11 Steps to Business Casual Revealed

Red High Heels? Flip flops? What do you wear to work or an event that is “Business Casual”? Great question. Sometimes a daily question. For a lot of women a professional image is a must but a provocative one is a no-no. Moms can use business casual as a creative outlet for getting dressed. Relate to your wardrobe by mixing and matching budget items with more expensive pieces to create a functional and personal look.

Business Casual is a topic that is especially important for Mom Entrepreneurs. A large part of their day is spent toting the kids to events, parks and school. Frequently, a business meeting, sales pitches, and meet and greets are right in the middle of the kids schedule. As a Mom, either working in a business casual environment or creating your own business environment at home, you need functional, stylish and appropriate clothing. Many stay-at-home moms would benefit from dressing a bit more “business casual” in their everyday life as well.

Even PTA, school functions and girls night out can be benefited by business casual. If your spouse or significant other has company functions, business casual is probably the way to go.

What does “business casual” look like? This immediately brings to my mind Banana Republic. The clothes they have available are both classy and casual. If the prices are out of your budget, use their outfits as an inspiration. Look at how they put the outfit together, what type of shoes are worn and which accessories is the model wearing? Target has some equally stylish options at a fraction of the cost, just remember they may not last as long.

Here are they items you should have in your wardrobe when dressing business casual:

1. Pants- Look for linen, cotton or cotton-blend. Make sure they are long enough for heels. The hemline of the pants should fall between the top of the heel and mid-heel of the shoe, breaking at about the back to mid-arch of your instep. Dark denim is fine if the pants are trouser style. Don’t overdo the denim- save it for Friday.

2. Skirts – Appropriate length is important. Make sure the hem hits the knee. This will allow you the freedom to move easily and feel confident you are not exposing too much.. It will also be more comfortable for you when you are with the kids, like after karate class.

3. Tops – Unless you are wearing a tee under a vest or sweater, don’t wear it. Tees are far too casual. Instead, opt for button up tops that fit well, knit tops, woven tops and fitted sleeveless tops.

4. Jackets and Sweaters – Great for layering over your tops for chilly days or cold offices. The key factor for these pieces is fit. If you are throwing on a big sloppy sweatshirt or stretched out cardigan, you will not look professional. Match your warm pieces to your outfit. They should not be an after thought. Buy the best you can afford in classic cuts for many years of use. Cashmere is always a winner!

5. Dresses – These should be at or below the knee for the same reason a skirt should be. Sundresses and strapless dresses should be reserved for after work and weekends.

6. Shoes – They add a lot of character to your outfit. Use them to add interest to an otherwise conservative look. If open-toe is acceptable then don’t wear pantyhose with them… please! A kitten heel or low heel is perfect for business casual and still functional for chasing after the kiddos when you reunite. You can also wear ballet flats, loafers and boots, but keep the sneakers at home.

7. Handbag – Your bag says SO much about you. It should coordinate with your outfit, be clean and able to hold all the goods you need to tote during the day. Look for a bag with good construction and pockets to organize our items so you can get to them quickly.

8. Accessories – Wear them. Yes, your wedding ring is gorgeous but it doesn’t really count as a fashion accessory. Buy several necklaces that can be mixed and matched with your outfits. If you wear a watch, buy one that is classy so it goes with many looks. Earrings… every day. You determine if they are dangling or not but a beautiful and interesting earring draws attention to your face.

9. Your nails – Yes, a very important part of your overall appearance. Make sure your finger nails and toe nails are kept neat and clean.. Light colored polish is best as it hides the chips better in case you don’t have time to touch up.

10. Your undergarments – Your rear view is important. Make sure you don’t have VPL (visible panty lines) and all bra straps are tucked away. Proper undergarments, such as a slip, provide you the confidence you won’t be showing silhouettes to you co-workers.

11. Your smile – The most important thing you’ll wear.

Change your style to express different versions of yourself depending on the circumstances. If the environment you are working is more artistic in nature, you have more options like Bohemian styles, ombre and tribal trends.

The key to business casual is to remember you are representing yourself in how you look. Make sure your clothes are ironed, the hem is the right length, your accessories are appropriate, and of course, smile.

Whether you’re meeting a new client or going to the PTA you will be judged by your looks before you even speak a word. Trying to land financial support for your home-based business? Present yourself as someone who can be taken seriously. Let your creativity show the true confident ‘you’ to the world.

Casual Dress Code – Do’s and Don’ts for Business Casual Dress in the Workplace

If your company has a casual dress code, getting dressed for work can be confusing.

How do you want to be perceived in the workplace? Chances are, whatever your job situation, you want to be perceived as a competent professional. Here are some do’s and don’ts for projecting a professional image on the job.

Do:

1. Recognizer that every organization has a dress code, even if it’s not written down. If you aren’t sure about your company’s dress code, look at the people above you. How does your manager dress? How do the VPs, or owners of the company dress? If you want to be promoted, dress the way they do.

2. Choose clothes that are flattering to your figure, and complement your coloring. Have clothes tailored to fit you -business casual clothes as well. You’ll be surprised at how polished you look.

3. Put some thought into your business casual wardrobe. Many people spend time coordinating their business suits, but consider their business casual wardrobe to be an afterthought. Wrong. You should spend as much time, or more, on your business casual wardrobe, so you look put-together and professional.

4. Build a basic business casual wardrobe, starting with a few pairs of pants/skirts in dark colors that go with everything. Then it’s easy to add color and pattern to personalize your look

Don’t:

1. Don’t believe that permanent press clothes do not need to be ironed. They still need to be pressed lightly.

2. Don’t wear rubber-soled shoes or athletic shoes to the office. This is sports wear, not business casual wear. Wear leather shoes, and make sure they are in good condition.

3. Don’t (women) consider a scrunchie to be an appropriate hair accessory for work.

4. Don’t (men) wear white or athletic socks with dress pants. Wear dress socks that match your pants.

5. Don’t forget to maintain hair coloring. Letting your hair grow to reveal dark or grey roots of one inch or more makes you look like you don’t care about your looks. Head to the hairdresser when your roots start to show.

6. Don’t arrive at work on business casual days without a way to upgrade your look. The simplest way is to have a jacket handy to put over a casual outfit. For men, keep an extra tie available. For women, a necklace or slightly higher heeled shoe can add polish and panache.

7. Don’t dress to match your colleagues. Put your outfit together based on what your managers wear.

Business Casual

Did you know that the whole business casual fashion was started by an oil crisis? It’s true. Back in the 70’s we went through one of the first real shortages of oil and OPEC became a household name. The government in part of its response to the shortage asked all businesses to up the thermostat setting in their air conditioned work spaces to cut down on electrical power and thereby save on oil that fired those electrical power plants.

You probably already know that a suit and tie are not really designed to be worn in an 80 degree environment. So the memo comes down from management basically saying that formal business attire is not required during the national air conditioning crisis and business casual was born as a fashion.

That memo back in the 70’s typically defined business casual by defining what was not acceptable rather than what was. Pantyhose still had to be worn by women. Jeans, T shirts, sandals, shorts and basically anything that management deemed inappropriate was specifically banned. As a result, business casual meant no jacket and no tie for many men and it didn’t mean much more for women.

When the crisis passed so did the business casual dress for everyday. Replacing it was “Casual Friday” a human resources gimmick to make everyone feel good about the company just before the weekend. And then something happened. The fashion industry smelled a new market and started promoting the idea that companies that were cutting edge and hip, like two new hot stocks Microsoft and Apple, understood the value of letting their employees have some freedom in dress rather than conforming to the company uniform.

Today 43% of all businesses have a casual dress code.

While each organization sets its own idea of what casual is, typically their policies include some common ground. The employment counseling office at American University defines business casual as half way between business formal and street wear. They give their graduates looking for a job this guidance on what is and isn’t casual business.

For women it’s a skirt or an informal dress so long as the length is appropriates (no minis). The skirt can be topped with a dress shirt, polo, sweater or sweater set. Pants are OK so long as they are full length and not made of denim. For men it’s a collared shirt, casual slacks, a belt and shoes with socks. The shirt has to be tucked in and the pants can’t be jeans.

Now understand that American University is located near Embassy Row in Washington DC so their idea of casual is just a tad more formal than say businesses in Los Angeles. The bottom line is the company sets the standard but in almost every case, regardless of the restrictions; working in casual dress is just so much more comfortable than a suit. Thank you OPEC.