“Business Casual” can be a difficult dress code to interpret due to its ambiguity. Depending on what sector you work in and your office, it could mean a variety of formal and informal clothing.
Until the 1980’s, when business casual was more widely accepted, a formal suit and shirt was basically universally expected in an office setting. But today, “office wear” doesn’t really imply anything since we have people in the technology sector, for example, wearing jeans and a hoodie to work.
Every office will be different, but as a general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to wear neat, well-fitted clothing that is professional and modest.
What you wear to work plays a major your boss’s and colleagues’ perception of you, so be mindful of your choices. Here are my tips for smart and successful business casual wear.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
If you’re unsure of what to wear, the first thing to do is to have a look around your office for inspiration and to see exactly how much the dress code is “casual” and how much is “business.” Or, if there’s a dress code instated at all.
If you’re at a loss, ask a colleague that’s been there for a while. Whatever you do, make sure your outfits aren’t too informal, as it’s better to be a little overdressed than underdressed.
Take Care of Your Personal Hygiene
Looking your best is feeling your best. Each day, ensure you have styled hair, clean skin, brushed teeth and neat fingernails – this is the base of being put-together. Take care to make sure your clothes are clean and that you smell good or at least neutral without offending odors. Try not to wear cologne or perfume with strong scents because even if they’re inoffensive to you, you could be nauseating your coworkers.
You should always have extra deodorant, a comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste on you or at work. You never know what you could forget or what might go wrong!
For a cohesive look, choose a pair of smart shoes that you can wear throughout the day. Loafers are a classic, versatile style which works with trousers as well as with skirts and dresses. They work for any season, too.
It’s important to wear a shoe that’s comfortable enough to sustain you from 9 to 5—yet will work for your walk home and those after-work outings.
Play with Prints and Patterns
Business casual does not have to mean your clothing must be boring. Mix and match bolder items with classic, minimalist ones.
You can experiment with a colored shirt, a patterned blouse, a textured jacket, a polka-dot dress–there are many options to explore. These details add playfulness to your outfits without being over the top, and if well-chosen, these details will get you noticed for all the right reasons.
Don’t Forget to Accessorize
Pairing a few carefully selected accessories to your outfit help elevate your aesthetic. A statement necklace and a matching pair of earrings, for example, will add polish to your look, while a watch is an essential to being put-together.
While it’s better to keep the bulk of your work wardrobe fairly neutral so you can mix and match, accessories can add the spice to keep things from being too plain.
With accessories, you can be a little bolder, so don’t be afraid to try out new things. It’s easier to stay up-to-date and trendy with your accessories. It could be a hat, scarf, or a bold ring.
A Few Go-To Items
A set of versatile staples will make getting dressed easy. For example, a well-fitted jacket will immediately spruce up your outfit, so a few different ones is a good idea.
Some basic trousers like chinos and slacks are a must year-round. Sleek cardigans and jumpers in luxurious materials look dressy while keeping you warm. Use these single items as your go-to pieces, then tailor the rest of your outfit around them.
Business casual doesn’t need to be boring. Every office and job is going to have their own dress code—so, familiarize yourself with the setting, dress the part, and don’t forget to put a little “you” in your outfit.
Oh I love you have this perspective on business casual. I just don’t know why people don’t like making a bit of an effort to look slightly professional at work. It doesn’t take a lot right?
Yea it doesn’t. I don’t get why they don’t either.
Some great tips here on nailing the business casual look. It is always important to look your best.
Yes it is very important.
The words business casual used to make me nervous, I never really knew what to wear. Surely you’re either business wear or casual wear!
You can be business casual too 😊
Business casual can always be a hard thing to interpret. I think your advice to ask your colleagues is a good idea. They’ll be used to what’s allowed and what isn’t!
Yes you are right. Thanks Cath.
Yes to loafers and accessories. Comfort is definitely important and accessories make an outfit personal
Yes I agree 😊
Some great tips, I had to dress in this way for work before having my children x
Same here xx
I love this, although I have to say working from home luckily I dont have to wear business type clothes to much although occasionally when meeting clients or going to events I do.
Glad you do Laura xx
Business casual really is a difficult one to get right. These are great tips for fitting in comfortably to all office environments
Yes it can be tricky to get right. Thanks Zena.