Being able to work in a business casual environment is fun and relaxing. It’s nice not worrying about dressing to impress. Some even think that a relaxed dress style makes them more productive. The problem arises when your business casual dress code is interpreted differently, which has led to some employers doing away with casual dress all together. When adopting a casual style to wear to work, it's best to err on the side of caution, before you end up dragging out the pantyhose and suits again.
Casual Yet Conservative
In the workplace it's best to go for a more a conservative look, even if the dress code is casual. Dress as you would for a bible study class, where you look comfortable yet restrained. Dressy khakis or Capri pants lend themselves quite well to a casual environment. Remember to press your outfits, as wrinkles are never attractive, no matter how relaxed the dress code. Staples of a casual work wardrobe include a white button-down shirt, dressy capri pants, casual knit dress or skirt, comfortable slacks and a blazer that can pull the whole look together. These items allow a woman to dress quickly, yet still be chic and fashionable.
Comfortable Style for Work and More
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Today’s woman is very busy and work may just be one stop in her day. Dressing in a chic comfortable style allows a woman to go from the boardroom to lunchroom mom, to school board meeting, all without stopping to change. Accessories and outerwear are the key for making this happen. A good blazer can transform a humdrum outfit into a classy pulled together look. Scarves are a quick way to dress up an outfit and can be kept in your desk drawer handbag to make them a convenient accessory. A statement necklace can dress up a plain white button down quickly, allowing you to be comfortable yet refreshingly stylish.
What to Avoid
Avoid such fashion faux pas as shorts, halter tops and flip flops. Many newly graduated or even veteran employees have fallen into the trap of going too casual in their work styles. If you wouldn’t wear an outfit to meet your boyfriend’s mother, than you shouldn’t wear it to work. T-shirts with slogans are also best avoided unless it’s team spirit day. Avoid showing too much cleavage or midriffs. The conservative rule extends to your feet as well. It’s tempting to wear tennis shoes, Crocs, or even your comfy Birkenstocks, but outside of super casual Fridays, these types of footwear may be pushing the casual guidelines a bit too far.
Understanding the Dress Code
Almost every company has a dress code. Adopting a casual work style should be done within the guidelines of company policy. Your dress code lists what can and cannot be worn during work hours. Company dress codes differ depending on the industry. Dress codes for the finance industry may be more restrictive than those in the fashion industry. Although a company may allow jeans, more conservative companies really mean dress jeans, those with dark denim and no visible rips or tears. A computer company or marketing company that's more laid back may allow any type of jeans without restrictions. If you're new to the company, err on the side of caution and copy the dress styles of your co-workers.
Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.