Dressing “Business Casual”

By Michaela Courand-

On February 11th I went with my Integrated Marketing Communications class to Facebook HQ. We were asked to wear “business casual” to this event. I was immediately stumped when I began to think about what to wear. Business casual is much more subtle than business formal. “Business formal,” or any formal attire for an event like a wedding or another ceremony, is just dressing up with pieces that are very structured and not flashy. With business formal, there is less room to be creative and more specific expectations, so it is easier to pick out what to wear. In contrast, business casual provides more room to come up with many different looks. This can be a great thing, but it can also make it a bit tougher to figure out what pieces should be put together.

My motto is always “overdress unless you know otherwise.” There is nothing worse than under-dressing. I decided to do some research to get a better idea of what dressing business casual means because of my natural inclination to overdress. I went to Pinterest to see what other people see as business casual. I found that even though it has the word “casual” in it, it does not mean to be lax or too casual in your outfit choice. You don’t need to wear a suit or formal dress to the event you are attending, but you do need to have a put-together sophisticated look.

It helps to think about the people or organization you are meeting and attending. I know this step sounds obvious, but it’s crucial! For example, NASA’s “business casual” is going to be quite different from Google’s. They are both asking you to wear business casual, but their environments are completely different. What they find acceptable will be completely different. Business casual can also vary in fields, some fields might be more strict in what they think is acceptable to wear and others might be more relaxed.

Although there are many different options and environments, I have come up with a business casual outfit template to help guide you if you are ever stumped the way I was! Consider starting your outfit planning by thinking of a white button-up shirt, blazer, and a pair of black jeans (with no distressing) or pants. You can pair this with flats or a low heeled bootie. I’ve included some pictures that may help you visualize.

Business casual outfit template

Photo courtesy of Michaela Courand

However, the shirt, blazer, and black pants are just a template. After all, this is fashion so you need to add your own spin to the outfit. For example, you can substitute leather leggings for simple pants, and keep the white button up & blazer. Another option, if you are not a pants kind of gal, is to keep the blazer and white button up shirt, but pair it with a skirt instead of the jeans or pants. If you decide to go with the skirt option, I have to stress that you must think about the length! If it is too short it will come off as revealing and unprofessional. A professional length would be knee length when standing.

When you have an outfit you like, ask yourself again if it fits where you are going. The template is a starting point that you adjust, but you still need to make sure it is appropriate for the environment. If you need more inspiration, you can research too! I really like to check out images on Pinterest or Instagram, specifically @juliahengel and @emilyanngemma, to give me inspiration and ideas.

Don’t worry guys, the template that I have created doesn’t only apply to women it can also apply to men! You can wear a white button down or patterned dress shirt, jeans, and then skip the booties and stick with dress shoes. If you do this, you will also have a great business casual outfit.

It can be very nerve-racking to try and figure out an outfit that is just right for your business casual needs or an event or interview you might be attending. I hope these ideas help you and take some of the nerves away from choosing an outfit.


Categories: Fashion

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