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Interview Preparation

What Is Business Casual Attire? Examples and Tips

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What is business casual attire?Examples of business casual attireWhat to avoid for business casual attireTips for choosing business casual attire

Guide Overview

Everything you should know about business casual attire

Going to interviews or starting a new job are nerve-wracking experiences in their own right, and having to worry about what to wear adds an extra layer of stress if you don't know what's expected of you. Most companies will provide attire requirements in interview instructions as well as employee manuals. If you're asked to wear business casual attire, it's important to note that this doesn't mean simply dressing casually. Here we explore what business casual attire is, what it isn't, examples of business casual outfits, and tips for choosing what to wear when the dress code calls for a business casual wardrobe.

What is business casual attire?

Business casual attire is a term used to describe a dress code that’s more lenient than business formal but still requires an appropriate and professional appearance within the workplace. For example, if job interview instructions request that you wear business formal attire, you’ll likely show up in a suit and tie or a skirt and button-up blouse with heels. However, if the interview instructions state that business casual attire is acceptable, you could wear a dress shirt and slacks sans tie and jacket.

While business casual is becoming increasingly popular in offices around the United States, some offices differ in what they consider to fall under this type of attire category. For example, one company may allow employees to wear nice jeans to the office, while another organization may prohibit employees from wearing jeans at work. If you’re confused or uncertain about what an employer expects of you in relation to your wardrobe, reference the company’s employee manual. Most organizations include an office dress code policy section in their manuals so employees clearly understand what they should, and shouldn’t, wear to work.

Examples of business casual attire

The following are examples of business casual attire for women:

  • Slacks.
  • Knee-length, mid-length, or maxi skirts.
  • Khaki pants.
  • Black or navy blue dress pants.
  • Mid-length professional dresses.
  • Short-sleeved or long-sleeved blouses.
  • Polo shirts.
  • Turtlenecks.
  • Professional sheath dresses.
  • Sweaters.
  • Cardigans.
  • Vests.
  • Jackets.
  • Blazers.
  • Heeled boots.
  • Closed-toe flats.
  • Oxfords.
  • Pumps.
  • Loafers.
  • Scarves.
  • Understated or simple jewelry.

Some organizations allow women to wear open-toed shoes as long as they are professional in appearance. Additionally, you may be able to wear a sleeveless blouse if you wear a blazer or jacket over it.

Here are some examples of business casual attire for men:

  • Button-down shirts.
  • Polo shirts.
  • Dress shirts.
  • Sweaters.
  • Collared shirts.
  • Sportscoats.
  • Jackets.
  • Dress slacks.
  • Khaki pants.
  • Dark or light dress socks.
  • Loafers.
  • Oxfords.
  • Tie-up shoes.

Companies may allow men to wear dark denim jeans that don’t have holes or tears in them.

Here are several examples of appropriate gender-neutral business casual wardrobe pieces:

  • Khaki pants.
  • Slacks.
  • Button-down shirts.
  • Collared shirts.
  • Polo shirts.
  • Loafers.
  • Boots.
  • Leather or canvas dress sneakers.
  • Jackets.
  • Coats.
  • Sweaters.

What to avoid for business casual attire

The following are several wardrobe items that aren’t considered business casual and should be avoided if this is the attire expected of you in the workplace:

  • T-shirts.
  • Graphic or printed shirts.
  • Low-cut blouses.
  • Sundresses.
  • Leggings.
  • Shorts.
  • Cargo pants.
  • Tank tops.
  • Strapless tops such as tube tops.
  • Clothes with holes like distressed jeans.
  • Frayed clothing.
  • Flip-flops.
  • Overly casual sandals.
  • Backless tops.
  • Short skirts.
  • Clothes that are very tight or too loose.
  • Tennis shoes.
  • Boat shoes.
  • Sportswear.
  • Hooded sweatshirts.
  • Crop tops or other tops that show the midriff.
  • Bold prints or bright colors like neon.
  • Off-the-shoulder dresses or tops.

If you’re headed to an interview and are unsure of what’s allowed and what isn’t, you can give the company receptionist a call and inquire about the prohibited items of clothing in that particular workspace.

Tips for choosing business casual attire

Here are several tips to keep in mind when determining what you’ll wear when going to an interview or working in an office with a business casual dress code:

  • Always dress up rather than dress down. A good rule of thumb when deciding what to wear, especially to an interview, is to dress up rather than dress down. So, if the interview instructions request that you wear business casual attire and you’re uncertain of what this means for that particular company, stick with a more business formal approach to be on the safe side. This will ensure you make a good impression on the hiring manager and that your outfit doesn’t distract the interviewer from your ability to perform the job.
  • Ask for a copy of the employee handbook. When you begin a new job, you’ll likely receive the employee handbook on your first day of work. If you lose this copy, or if you’re going in for an interview and don’t otherwise have access to the handbook, consider requesting a copy of it to ensure your attire is appropriate and in accordance with the organization’s dress code policy.
  • Identify what other employees wear to work. Another great way to decide what you should wear to work in a business casual environment is to look at what other employees are wearing in the office. If you see several employees wearing dark denim jeans, you can probably assume that this piece of clothing is acceptable in that office.
  • Inform HR if you have special wardrobe requirements. If you have a medical condition or a wardrobe requirement that relates to your religion, it’s important to inform the human resources department of this requirement as soon as possible. For example, if you have a medical condition that requires you to wear orthopedic shoes that are outside of the company’s dress code policy, you can have the HR team document this requirement so you won’t be disciplined for wearing those shoes to work.

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