Dress for Success - Understanding Business Casual

Standard advice given by mentors and managers is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have currently. Even in this day of business casual dress codes, your professional image will set you apart from your coworkers who are less concerned about projecting a professional image and serve you well when promotions are available.

More and more companies are turning to business casual dress codes, allowing employees to work more comfortably in the work place. Business casual can be fun because it allows you to put a bit of your own spunky spin on what you're wearing; however, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Since you still need to project a professional image for customers, colleagues, and community visitors, here are a few tips for dressing the part.

Fit counts.

Buying items that are too big can make you appear sloppy regardless of your actual size. This is bad news if you're gunning for that promotion. On the other hand, clothing that is too tight or revealing is unprofessional and inappropriate for work.

Get out the iron!

(Or, if you don't have one, buy one!) Clothing should never be wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable, as is any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other people.

Beyond the clothing.

Looking professional in a business casual atmosphere takes more than the right clothes. Women and men should be clean and appropriately groomed.  The hair on your head and any facial hair should be trimmed and washed regularly. If hair is dyed, it should be a color that appears natural and piercings should be kept to a minimum.  Jewelry must be tasteful and classy, and perfumes should be used sparingly and not be overpowering.

If in doubt, ask!

The fact is that “business casual” dress codes vary and some businesses are stricter than others.  Look around at what your coworkers are wearing to get an idea of what is appropriate at your company or ask your human resources department for the official dress code.

So, what works? 

Business casual is generally more traditional for men, including dress or khaki pants, long sleeve collared shirts, a belt and dress shoes.  Short sleeve collared shirts and polo shirts may also work, depending on your employer.  Women should wear button down shirts (don’t forgot the camisole for the layering effect!), sweaters, dress pants, knee-length skirts and modest heels or flats.  Peep-toe shoes and capri pants are great for the summer, but may not be approved in all offices.

By following these simple rules, the next time you’re meeting new people or talking to your boss about a promotion, you can feel confident that you’ve put your business casual style to work and look the part!

Printed from the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website on May 25, 2018 at 11:11pm.