I get asked this question all the time. What is ‘Business Casual’? I think the problem is that people sort of get the idea of what it is… and then they go into their workplace and see people breaking the rules and dressing WAY too casual for the workplace so it becomes confusing. I completely understand. As a former comfort-a-holic…I’m a little embarrassed actually at how far I pushed the level of appropriateness in my workplace.
But now that I have a solid handle on things (I think ; ) …let me break it down…..
Most workplaces are ‘Business Casual’ on Monday-Thursday for which the bare minimums are outlined in most HR policies (see minimums below) but unfortunately, that’s what people tend to shoot for. Then some also have ‘Casual Fridays’, which people tend to treat as a wardrobe free-for-all. Neither of these are good options.
My goal for myself is to look professional M-Thurs (one step below suit) and be a bit more relaxed/casual on Fridays. Here’s the litmus test for Fridays – if your CEO or Director happens to stop by your desk or your best client drops in on you unannounced on a Friday – you should feel like you still look sharp and put together despite the day of the week. They should not feel like they are interrupting your Sunday morning-reading the paper on the porch session.
Here are the minimums:
Business Casual for Women =
- NO JEANS or Jean-like pants of any kind.
- Generally, it also means NO open footwear (read…sandals with heels or not) and…
- no sleeveless tops (cap sleeves are a minimum)
- SHOOT FOR – blazers and structured jackets, skirts/dresses to the knee, feminine blouses (non-T-shirt material) with sleeves and closed toed heels, pants like trousers and khakis.
Casual (for Fridays) =
- Jeans are ok BUT WITHIN REASON. As I’ve mentioned before…casual Friday DOES NOT mean weekend wear is ok. If you want to wear jeans or a jean skirt, make sure there is NO FADING and NO RIPS/WEARING. Stick with uniform dark wash trouser jeans or skinny jeans.
- Peep Toes and some types of more classy sandals – NO FLIPS FLOPS under any circumstance or other REALLY casual foot wear and…
- Tops/dresses can be sleeveless BUT shoulder straps should be AT LEAST 2 inches across. NO SPAGHETTI STRAPS PLEASE!!
- SHOOT FOR – 1 level above your casual/day to day wear. Dressy jeans, jean (white or blue) jackets to dress down M-Thurs outfits, M-Thurs outfits without the blazer/jacket or flat shoes with cropped pants.
Here is my visual representation of what to do and not to do…
REMEMBER – when you look good, you feel confident and that’s the light you want shining when you go to work…on any day of the week. So, do yourself and your self-esteem a favour and take your style to the next level this week.