Business casual is an ambiguous term, often being regarded as either a refined form of workplace dress code adopted for more formal white-collar workplaces, or a work environment where it is seen as the barest of all acceptable workplace dress codes. But business casual does not necessarily mean a total casual dress code. It is the colloquial use of business clothing and apparels in a business or formal setting that creates the parameters on what is not business casual. In the following paragraphs we will examine some common areas of business casual dress, that are frequently encountered in offices, clubs, restaurants and other places of business.
For many businesses, business casual dress codes result in a much friendlier and less formal workplace environment. Many business casual dresses, especially for less formal settings, are tailored to be less dressy and more relaxed, which suits most office settings. For example, a suit or a blouse, with or without a jacket, and without any slacks or drawers, can make a business casual dress look very casual indeed. Less formal attire can be just as professional looking, but less formal clothing tends to be less comfortable, as the lack of certain fabrics, like leather, can make certain apparel seem stiff.
Another example of business casual attire is a pair of dress trousers, which are often worn with a button up shirt over a shirt, sometimes accompanied by a blazer. A blazer can be very simple in its design – perhaps a simple v-neck, with one or two buttons (or no buttons at all), and plain white. A more dressy blazer might have some pattern involved, with subtle, sophisticated lines and colors. These outfits would be appropriate for a less formal workplace like a board room, even though they may still look very business like.
One of the unwritten rules of business casual attire is to avoid wearing sneakers, unless you are walking down the hall to a board meeting, or out to lunch. You might think this goes without saying, but I have seen people in business casual trousers walk into an office with baggy, unshoeed, ill-fitting shoes, which did not help their image one bit! If you must wear sneakers, go with dress shoes. Dress shoes are usually easier to slip on than sneakers.
The final consideration for business casual attire is, of course, the jacket. A light jacket in slimming materials like wool or corduroy is considered business casual, as is a solid-colored cotton or polyester jacket. A trench coat is considered too military-style and should be left at the door. Jeans, with or without a belt, are also considered business casual, although not as heavily. In other words, don’t wear jeans with a t-shirt, and don’t put a dress shirt on with your jeans.
All these types of casual attire can be worn with a blazer, although the blazer is more appropriate for a more formal occasion. Another very common business casual outfit is a skirt – both short and long. If you are in doubt, just wear a dress skirt, which is infinitely less formal than a skirt paired with stilettos.