Cracking the Business Casual Code

You can crack the business casual dress code.
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Many organizations, in a range of industries, require their employees to dress in business casual wear. It's important to have a clear understanding of what this means so you don't end up overdressed or underdressed for your workplace and can avoid any embarrassing fashion mishaps. Find out what constitutes business casual, how you can pick out the right clothes for your workplace and what you definitely should avoid wearing to work.

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What Is Business Casual?

As the name suggests, business casual is a mix of formal business wear and casual everyday wear. According to Indeed, business casual attire needs to be professional enough for an office environment. However, the casual aspect means that you can dress down a suit by not wearing a jacket or tie, for example. Being in business casual clothes lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable while still looking professional.

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Business casual attire for women can include mid-length dresses, knee-length skirts, blouses and button-down shirts, in addition to slacks or dress pants. Usually, sleeveless tops are covered with a cardigan or jacket, explains Indeed. Some women wear stockings or tights with their dresses and skirts, while others prefer bare legs, which are also appropriate. Women can wear either heeled or flat dress shoes, though open-toed shoes are typically reserved for more casual settings.

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For men, business casual clothes include dress pants or khakis with polo shirts, button-down shirts or dress shirts. It's best to wear shoes with dark socks. Some men prefer to wear a tie in a business casual setting, while others don't. In most cases, a suit jacket is not needed.

How to Customize Business Casual Outfits for Your Office

It's important to remember that what is considered business casual in one workplace may be too formal or casual for another. Insider notes that employees need to be aware of the dress codes specific to their workplace. Business casual attire can differ based on numerous factors such as industry, size of the company, geographic location, culture, climate and the average age of employees.

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Read up on the company dress code but also take your cues from the other employees and managers to see what is considered appropriate for your workplace. For example, if most people in your office wear denim jeans, it's likely fine for you to wear them as well. If most people wear suit jackets with their outfits, then your organization may lean more on the business side of business casual. Your business casual clothes should reflect the company culture.

Indeed advises not forgetting about your hair. For men, it's important to ensure facial hair is well-groomed. Women, especially those with long hair, should check to see that it does not interfere with their role – such as getting caught in a machine, for example – and tie it back with necessary. It's best to keep accessories simple to complement the business casual outfit.

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What to Avoid Wearing at a Business Casual Workplace

There are some fashion faux-pas to avoid when you're employed at a business casual workplace:

  • Unkempt appearance:​ Make sure your clothing is not worn out, stained, wrinkled or damaged. Your hair should be clean and brushed.
  • Revealing clothing:​ It's best to not wear clothing that exposes your midriff or back. Some organizations don't allow miniskirts or strapless tops as well.
  • Poorly fitting outfits:​ It's best to not wear overly tight or overly baggy clothing in a business casual work environment. The clothing should fit you well. If not, you can consider having the clothing tailored for a better fit.
  • Going too casual:​ One of the biggest mistakes employees make, according to Insider, is dressing too casually in a business casual environment. It's best to err on the side of formal if you're not sure, because it is easier to dress down a formal outfit. It's not as simple to dress up jeans and a t-shirt if you don't have any other clothes with you.

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