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Business casual dress code: understanding “business casual” attire


dress careerBusiness casual dress code interpretations vary widely. What fits the business casual dress code at one firm may not pass at another. Relaxed business attire, one of today’s most popular workplace perks, has made “dressing for success” more of a challenge: Just how casual is too casual?

The answer could affect your career. You may be a top performer, but if your attire is inappropriate you may not always receive the level of respect your achievements merit. In fact, you may unwittingly be limiting your opportunities for advancement. The good news is there are some general guidelines to help you determine what’s always “in” — and “out” — at the office.

Tips for business attire

Play it safe. Clothing should never be distracting. Think of it this way: Would a co-worker spend more time focused on what you’re wearing versus what you’re saying? If so, your attire is probably not appropriate for work.

Observe others. The old rule — dress for the position to which you aspire — still holds true. What are your managers or other professionals in your firm wearing? This doesn’t mean that if your boss shops at an expensive, high-end boutique you need to do the same. Instead, notice whether your manager or coworkers wear suits each day as opposed to business-casual clothing.

Pay attention to details. From head to toe, your appearance should be polished and neat. Your hair should be well-groomed. Jewellery and accessories should be subtle, and your shoes should be in good repair. Avoid excessive jewellery or makeup and use cologne or perfume minimally, if at all, to respect any fragrance sensitivities or allergies among coworkers.

Follow corporate policy. When in doubt, refer to your company’s official standards for relaxed dress. As mentioned above, if your firm doesn’t have a policy about what is appropriate, follow the example of your manager or coworkers. In general, acceptable business-casual attire includes shirts with collars, short or long-sleeved tops, long pants and loafers. Unacceptable clothing typically includes jeans, sweat pants or workout attire, shorts, T-shirts or tank tops, torn or stained clothing, and tennis shoes or sandals. You might consider keeping a jacket or blazer in your office in case you are called into an unexpected meeting. Of course, standards vary depending on the type of job you have and your industry.

Ask an expert for help. If you have difficulty selecting your wardrobe, ask a sales representative to assist you. Many stores have personal shopping assistants who can offer up-to-date fashion information and suggest professional styles. You could also bring a well-dressed, candid friend along for a second opinion when you shop.

You don’t have to be a fashion plate or become an avid reader of Vogue and GQ magazine to dress well at work. By following a few simple guidelines, you’ll learn to dress appropriately for the office. Then you’ll be free to get down to the real business of the day — your job responsibilities!

OfficeTeam is the world’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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