with it.
Like with women, denim is often acceptable at a business casual office. However, you still need to be careful that you still look and feel professional. Avoid light wash and avoid any sort of rips or distress. Stick to smarter styles, such as;
Loafers are a great choice that land somewhere between dress shoes and casual shoes. Opt for darker hues or suedes for a chic look.
Many offices will accept sneakers for business casual. Some will even be fine with white Adidas Classics or Nikes. But if you’re not sure, stick to styles that are still a little more formal but that give you all the comfort you’re looking for.
Whether you’re preparing for a job interview or just looking for some tips on how best to do a business or smart casual dress code, hopefully, we’ve covered a few new ideas for you! If you came to us from a quick Google search about what business casual means then make sure you take a look at the rest of our blogs for fashion and style tips and all the latest trends.
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