If you are new to the business world, many issues may be important to you such as what to say in an interview or committee meeting. However, when trying to make the right impression, what you wear may be as important as what you say. Many occasions these days call for “business casual” dress, but business world newbies may be uncomfortable with this term. While the specifics vary a bit from one type of event to another, some general guidelines regarding “business casual” attire hold true.
Men should wear dress pants made of linen, wool or corduroy, dark in color or khaki. Jeans and shorts are both taboo. Pants should be ironed to create clean lines.
Pair the pants with a long-sleeved shirt that matches the slacks. Ties are optional. It’s easy to remove a tie if you appear at an event and find no other men are wearing them, but you can’t add one if you haven’t worn one. As an alternative, you may wear a polo shirt (a knit shirt that has a collar), but dress it up a bit by wearing a blazer over it.
Wear black or brown shoes like loafers or Oxfords with dark socks. White socks should never be worn with dark shoes. Sneakers, sandals and boots are too casual to qualify as “business casual,” but you don’t have to wear polished dress shoes, either.
Women should also wear a dark piece on the legs, such as dark pants or a skirt. A classic dress like a shirt dress or sheath also works, although you should avoid flowery, loud patterns that sometimes appear on such dresses. They should fit your body but not be tight and clingy. A skirt should fall below the knees to be appropriate for business casual attire. A sheath dress should be covered with a blazer or cardigan for the most polished, business casual look.
With pants or a skirt, select a blouse or sweater that isn’t overly revealing or tight. Silky, shimmering fabrics are more appropriate for a party or a date than a business casual event. Instead, wear something simple such as a sweater with a matching cardigan or a white blouse. A blazer complements business casual attire well.
Similarly, shoes should not be overly dressy, such as high, spiked heels and bright colors, nor should they be too casual, such as tennis shoes and open-toed sandals. Pick closed-toed shoes of colors like black, navy, brown or tan.
Accessories should be simple and not flamboyant or flashy. A watch is certainly fine, but big pieces of jewelry or loud belts and scarves should be avoided. The same is true for makeup and nails; choose muted colors and remember that less is more.
Business casual attire means dressing somewhere between a weekend picnic with the kids and a formal dinner party. Wear clothing that is clean and neatly pressed, fits you properly and is understated with regard to color. Cologne and perfume should be used sparingly if at all, and of course hair and nails should also be clean and neat.
Following these basic guidelines will help you fit in at any event that requires business casual attire. In no time, you will be impressing those that matter.
“Business Casual Attire.” Virginia Tech Job Search Guide. Vt.edu.
“Cracking the Business Casual Dress Code.” Monster.com.