Do not take business casual so casually

(Photo by Madeline Turiff)
(Photo by Madeline Turiff)

According to Forbes, business casual is defined as “relating to or denoting a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and business-like impression.”

Even after re-reading the definition numerous times, I’m still completely lost in translation, with no clue what to wear when I get invitations that require a strict business casual dress code. Instead of putting an outfit together, I am screaming at my dictionary for a clarification on “less formal than traditional.” Being a university student, we’ve all been in the same boat.

Whether it is attending a networking session or a career development event, getting dressed is an absolute nightmare. The ambiguous dress code of ‘business casual’ leaves us terrified of ending up either too under dressed or overdressed to the event. Fret not, I am here to decode the mystery.

Business Casual for Males

Cotton shirts with collars are the best choice, such as long-sleeve button-downs.  Stick to solid, neutral colours and avoid complicated patterns for a clean look; white is your safest bet. No tie is necessary. Polo shirts are also acceptable, but always tuck your shirt in and match with an appropriate belt.

For an autumn and winter look, consider pairing your shirt with a sweater. For collared shirts, pair it with v-neck sweaters for the best aesthetic.

Opting for a more sophisticated appearance? Finish a turtleneck off with a blazer for a more suave approach. Khakis, dress pants, trousers, and corduroys are all acceptable styles. Stick to dark colours such as black, brown, grey, khaki, dark blue and dark green. Make sure that your pants extend to the top of your shoe or a little longer. It’s a problem when they do not reach your shoes or when they bunch up near the feet.

Shoes are extremely important, so be sure to wear a pair of formal shoes. Oxfords, lace-ups, and loafers in dark colours are the standard choices and don’t forget your dress socks. It is best for you to aim for a darker colour like black or navy.

Business Casual for Females
Choose from a variety of shirts, but keep it conservative.

Blouses, button-downs, turtlenecks and sweaters can all be worn tucked-in or un-tucked to your liking. Monotone colour schemes are ideal. Dresses are a good choice as long as the hem falls just below the knees. Be sure to avoid tight, low-cut dresses, as well as those with high slits. Sundresses are not appropriate so stick to blacks, greys and dark blue shift dresses.

You have an option of khakis, corduroys, linen pants, and dress pants in neutral, dark colours. Skirts are perfect choices as long as they fall below your knees, with no high slits, and are colour-appropriate.  This is business, not pleasure.

In terms of footwear, flats, loafers, and high heels in dark colours can all be worn; black is optimal.  Finish skirts and dresses off with pantyhose and then the outfit is complete. Complete the look with light, tasteful jewellery and a simple purse or clutch and you are good to go.

Hopefully, you’ve gained a better understanding of dressing stylishly and professionally for your next business casual occasion. And cheers to never having a wardrobe crisis again, or screaming at your dictionary for that matter.

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