What Is Business Casual?

In order to compete in the employment market, employers in the 90s searched for creative options to attract new employees and retain present ones. What they came up with is casual Fridays or dress down days. They may have borrowed it from a Hawaiian tradition that started in the city of Honolulu in 1947. Businesses in the city of Honolulu allowed their workers to wear the Aloha shirt part of the year. By the 60s the term “Aloha Friday” was born. The trend for casual dress had made its way to California as the computer industry blossomed in the 70s. The very first computer “geeks” are often cited as the first to bring casual dress to the professional work place. In 1975 John Molloy criticized harshly businesses that were allowing men to wear the infamous leisure suit in place of a formal suit. A series of Levi Strauss & Co. surveys were quoted during the 1990s to show the rise of casual business dress. By 1992, 26% of businesses in the United States reported offering at least one casual day. Companies allowing casual dress every day rose to 33% in 1995 and 53% in 1997. Today, 90% of all US companies have a casual day of some kind, 1/3 of all companies allow casual clothing every day, and more than 40% of all companies have expanded their casual dress options in the last three years.

The modern business casual dress code is tricky and depends on the business. For the financial area or banking, casual is bit more on the formal side. Try apparel that’s different than the traditional business suit, but still appropriate for a boardroom like blazers, oxfords, vests, ties, and scarves. In a less high tech field, Golf shirts rein supreme, as well as denims, chambray shirts, fashion fleece, sweaters and turtlenecks. The trick is to coordinate your separates into a polished look that is suitable for your profession.

Smart companies that recognize the value of high morale and a strong brand image will often give branded apparel for holidays, special occasions, and as incentives that can be worn on casual days. This allows them to set the standard for casual dress for their company culture.

Business Casual Dress – What is Business Casual?

Business casual dress causes a great deal of confusion in the workplace. What exactly should you wear? Are jeans acceptable?

Here’s an explanation of what business casual means, and how you can put together a wardrobe that still looks professional.

Business casual dress is a combination of the formal, dark colors of business wear, with the relaxed, comfortable look of casual wear. But be careful. It’s not weekend wear, or sportswear. It’s somewhere in the middle ground. It combines the professionalism of business dress with the comfort of casual dress, to create a smart, polished office look that’s a step below business formal.

Here are 5 tips to guide you in planning your wardrobe.

1. If you wear business formal dress (a suit) to work everyday, and are now allowed to wear business casual on Fridays, dress one notch down. So you can wear a jacket and pants, but men can remove their tie. Or women can wear a pants suit instead of a suit with a jacket.

2. If your company allows you to wear business casual dress every day, when you are working in the office or for sales meetings, you still need to look professional. You don’t have to wear a suit, but you should wear neat separates. This would include a crisp blouse or shirt, or a nice sweater with pressed business pants (or skirt for women).

3. Keep a jacket handy for unexpected meetings or client visits. Most companies that allow business casual in the office still want their employees to dress up when meeting clients.

4. Dress to make your clients feel comfortable. Even if your office is informal, if you visit clients who are more formal or conservative, it’s a good idea to dress to match their environment. You’ll make a better impression, because you are showing them respect when you dress up.

5. Ditch the jeans. Few companies allow jeans with business casual. If you work in an extremely casual environment, such as in software development, and your clients dress the same way, or you don’t meet with clients, jeans may be alright. Again, take your clues from your boss or manager, and from the people you meet with.

Putting together a polished, professional business wardrobe takes time and thought.

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.