With the slow return to the office, deciding what to wear to work can be tricky. After all, while working from home, the standard ‘work outfit’ was either pajamas, sweats, or casual clothes for most people. While dress code standards have changed and companies are trying to create a more comfortable and relaxed work environment, having an ambiguous dress code can leave many wondering what the boundary is between business casual and business professional. This article will discuss what settings are appropriate for business casual or business professional, key differences between business causal and business professional attire, and general tips for navigating the complex world of work attire.
Business casual is defined as informal wear with smart components. The term itself is ambiguous and leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is why it’s important to read the room and pick up on context cues. Some companies consider jeans appropriate for work whereas the corporate culture of other companies require a more put-together outfit. Some situations that call for business casual attire are Casual Fridays, business lunch meetings, etc.
One of the difficulties of dressing in business casual attire is that there are so many options to choose from. If you’re still unsure about the fine line between too professional or too casual, you can never go wrong with wearing slacks or khakis, dress shirts or blouses, open-collar or polo shirts, sport coats, dresses or skirts at an appropriate length, knit tops, and dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot. Generally, solid colors are preferred over bright patterns. Accessories elevate the look and show that even though you’re more casually dressed, you still put effort into planning your outfit and creating the image of how you present yourself in the workspace. Of course, every company is different and there are varying levels of business casual that are appropriate for different occasions. To be sure, check whether companies have a specific dress code or check the corporate culture. If no one is wearing a t-shirt and jeans, perhaps you shouldn’t be either.
Business professional is a little easier to decipher because it’s a lot more standardized. Business professional attire usually entails a full two-piece pant or skirt suit, and darker colors are more appropriate, such as black, charcoal gray, and navy. Some companies have business professional as part of the dress code, these would typically be companies in the finance and accounting industries. Other companies or organizations stress business professional for special occasions, which could be board meetings, depositions, or presentations. Finally, business professional attire is a must for interviews or a first meeting where you’ll want to make a good first impression.
We’ve all been in that situation where we wonder whether we should have worn a nicer dress, whether we overdressed for the occasion and stand out in the crowd, or whether people are staring and commenting on our choice of attire. One important tip to remember is that it’s not just about the clothes – it’s how you wear them. Remember to hold your head high, walk confidently, and do justice to any outfit you’re wearing. Character and attitude are also huge factors that play into your image and how you present yourself.
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