Business Dress Level Three: Business Casual - Making Business casual work for you
August 20, 2014
Perhaps no other single workplace topic has garnered more ink (or caused more Human Resources Department head scratching) than the topic of “Business Casual.” As Justice Potter Stewart once said regarding the definition of obscenity, “I know it when I see it,” so, too, goes the definition of Business Casual – it’s difficult to define precisely, but we know it when we see it.
Defining formal business attire is easy: WEAR A SUIT! Business Casual – BC – is difficult. The “rules” differ slightly from workplace to workplace, and they differ even more according to gender.
Business Casual for Men
In many cases, BC for men boils down to a collared shirt with three buttons (aka a golf shirt), solid color or small print, and slacks made of sturdy, quality material in khaki or navy blue. The trick, however, is to ensure proper fit for a tidy look. The shirt must fit well (not too tight and not too loose), and the slacks need to be pressed, with a crease, and well-fitting.
However, men who prefer shirts that button are encouraged to wear those with regular or button-down collars, solid or small print or fine stripes, short- or long-sleeves. Cloth shirts should always have a pressed look, and while “wash n’ wear” has come a long way over the last 10 years, gentlemen may find that a touch-up with an iron or a garment steamer is needed. Slacks may be of light wool in khaki, gray, or navy.
Shoes, whether laced or loafer, must be polished, and the heels in good shape.
Business Casual for Women
In some workplaces, women who dress “Business Casual” follow the same rules as the men they work with. Khakis and golf shirts rule.
In other workplaces, however, women are allowed/expected to deviate from the men’s regimen. As you will see, women have a wide range of choices to select from: jacket, no jacket; dress, skirt, or slacks; sandals or closed toe; hose, no hose. Perhaps this list can sum up some of the more problematic aspects of BC for women:
IF YOU WEAR . . .
Wear an unconstructed jacket with a finished neckline or a blazer with a collar
Hemline at knee; solid or small print; sleeved or sleeveless
Dress trousers; pressed, creased; quality material
A Shell/Sweater Combination
Light-weight wool; well-fitting (not too tight, not too loose)
Long or knee-length; well-fitting according to style and cut
If open-toed, nails should be polished; close-toed should hide "toe cleavage"
Be sure the color, length, fit and fabric match the outfit and shoes(or sandals)
It has become much more common for women to go bare-legged, make sure this is considered acceptable in your workplace and that your legs are well groomed
Bottomline Business Casual for Men and Women
The move toward Business Casual dress is a way to make the workplace a bit more comfortable and friendly. That said, though, business is business, and the image you present should always convey your professionalism and efficiency.
Our next post “Business Dress, Level Four: Resort Casual,” will outline what to wear for casual work conferences and events such as sales and president’s club trips.