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A Guide for Dressing Business Casual


The way you dress to work makes a huge statement about your appearance. It shows your employer and your fellow colleagues your professionalism and can reflect your quality of work. In workplaces without a set uniform, it can be hard to know what to wear. Some workplaces require formal wear, whereas some are happy with smart casual. When it comes to smart casual clothing, a lot of people can get confused. Finding the balance between dressing smart enough to look professional, but casual enough so you are comfortable and don’t stick out can be difficult. To help you out, we have outlined some of the do’s and don’ts for dressing business casual in the workplace.

Avoid the Don’ts

First off, we will start off with what not to wear. If you are wearing clothing that is less formal and casual than the traditional business guidelines, then you risk coming across as sloppy and unkempt. All businesses are different with what they accept, but until you have worked there a while and have a better understanding of the fashion allowed in this place of work, it’s best to play it safe. This includes not wearing jeans, tank tops, informal T-shirts, miniskirts, a plunging neckline or shorts. You should always keep it clean, tidy and modest. The clothes you wear should never be stained, dirty, wrinkled or ripped.

Find the Right Top

For both men and women, a fresh, ironed button-up shirt is a safe option to go for when it comes to dressing business casual. Some of the shirt styles you should look for are polo-shirts, Oxford-style shirts, a tailored T-shirt or a product shirt that is produced by the company you work for. Women can consider wearing a dress, as long as it is modest and fits within the company guidelines. When it comes to product shirts, be careful. For example, if they produce any of the clothing items described in the above section, it doesn’t mean it will be acceptable to wear one of those items of clothing in the workplace.

Find the Right Bottoms

You should stick to a neutral color, such as black, brown, navy blue or khaki for your bottom half. These can be in the form of trouser pants or a knee length skirt. With business casual, it is acceptable for the pants you choose to be made of cotton and they can be a bit more relaxed than those found in a formal office. You should avoid patterns on your bottom half if you fear it comes across as unprofessional. Pinstripes can look great, but it isn’t hard to make a mistake. White should generally be avoided because they stain easily. In some cases, a small geometric or floral print can be accepted on women’s skirts.

Choose the Right Shoes

Shoe choice is extremely varied in business casual offices and is dependent on the type of environment you are working in. In general, you should always go for a closed-toe shoe. Always avoid sandals and flip flops. It’s acceptable for women to wear heels or flats, as long as the shoe is in good condition and is of high quality. You should try to stick to a plain, neutral colored shoe. In some cases, sneakers will be accepted, but they can be a risky choice. If you decide to take the risk, consider going designer, such as theses Gucci sneakers from SSENSE. These help to maintain your smart image because they are a high-end, luxury item.

Jackets and Sweaters

Wherever you live, whether it is hot or cold outside, you are bound to get chilly. Having a jacket or sweater to protect you from the cold weather or the air conditioning in your office building is important. If your body temperature is at an uncomfortable low, then you won’t be able to work as effectively. Cardigans, sweaters and sport coats worn over a button up shirt is the perfect option for men. For women, layered sweaters, cardigans or a structured blazer or jacket is ideal and complements a smart casual outfit. A cashmere scarf or a Pashmina is something else you can add if the sweaters and jackets aren’t enough.

Add Other Accessories

Accessories are great to complement and complete an outfit. In general, jewelry and other accessories should be kept subtle and look trendy. You should avoid wearing too much because it can make you look tacky. What is acceptable for men and women is different. Men should stick to rings, a watch and cuff links. Women can wear small pieces of jewelry around their necks, wrists and on their ears. If you have facial piercings, be prepared to remove them or wear clear studs.

Once you understand what smart casual wear actually is, it makes it a lot easier to plan your outfits for a business casual office. Always make sure you keep yourself well-groomed alongside what you wear. When you have settled in and understand the environment, you can start to mix up your style a little more.


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