I’ll be honest, this article won’t give you all the answers. It will, however, answer some frequently asked questions that confuse people about this particular dress code.
We’ve received quite a few requests to talk about this subject. So many, in fact, that it’s clear that the subject simply cannot be covered in just one article. Stay tuned for more articles in the coming months as we delve into interesting business casual outfit ideas, places to shop to find business casual clothing at different price points, and the varying levels of business casual (yes, there are different levels of business casual and we want you to know about all of them and how to approach each setting).
In the meantime, here’s a quick-and-dirty, high-level description of the dos and don’ts of business casual.
DO: Shoot to be overdressed rather than underdressed if you’re unsure about what kind of clothing is appropriate for the workplace or for a specific event.
DON’T: Wear strappy tank tops or crop tops. Especially if either your bra or your stomach is showing. There’s nothing wrong with wearing these items if you’re out with your friends on the weekend, but don’t bring them to a venue where you will see your boss, coworkers, others in your industry, potential or current clients, etc. These items really take the business out of business casual.
DO: Wear jeans….but take caution. The only time I wear jeans for a business casual event is when I have confirmed with the event host (or, if at work, my boss) that jeans are appropriate. When I’m not sure, I simply wear nice pants and a blouse. Again, I’d always rather be overdressed than underdressed.
As an aside, try to stick with bootcut or straight-leg jeans. I’m wearing skinny jeans in the photos below, but I personally think skinny jeans start to look a little too much like leggings than pants.
DON’T: Wear clothing (jeans especially) that has rips or tears in it. I mentioned this briefly in my article about the 10 items you should never wear to work. Most of my jeans are distressed or faded because I love the look, but those aren’t the jeans that I would ever dream of wearing to a business casual event.
DO: Wear color!! Some industries require business formal dress and only allow navy, dark gray, and black with a white or blue collared shirt. Business casual is your excuse to wear color and fun prints! I really like to play with mixing and matching small, subtle prints with large, bold prints, too!
I would say stay away from excessively bright colors like neons but, I’m really not opposed to that, either. I just wouldn’t wear inordinately bright colors in large doses. This means nix the highlighter pink pants, but not the neon green watch band. No to the bright pink shirt, but yes to the white shirt with small, bright pink polka dots.
DON’T: Use business casual as an excuse to wear clothing, jewelry, or shoes you would wear to a bar with your friends on the weekend (unless you enjoy wearing oxfords and a sweater when you’re going out).
Business casual is not a license to wear literally anything. We shouldn’t be able to see underwear peeking out above low-cut pants or bra straps. Leggings aren’t appropriate to wear as pants (at least, not to work. I think people who oppose wearing leggings as pants on the weekends are sad, angry people who need to take a vacation and live a little. Lol, kidding….mostly. But really, ever heard of athleisure? I live in it on the weekends.).
Stay away from tight, low-cut, or see-through shirts and pants that may rip if you breathe too hard. No platform shoes or anything that is so strappy they look more like sandals you would wear at the beach than shoes you plan to wear to work. I’d probably also steer clear of dark makeup including dark eyeshadow or dark lipstick. Again, this is still business casual.
DO: Nix the blazer. You don’t have to wear one. I usually bring one just in case I feel underdressed, but don’t feel like you need to wear a blazer to fit in with the business casual dress code. Instead, try layering a collared shirt underneath a sweater. You’ll still look smartly-dressed and you won’t have to fight with an uncomfortable blazer all day.
DON’T: Rely on a blazer to make your outfit work appropriate. A short, bandage dress underneath a blazer is still inappropriate for work or work-related events. Same with a billowy maxi-dress or a graphic tee. Let it go. Wear it on the weekend.
Again, the above list obviously isn’t exhaustive, but we’ve attempted to cover the high notes. Check with us in the coming months for a few more articles about wearing business casual outfits.
Also, don’t forget to check out the White Collar Glam Pinterest account, here for some business casual outfit ideas!
Until next time,