Dress codes have relaxed at many companies, especially during the summer months. Business casual has become the “new normal” in many workplaces every day of the week. I hope this article helps many navigate through the blurred lines of what business casual looks like as many people have no idea what this means. For the record, business casual means skipping the traditional looks at work (like a suit or suited look) for a more relaxed version of professional attire like slacks and a pullover top or jeans with a blouse or sweater.
Much of the misconception comes from the word “relaxed” clothing at the office. The primary issues with most business casual looks are that people dress for the office like they would for a lazy Saturday afternoon at home or what looks like they were taking a quick run to the corner market. Key to the success of appropriate casual attire is asking yourself, “Is what I’m wearing appropriate if… a last minute meeting with a client springs up?” or if you have to drop by an unscheduled evening event with your boss/colleagues.
Here are a few pointers to keep you happily casual and professionally appropriate:
Everyone runs to denim when you think business casual. I think there are so many options for great casual work wear, you should add more variety. Try limiting your denim pieces to no more than 2 days a week. Wednesdays and Fridays are always great days for those looks; hump day and the end of the week feel celebratory to me but choose what you like.
Pair with almost any type top/blouse or keep it monochromatic and wear a denim shirt. Denim doesn’t automatically mean jeans. Denim skirts are just a comfortable, stylish and a great day to night convertible piece for evening. Denim is a great blank canvas for your style statement as well. Pairing it with simple or standout statement necklaces, flats or heels is totally your choice. That’s effortless styling at its best. Make sure the jeans are clean, pressed (no middle crease ever) and if you do distressed keep the holes small with little exposed skin; too much skin in risky places can offend so stay clear of oversharing your body parts. Less is more!
As for the rest of the week, go for styles like:
Flowy tops, fitted button-up shirt or tanks
Khakis (not just pants anymore; try skirts, blazers and cropped cargos)
Sweaters (wear as a layered piece; great for cold workplaces). If you wear a bold color sweater, balance with a neutral, navy or classic primary color and if sweater is neutral, navy, black or classic primary color make sure to counter the pant, shirt underneath or shoes with pattern and color. It’s all about the balance.
T-shirts are a great way to “pair down” a suit pant or slacks that you would normally wear to work and still be cool and appropriate without much effort or added cost. Graphic tees are great ways to add whimsy and fun to your look. Be careful to pick an image or saying that is neutral and non-offensive to others (nothing alluding to race, religion, sex, politics, etc…). There are tons of great solids tees with V-neck collars in bright bold colors which are easy winning combinations with any traditional suiting as well. I like V-necks better than other necklines because they leave a little more exposed skin which is the perfect amount for clavicle exposure or simply space for accessories without the interruption of fabric.
Blazers there are tons of choices in colors and cuts for blazers. Always have one with you to add polish to a casual look
Black or neutral colored heel also another perfect go to in a pinch when needing to quickly upgrade your casual look for a last minute meeting.
Paramount to anything mentioned above; make sure the FIT is FLATTERING and of course FASHION FORWARD. Enjoy your summer!