Business Casual—Too Casual?

By Janna Beatty

It’s sweltering outside. And there seems to be a direct correlation between rising mercury and the casual quotient. As the temperature goes up, clothing comes off.  So how do you handle your summer wardrobe in the workplace? That depends—on the context of your profession.

Context gives significance to everything in the workplace, no matter the season. What works in one environment may not work in another.  Some occupations lend themselves to more formal attire, e.g., government, law, and banking. While other, more creative, occupations may have fewer, or even no, dress code restrictions. Consider your surroundings. But remember, in all situations, you are communicating through your appearance. Your back is your billboard.

I recently read an article that listed what was and was not deemed suitable to wear to the office during warmer temps.  Be wary of generic advice. The ultimate authority lies with your own company’s specific dress code and with your immediate supervisor.

Cropped pants happened to be one of the garments mentioned on this general list of  ‘appropriate summer-office apparel.’ In the language of clothing, cropped pants are equivalent to long shorts. Shorts connote play—not work. Be careful not to be duped into forfeiting your power simply because the dress code allows it.

Remember: you are always delivering a message with your appearance. The language to achieve should be your ultimate memo. Take a look around the office and see who ‘looks’ like they mean business.

Yes, dress codes may be relaxing and women are looking more feminine, but casual should not be equated with skimpy, tattered, or unkempt.  Did you realize you could be perceived as a hard worker simply by looking more professional? Similarly, you may be seen as less productive by appearing disheveled.

Rather than a day to dress down, why not employ Casual Friday as an opportunity to stand out? Just imagine showing up at work on Friday looking fashionable—even in jeans. Not out-of-place, but a tiny bit better dressed than necessary. You might say, polished casual with a of little personality infusion.

I will conclude with a recap of a story that recently appeared in the UK Daily Mail. Several summer interns were unhappy with the strict dress code at the company where they were working. The interns asked supervisors if their dress code could be modified, since the interns themselves were not in direct contact with clients. They were told no. The interns banded together and signed a petition requesting a more lenient dress code. The next day, those interns were dismissed.

Employers do not care how many outfits you have or how expensive your clothes are. They only care that you are projecting a professional image. And the upside is that once you establish a working wardrobe, small tweaks can be made to accommodate the seasons. Leaving the lion’s share of your wardrobe dollars to be spent on fun, personality clothes.

Consider this:  Your appearance is either an asset or a liability to your company. They hired you for the value that you can contribute. So make it a point to look valuable.  Yes, it’s summertime and it’s hot. But you are ultimately in control of your wardrobe thermostat, and you get to decide whether you want your career and your appearance to fizzle or to sizzle.

Image and color consultant Janna Beatty is co-author of Quintessential Style: Cultivate and Communicate Your Signature Look.

One thought on “Business Casual—Too Casual?

  1. Actually there is no proper definition of the word “Business casual”. Rather,this word is defined relatively. Business casual has various definitions with respect to various companies and their codes of conduct. However there are some specific kind of dresses that are universally accepted to be included in business casual. These are distinct both for men and women and also depend on following factors Read more

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Advancing Women

Advancing Women