Making Business Casual Work for You

Casual means easy to wear/iStock photo courtesy of STYLEdge.

By Patty Soltis, Guest Columnist

Remember the mullet, a hairstyle where hair was short in the front and longer in the back?  The expression that went with it was “Business in the front, party in the back.”  Thankfully, this hairstyle has moved on, but the term Business Casual has the same conundrum of how much is business and how much is too casual.

Business Casual also means something different to professionals in a more creative field than it does to someone in a more conservative industry.  How much business needs to be worked in and how casual is too casual?

That fact that you can wear Business Casual clothing does not mean you give up and just throw on a T-shirt and pair of yoga pants with flip flops. NO! This is never acceptable, even on the weekend. Business Casual means taking the Everyday Professional look down one notch; there are just as many options from dresses to skirts, trousers to denim. The general rule for Business Casual is this – that outfit that you were not sure that you could wear for Everyday Professional fits in the Business Casual category.  If you are not sure that an outfit is appropriate for Business Casual, it is not.

Make sure that your look is working for you rather than you working for it. Don’t wear  clothes that need any type of adjustment throughout the day. That will drive you crazy. Casual also means easy to deal with. The opportunity to wear Business Casual should offer the chance to ease back on the throttle just a bit, and be more relaxed. Stressing over possible wardrobe malfunctions shouldn’t be part of the plan.

Adding a jacket offers a more businesslike look/iStock photo courtesy of STYLEdge.

Here my quick tips:

  1. Jeans. This is the number one question in this category for both men and women.  Denim now comes in a variety of colors, so choose one that works in your field.  Darker is better in a more conservative setting.  Distressed is not Ok — not on the knee nor the hem.
  2. Jackets.  Casually throwing on a jacket updates a look and makes it more businesslike.  Pair your jeans with a jacket; many are unstructured and perhaps unlined.
  3. Add some color to your Business Casual wardrobe. Play with pops of color whether in a pocket square for men or with accessories for women.  Now is the time for bold hues, and add a print here, too.
  4. Softer fabrics can go to work for you here. Cotton blends and polyester fabrics for shirts and tops are wonderful.   For women, a full silk pant can be attractively balanced with a flowing jacket.
  5. To tuck or not to tuck.  Base this one on the industry that you are in.  If you work in tech or IT, the untucked look will be appropriate.  In the finance industry, tuck it in.
  6. Check for fit. Just like every mode of attire, make sure that your Business Casual fits your body.  Oversized is just as bad as too tight.
  7. Shoes also get a little more casual. For men, a driving shoe, top sider or distressed loafer is perfect!  For women, especially at this time of the year, a bootie is the perfect alternative.

Even though it’s Business Casual day, you still need to be prepared to see that potential client at that unexpected meeting or event. A business day never goes exactly as planned and you want to always look prepared.  Wear something that will make you excited.

Even though the mode is Business Casual, the key word is still BUSINESS, a word that comes first in the phrase and needs to come first in your image of success. Don’t get too carried away with the casual, but get carried away by success with your image of power.

Patty Soltis/Photo courtesy of  STYLEdge®

Patty Soltis has spent the last three years as a frequently sought-after image consultant who specializes in working with alpha business leaders to match their brand with a credible and professional image.  She worked in retail for 27 years and was the general manager at the prominent retailers Lord & Taylor and Marshall Fields.  Patty worked for nearly 14 years at Neiman Marcus, mainly as their vice president.  She has worked with thousands of professionals over decades of change on their timeless image.  Patty can be seen on television and heard on radio and podcast shows.  She has been in media in print and online regularly as an expert.  She is the author of “First Impressions Last”, a book for the professional woman to exude confidence, power and skill with her attire.

Her Five Modes of Professional Attire give the client an impression to start the journey to competence, power and success.  Most of all, her clients make an impression that exudes leadership, achievement and results as an industry leader.  As a professional speaker, Patty communicates how to dress for success in a candid and interactive manner.  She educates and trains her audience how to put the Five Modes of Professional Attire into their life with ease and simplicity.  Patty points out items to invest in for a “cost per wear” return and how to shop on a budget.

Be powerful, be impressive, be memorable.

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