The conversation often goes something like this… “Cool - you’re a Wardrobe Stylist. So, which clothes are business casual? Are jeans and a nice tee shirt okay? Ripped jeans are still cool right? Can I wear shorts?"
“Business Casual” got its start in the early 90's after a decade of power suits, massive shoulder pads and ties for men Monday through Friday. The term typically means a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but still creates a professional and businesslike impression.
Of course company policy dress codes must also be considered and no two policies are exactly alike. Nor is an individual’s interpretation of that dress code!
Hurray! So what do you do when your event invite says business casual or your office allows casual Friday attire?
Here’s my style mantra in a business setting: “Dress to Impress”, every time.
The ONE occasion you don’t make the effort – is the time you come face to face with the person or opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
And here’s the stinger: First impressions are made within seconds.
My three golden rules for nailing business casual:
1. Make the effort and amp-up your outfit. Netflix-binge-wear is not the right choice!
2. Be 100% sure you aren’t sporting rips, stains or worn out shoes. That gets noticed and not in a good way.
3. Ensure what you wear fits you properly. Is it too tight, too baggy, too short? Are there parts of you showing that are more suited to personal time?
Here’s an additional nugget: Start noticing what your event host, top tier business guests or senior work colleagues are wearing. While it may not exactly be your style, it’s a clue to what’s expected and acceptable.
Not to be overlooked is your own personality and style. You always want to feel comfortable in what you wear. The trick is to strike a balance with the correct attire while letting your unique personality shine thru. Accessories, subtle style elements, color and texture – all ways to make it your own.
Create two of these versions based on the season:
Men’s Business Casual: Your best color blazer (navy blue is a go-to), a polo or sports shirt, chinos. Finish with quality, stylish shoes.
Women’s Business Casual: A top or shirt (short or long sleeve), a pant or mid length skirt OR a best fitting dress. Add a topper (jacket or cardigan) to complete plus a quality shoes - mid heel or flat and presto, you’re biz-good to go!
“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression - there are hints about who you are in what you wear." Marc Jacobs
Got a fashion/wardrobe/style question for Claudia? We'd love to hear from you!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Fashion Friday" in the subject line.
Claudia Mio is a wardrobe stylist and the owner of Go Wear You Want in Toronto.
When she isn’t styling clients or shopping wardrobes, you can find her telling people where to go and when to be there.