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Think business casual is an oxymoron? We’ve sorted it out for you

Sometimes it can be confusing trying to decipher an office’s dress code, especially is they use rather vague terms for it. If you’re ever unsure of what is expected, be sure to ask your human resources department to clarify it for you. There may even be an employee handbook that you can consult.

Business casual can sound like a confusing dress code, pairing two words that, you would think, don’t belong together. If your office has a business casual environment, generally the following guidelines from “Working World 101” are a good rule of thumb for what is expected of you and your wardrobe.

Business casual usually means that, rather than suits, employees can wear less stuffy and conservative attire. This can include well-pressed slacks and a button-up shirt or blouse, a properly fitted sweater vest and good quality shoes.

Business casual for women usually implies that women are expected to wear some variation of the following:

  • More casual cotton or wool pants
  • A-line skirts
  • Sweaters or knits
  • Open-toed sandals or wedges

Business causal for men usually means a variation of the following:

  • Khakis or cotton pants
  • Short-sleeved shirts, polo shirts or sweaters
  • Optional ties

Sometimes business casual can include denim, but be sure to check with your office to find out what the policy is on jeans. If your office does allow jeans, be sure they are dressier and in good condition. Don’t wear worn, frayed or torn jeans to the office. Also, darker washes tend to be more professional looking than lighter washes. They also tend to be the most figure flattering washes, especially for women.

What business casual isn’t

Business casual is not:

  • Clothing with foul language or sexually suggestive or obscene images
  • Wearing flip-flops or scuffed or old shoes
  • Wearing evening or party wear, workout clothing or sweat suits
  • Wearing baseball caps or other types of hats
  • Letting your underwear hang out

Find more career and job advice in our Resources section.

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