Tips for Dressing in Business Casual

“Business casual” is a term just vague enough to be confusing, especially for those new to networking or career situations. There is not just one definition of what constitutes as business casual – it varies from situation to situation. To help you navigate business casual situations, adhere to the following guidelines.

Location Matters

If you’re on the west coast, chances are “business casual” is a lot less formal – sandals, skirts, and jeans might be acceptable. On the east coast, however, “business casual” tends to be on the formal side. Consider the atmosphere of your location in your outfit planning.

Look to Senior Staff – Not Junior Staff

Those who have been in the company or industry longer than you will likely have a better idea of how to dress appropriately, while those who are newer may make a faux pas. Look to the senior staff for guidance and follow their lead.

Overdress Rather than Underdress

When in doubt, it’s better to be too formal than too casual. Opt for the formal version – dark denim instead of light denim, closed-toed shoes, and so on. At the same time, however, dressing too formally can make others feel like you don’t fit in with the culture, so avoid anything excessively formal. And, as always, be sure that you are comfortable – avoid clothing that requires constant adjustments.

Research Beforehand

For an event, search for photos from previous years or photos of similar events. You may be able to find great examples of the typical attire for the event.

If you are still unsure what attire is appropriate for the occasion, you can always ask the person organizing the event, interview, or other occasion. More than likely, they will understand that “business casual” can be a unclear term and be open to helping you make an appropriate selection.

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