Dressing business casual is a delicate balancing act. Go too far in either direction and you could appear too buttoned-up or too sloppy. Keep the following tips in mind and you’ll always appear professional, yet approachable, at work.
Choose the right pieces
Your business casual closet needs the right apparel pieces. For women, these pieces are blouses and smart sleeveless shirts on top and dress pants or skirts that fall to the knee or just above the knee. Dresses also work, particularly sheath and A-line styles. Hosiery isn’t required, but it can help ladies stay warm during the cooler months.
Men should look to button-down shirts with a more relaxed fit in place of dress shirts or polo shirts. Pair them with chinos, dress pants, or jeans with a dark wash color. Blazers, sweaters, and cardigans can help all business professionals stay warm.
Women can get away with smart-looking open-toed shoes as long as the shoe styles don’t violate health and safety rules. Men should always keep their feet covered up with dark leather shoes, such as penny loafers and Oxfords.
Iron any wrinkled clothes
Even the right pieces won’t work if they’re wrinkled. Take the time to iron creases out of any wrinkled tops and bottoms before stepping out of the home. Your efforts will make sure you look polished, even without a suit. If you can’t spare the time, consider investing in wash-and-wear pieces made from easy-care fabrics including Tencel, wool, and polyester knit.
Don’t go too casual
Trading in suits for business casual clothing is easy, but resist the urge to dress too casually. Clothes that reveal too much skin — including those with shoestring straps, off-the-shoulder designs, and fashionable rips — are out. Low-cut tops and tight-fitting clothes are more appropriate for the club than the office. Regular T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and sweatpants can appear sloppy rather than smart. Tennis shoes and trainers are also too casual for many workplaces.
Choose conservative pieces
Your business casual clothes shouldn’t attract attention. While it’s fine to bring some personality to your wardrobe with fun colors and subtle prints, your business casual clothes shouldn’t be too loud or bold. Garments made of neutral colors are always safe choices. Choose pieces free of large graphics or logos.
Keep your accessories to a minimum. A classic watch and — for the ladies, some elegant jewelry — is all you need. Clothes with offensive words or slogans are best kept for the weekend.
Replace your business casual clothes regularly
Stubborn stains faded fabrics, holes, and other signs of age all make clothes look more casual than they did when they were brand new. Cast a critical eye over your closet and move any well-worn items out of your business casual wardrobe. If you can’t bear to part with them, make them part of your at-home collection. Replace these items with new business casual pieces so that you still have plenty of wardrobe options.
As more organizations strive to create welcoming, comfortable working environments, business casual is fast becoming the norm. Keep a range of business casual items in your closet to mix and match for a range of relaxed corporate looks.