By Jillian Ilao
Business casual attire is less formal than traditional business clothing but still professional enough to be office appropriate. For women, this typically means a skirt or slacks, a button down blouse, and closed-toe shoes. For men, this typically means a button down shirt, slacks, and dress shoes.
Over 60 percent of businesses now allow business casual attire, according to a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), but it still causes confusion among employees and managers. We’re sharing some basic guidelines below that you and your employees can follow the next time you’re asked to dress up in business casual.
What Business Casual Means For Women
Business casual for women can be a combination of skirt or slacks paired with a button-down blouse. A simple sheath dress can also be worn. A simple jacket or blazer can be added to complete the look for dressier occasions. Shoes should ideally be closed-toe, but women can wear open-toe shoes with heels.
Below are some examples of the types of clothing women can use in mixing and matching their business casual outfit:
What Business Casual Means For Men
Business casual is probably easier to figure out for men than for women. The business casual basics for men include a long-sleeved button down shirt, pants, socks, and dress shoes.
Here are some sample pieces for men:
Business Casual Tips & Reminders
Here are some tips and reminders on how to dress business casual:
Make things easier on your employees by establishing your company’s dress policy and what’s appropriate and what’s not. Ultimately, it’s about letting your employees have fun and express themselves, while still looking professional. However, if you have some strict no’s, don’t leave your employees guessing. For example, make it clear if open toe shoes aren’t allowed.
Play it safe when you’re in doubt.
Stick to clean lines.
Remember, you’re dressing for work.
Business casual wear is not sportswear.
Dress according to industry.
Accessorize to put your look together.
Men can also accessorize, for instance with a great leather messenger bag or a pair of nice leather shoes.
How Business Casual Has Evolved
Business casual is an ever changing term because it reflects the conventions and attitudes of the time. Wilkins walked us through how the meaning of business casual has evolved over time: In the eighties, business casual consisted of khakis and button-down collared shirts. But once the office allowed “Casual Fridays,” it changed office attire. Life is less formal now, and the concept of office and work have fundamentally changed in accordance with the ever evolving sources of technology, demographics, and consumerism. People are now having fun and integrating color and patterns.”
The Bottom Line on Business Casual
While business casual is subjective based on different factors, there is also a fair amount of common ground when identifying the basics that can always pass. As long as you have the basic pieces of clothing, it’s easy to dress them up a bit or tone them down based on where you work or your type of business.
Here’s a parting tip that’s easy to remember: “business-casual is not dressing up a casual outfit; it’s dressing down a business outfit.”