How to Dress for Success in a Business Casual World


Although many employees look forward to casual Friday, where they can shed their ties and dress in more comfortable attire, a number of companies have adopted business casual as their everyday dress code. There are a few things to keep in mind while sporting khakis and sweaters, however, that will help you continue to project a successful and professional image.

  • Learn your company's policies and stick to them. Some companies allow business casual dress every day, while others specify a certain day of the week for the attire. Whether it is a company rule or not, make a specific point to dress in full business attire any time you meet with clients, whether the meeting is in or out of the office. Understand the unwritten rules as well. Drinks giant Diageo, for instance, encourages employees to wear branded shirts and other branded attire whenever possible.

  • Invest in a few high-quality, basic pieces that you can mix and match to create many different outfits. For men, a few pairs of pants in khaki or dark colors with complementary sports coats and collared shirts is suitable. Wear button-down shirts in the office and save the golf shirts for very casual gatherings, particularly those that take place outdoors. Women should loosely follow the men's guidelines, although knee-length skirts, collarless shirts and sweaters are also acceptable. Avoid bright colors and loud prints whenever possible.

  • Don't forget accessories. Corporate etiquette consultant Shital Kakkar Mehra suggests a branded watch, pen and leather folder or briefcase for men to complete the image of smart casual. A simple piece or two of tasteful jewelry is appropriate for women, along with a nice watch and leather portfolio or briefcase. Men should always wear a leather belt that is the same color leather as their shoes, usually black or brown. Women should wear plain shoes that are either a medium heel or flats to complete their outfit.

  • Pay attention to grooming. No matter how well put together your outfit is, wrinkled or dirty clothes will blow your image. Make sure that everything is always clean and neatly pressed. Men should be clean-shaven, unless sporting a tasteful beard or mustache, and both men and women should make sure that their hair is combed and groomed as well.

  • Get to know what not to wear, particularly if you are a woman. "USA Today" columnist Stephanie Armour details the story of a young professional who was called out at her office for wearing Bermuda shorts and sleeveless tops as business casual attire. Women's tops should always have some type of sleeve, unless covered by a sweater or jacket, just as men's shirts should always have a collar. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and anything that shows too much cleavage.

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