How to Dress for a Casual Workplace

by Lisa McQuerrey

    In a casual workplace, employees are free to dress in comfortable, business casual attire. However, care should be used to maintain a professional image at all times. Casual doesn't mean club, beachwear or sloppy attire, nor does it mean a lack of attention to personal grooming. It’s better to be slightly over-dressed than to embarrass yourself or your employer with inappropriate clothing choices.

    For men working in a casual workplace, appropriate trouser attire includes slacks, corduroy pants or khakis, neatly pressed and appropriately hemmed. In some environments, such as construction sites, home-improvement centers or outdoor jobs, clean, rip-free blue jeans might also be acceptable. Men can also choose from pressed button-down shirts, colored polo shirts, sweaters, cardigans, turtlenecks or vests and blazers. Dress shoes or casual shoes are appropriate for work that is done indoors. In an outside environment, tennis shoes or work boots are also acceptable.

    Women can wear skirts, slacks, dress pants, dressy capris and dresses in a casual work environment. They can also select button-down shirts, sweaters, pullovers, shells and blouses, as well as fitted jackets. Denim may also be acceptable in the form of jean skirts or pants. Many casual workplaces require a closed-toed and sometimes closed-heel shoe, depending on the type of physical environment and work performed.

    Avoid wearing T-shirts, shorts, skorts, mini-skirts, tank or tube tops, sweats and inappropriately tight or logoed clothing with potentially offensive images. Also avoid flip-flops or sandals, and for women, excessively high heels. Work clothing should always be clean and wrinkle-free, with the emphasis placed on selecting wardrobe items that are appropriate and comfortable for the job. If you have any doubt about what your employer means by the term “casual dress,” ask for clarification and examples.

    To dress up casual attire, wear a scarf, tie, interesting jewelry piece or watch. Select smart-looking eyeglass frames if you wear glasses, and look for unusual clothing items to pair with and complement wardrobe standards. For example, a floral cardigan, vintage tie or unusual satchel can change the look of an ensemble comprised of black slacks and white polo shirt.

    Even in a casual work environment, if you have a big client or meeting or board presentation, or are representing the company at a business function, a higher degree of formal business attire is appropriate. Plan your wardrobe in advance of these occasions. Keep a neutral-colored blazer in the office in case of a last-minute need to dress up a casual business outfit.

    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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