Business Casual Dress Code Essentials and Why You Should Be Concerned

Business casuals are outfits than are not completely formal wear, but can still be worn appropriately in an office atmosphere. Hence comfort is one of most important factors in business casual dress code. This is one aspect of personal presentation to get right as it can affect your chances of getting a promotion, being taken more seriously at work and even the amount of bonus heading your way. After all first impressions can make lasting impressions!

Every office has its own business casual dress code, which one must enquire with the concerned department before joining.

Business casuals for women would include formal Capri pants with semi formal full sleeves or ¾ sleeve shirts. Make sure that these Capri pants are not denim but a lighter shaded cotton pants. The pants must also not be too tight or extremely loose, choose a size that looks good on you, and doesn’t appear a casual wear.

Women can also wear a formal corduroy pants with semi formal collared shirts. Footwear that goes best with any business casual would be semi formal boots that have a closed mouth towards the front and with or without straps towards the back.

Business casuals for men include the very famous cotton trousers or khakis. Try to include much of the light colored cotton pants, instead of the usual dark ones. Shirts to be worn with these trousers would be collared semi formal shirts in plain dark colors that match with the color of the trousers. To give a more relaxed look to your entire attire, try to wear a dark colored shirt with a light colored trouser or vice versa.

Another option for a business casual wear for men would be a pair of jeans that goes very well with an inner plain colored t-shirt and a formal or semi formal jacket. This office wear looks extremely well, but during a hot weather the jacket could be a little uncomfortable. Foot wear for men would include a suede and leather shoes in dark colors. Refrain from wearing sneakers, or any other kind of casual footwear.

Business Casual Explained

What is Business Casual?

Ask ten different people and everyone would have a different interpretation on what it is, and what can be worn. This has lead to dress down confusion and frequently inappropriate office attire. The key word is “business”. Business casual is not casual dress, but a more casual way of business dressing versus business formal. Problems arise when business casual in the workplace gets too casual. It is not weekend casual, sporting event casual, gym wear such as jogging suits, night club attire, or beach wear. Business Casual means dressing in a professional more relaxed way, yet still looking neat and pulled together.

Whether business casual is designated to Friday or everyday, clarity should be provided in a business casual dress policy. The policy should provide specific guidelines to the employees. Employees who call on clients should be asked to keep a change of clothing in case they have to go outside the office to see a client.


Clothing should be pressed, clean, and not show signs of wear.
No offensive clothing that has words or pictures that could offend others.
No clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, chest, stomach or your underwear.
Clothing shouldn’t be too tight or too baggy.
If jeans are allowed they should be dress jeans in a dark denim.
Avoid trendy.

Guidelines For Women:

Casual pressed pants, tailored pants or dressy capris. Avoid shorts and leggings.
Skirts. Avoid too short, floor length and high slits.
Tops: Collared shirts, conservative sweaters, cardigans and sweater sets.
Casual dresses. Avoid party dresses, floor length dresses, and sundresses.
Hosiery is not essential in the summer for business casual.
Shoes: Can be opened toed or a dressy sandal for the summer. Avoid thongs, flip flops or beach like sandals. In the winter a closed toe shoe or conservative boot.
Jewelry: Avoid extremes.

Guidelines For Men:

A sports jacket
Collared Shirt, polo shirts, knit shirts with collars
Ties are not necessary
Dress sweaters such as a turtleneck or crewneck
Tailored pants, Khakis
Shoes can be more casual such as a loafer. Avoid sandals, flip flops, athletic shoes and hiking boots.

One last word of advice, think business before casual.

Pat Elke, Founding President of Advancing With Style is a leading authority and executive advisor in the areas of professional image, business and social etiquette, workplace civility, international business etiquette, and cultural awareness.

Since 1982 she has worked with over 600 corporations and delivered more than 1500 seminars worldwide. Clients range from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies, and from political leaders to financial CEO’s.

Business Casual Outfits – 5 Business Casual Ideas That Work

Are finding business casual outfits causing you to tear your hair out in the morning? Do you stand in your closet, looking for business casual ideas?

Business casual is the merging of two types of attire – business dress and casual clothing. The challenge is that when people try to combine these styles, the clothing choices are almost limitless.

So how can you put together business casual outfits that make you look good? Here are 5 tips for success.

1. Don’t think that anything goes. The biggest mistake in creating a business casual wardrobe is to think that you can just throw on anything you like. That may work for a few days. But you’ll soon find that you are running out of things to wear.

2. Plan your wardrobe. You have to plan your business casual wardrobe in the same way you plan a business formal wardrobe. You have to think about your needs, your body shape and personality, and your work environment. Then you have to shop carefully to put together a wardrobe that won’t cause you grief every morning as you wonder what to wear.

3. Capsule Wardrobe: The best way to do this is to create a capsule wardrobe based on a neutral pallet of navy, grey or black. Put together a few basic such as a jacket and pants or skirt that fit you well. Now you are all set to add color and accessories to suit your work style. This way you always have something to wear, and you’ll know that all the parts of your outfits work well together.

4. Keep a separate wardrobe. Don’t mix your weekend wear with your business casual wear. You’ll end up wearing clothes that you wore to walk your dog or buy groceries on the weekend. Then if you don’t have time to clean and press them, you’ll look less than polished and professional at work.

5. Keep your outfits simple. Pair a crisp shirt or blouse, or a nice sweater, with pants or a skirt that fit you well, in a neutral color. Add some accessories, such as a good watch, classic necklace or earring for women, a good leather briefcase or handbag, and you’re set for the workplace.

A Man’s Guide to Dressing in a Business Casual Environment

Many companies began instituting a business casual dress code many years ago with the creation of “Casual Friday.” Over the last ten to fifteen years, casual Friday has turned into everyday for many businesses. If you find yourself in a business casual environment, care should be taken in the choices of work attire. An employee in this environment must remember that casual or not, their appearance makes the first impression, and each employee will, at some point, be the “face” of the company to someone. Gentlemen, business casual means much more than khaki pants and a polo golf shirt. Don’t be afraid to show some personality through your appearance, just be sure to show some restraint. For example, T-shirts, either printed or plain, have no place in a professional workplace. Also, do everyone you work with a favor and do not wear any shoe that exposes your feet. Leave the sandals for the beach and always wear socks to work.

Now that we have looked at two rules that should be considered unbreakable, let’s tackle some options that the business casual man does have.

The Suit

Believe it or not, this is an option in the business casual environment. Today’s suits are designed to be more versatile. Many styles can be worn without a tie or with a crew or mock neck shirt. A sweater can even be added during the colder months.

The main thing to remember is that it is still a suit. It should be worn only after being pressed and cleaned. Also, be sure the pants have a clean and crisp crease. You can dress the suit down, but it still has its place and appeal. The point of the dressed down suit is to look more casual and relaxed, but still look sharp and well put together. In terms of keeping the suit in good shape, try not to have it cleaned any more than four times a year. Dry cleaning too much can compromise the fabric.

The Sportcoat

Today, there are too many options available to touch on each. The important thing to remember about the sportcoat is, much like the suit, look for versatility. Many jackets can be worn in a business casual environment by day and dressed down with a nice pair of jeans by night. Also, be sure to keep it in good condition, just like the suit.

There is a difference between a sportcoat and a Blazer. Really, no man should be without a Navy Blazer in his closet. This is simply one of those items that every man can use at some point, and in this man’s opinion, it is just as necessary as a pair of jeans or khakis. Stick with wool for your Blazer because it just looks and feels better than blended fabrics. The blazer is not as casual as many sportcoats, but, like the suit, it can be dressed down and keep that well put together look.


I cannot say this enough, but do not wear t-shirts, printed or solid to work. They simply are not appropriate in a professional environment. The three options here are polo or golf shirts, mock neck shirts, or button-up shirts. Mock neck shirts come in a variety of fabrics and look great under suits and sportcoats. Polo shirts also come in variety of colors and fabrics and are a fairly traditional option for business casual.

More and more men are wearing button-up shirts, normally worn with a tie, with an open collar. The important thing here is to be sure to keep them clean and pressed. Just because the look is less formal doesn’t mean it should be sloppy. There are several different collar choices, from button down, to spread, to pinpoint. There is really no rule here, but my suggestion is to try all styles and choose what you are most comfortable wearing.

Another note about button-up shirts is the French-cuff shirt. It has become far more acceptable to wear a tasteful French-cuff shirt with a nice set of cufflinks, without the tie. It adds a little touch of a classic look without dressing you up too much. Again, this is another one of those personal preference things. My suggestion is to give it a try. If you don’t like it, don’t wear it.


Don’t wear jeans to work. Now that we have dealt with that, what should you wear? Khaki pants are a very traditional option. Be sure the ones you wear to work are clean with a crisp crease, and that they fit properly. Wearing these everyday can make you seem, well…boring.

Change things up with charcoal, black, or olive. Even a pair of gray pants can work with the right shirt and jacket. We come to another personal preference with pleats versus flat front. Again try both and go with comfort.

Something to be mindful of is how you wear your pants. Many men (most men) in America unfortunately have a bit of a gut (including yours truly). Stop fooling yourself and stop hiking up your pants twenty times a day. If you have a gut, accept it and don’t wear the pants below your true waist line. You may think it looks better, but it doesn’t. Actually, it makes your stomach look bigger because it hangs over the waist of the pants. One option here is to add a pair of bracers. Bracers are becoming much more acceptable for men under 70 years old. In fact, I know many men that can’t stand wearing a belt now that they were willing to take the leap of faith and try a pair of bracers.


Do not wear tennis shoes, sandals, or flip flops. This is simply poor taste. Look for a nice dress shoe, either lace up or slip on, and keep them polished. By the way, stick with the basic colors such as black, brown, or burgundy. While your taste may lean towards the indigo dress shoes, they simply are not professional.

There you have it. Business casual done right is really not that difficult, but many men would rather have a root canal than spend much time on how they dress. If you are that guy, and you just can’t get it right, your best bet is to visit your local men’s store. Make sure it s a men’s store, not one of the big anchor retailers in a mall. Any rep at a men’s store worth his salt will be able to give you great advice.