I stood in front of the closet with my arms folded and let out a long sigh. I do not usually put extra time and effort into planning my outfits, but this was a special occasion. I was going to a communications conference that Saturday and had no idea what I was going to wear. When I asked my mom, she told me to dress business-casual. I looked on Pinterest for outfit ideas, confused when I saw outfits that I had always been advised against. I had always been told to stick to neutral colors, but the outfits I saw had a mix of colors and patterns. This was when I noticed that the rules had changed.
Business-casual is a new term in fashion, only dating back to around the 1980s. It was used in companies where the employees did not spend as much time in front of consumers and spent more time in the office. It became a way of expressing yourself and still maintaining a professional attitude without the formality. What is business-casual?
Robert Johnson, executive team leader of human resources at Target in Texarkana, said “Business casual for me would be a nice pair of jeans, a nice polo shirt. For ladies, there are several variations of blouses and shirts that are definitely appropriate for an interview. When I dress business casual, I wear a long-sleeved button-up and slacks or khakis.”
For men, this is a simple take on business casual that is always acceptable. The look is easy to replicate and there are many different variations to it to make it more unique.
Business casual has changed over time and pieces considered unacceptable like jeans or sneakers can be dressed up to look more professional. Overall, business casual is a step above what you would wear on a typical day, but not fancy enough to be formal. Blazers and sports jackets can pair with chinos, khakis, or nice jeans. When choosing a pair of jeans, it is best to stay away from overly distressed jeans and wear a dark pair.
It is also important to remember that business casual depends on the workplace or the event. When going to an interview Johnson said you should present yourself at your best.
“I’ve been doing this for several years, and you can tell when a person is presenting themselves to the best of their ability or not. I say this because you could have someone from a scheduled interview come in whatever they were wearing that morning. Their tennis shoes are not laced up or tied and you can tell if they could have done better than that,” said Johnson.
The dress code at Target is more relaxed than other businesses and it is not a deal-breaker for you to come into an interview with jeans. However, there are times to keep jeans in the closet. If possible, it is best to overdress a little for an interview than underdress. The interviewer will be able to tell if you have spent time on your appearance and it will make a good impression on them.
Women have a variety of clothing options to choose from, which is part of what made my outfit decision for the event difficult. I did not know if I should wear a skirt, dress, blouse, heels, pants, or flats. In Vanessa Rodriguez’s article, “What is Business Casual Attire for Women? Outfit Tips, Advice & Ideas,” she writes a list of tips to help women pick the right outfits. One of the safest options is khakis or dark pants with a button-down shirt. Sweaters are also a very good choice.
An important tip for women to remember is to pay attention to the types of shirts and skirts or dresses they wear. It is considered inappropriate for cleavage to be visible. If a blouse is a little sheer, make sure to wear a camisole underneath. Skirts and dresses should stay at knee length or longer. Clothes that are too tight also can send the wrong message to a potential employer or business connection.
With many options out there, the most important idea to remember is that there is no simple answer for what to wear. Your outfit will depend on the environment and the nature of the event. No matter what, take your time to pick the outfit that makes the best impression.