The right look for the office is crucial, playing a big role in how professional you look and what kind of impression you leave behind. Sometimes it is not that easy to find the perfect business outfit. A fixed dress code does not exist or no longer exists in many companies, instead, the outfit is usually determined by unspoken rules - this does not necessarily make it easier to find the right one.
Our tip: read texts such as this one and keep an eye on company websites where you can get an idea of how things work in a certain company, for example by seing photos of employees and everyday office life, so that you have some sort of orientation when it comes to business dress code. If you only see men in suits and women in dresses, you should adapt yourself to be just as formal. But even with a more casual look, it doesn't hurt to be a bit more elegant at the beginning.
When it comes to the term casual, many people think of jeans, shirts, and sandals. But be careful: if this applies to you, then be warned that you might be a bit underdressed for classic business looks.
Understanding dress codes depend on many factors. A country, region, culture and industry, all play a major role. What is expected in Japan does not necessarily apply in London. A fashion editor dresses differently than a banker. Throughout Europe, the business look has been subdivided into business wear, business casual, smart casual and just casual. Of course, there are many variations, flowing transitions and grey areas. And that doesn't necessarily make it easier to choose the right clothes for the office.
But even if the occasion always determines what is allowed and what is not, the following general style recommendations for women can be made.
Business Casual is the dress code variant with the smallest margin of error of all casual outfits. Events such as business trips, business meetings without official appointments, informal company meetings outside the office and possibly a dinner with bosses, are all occasions for a casual business appearance, where an outfit in the business casual look is required.
"No jeans, no tie" is the motto for men. If the jeans remain in the closet, there is no need for a tie. Correspondingly, it’s advisable for ladies to have an ensemble of trouser suits or costumes, ideally in discreet colors and cuts. And be careful not to wear any crease-prone fabrics! So, fingers off the linen - this supposedly creases in a noble way, but when it comes to wrinkles you immediately think of 'not ironed',' not groomed', and therefore not suitable for business!
In addition, the knees should be covered, and the shoulders should never be free. Some companies even have official dress codes that regulate everything, including the number of pieces of jewelry you can wear. Do contact your employer for more information and observe such guidelines if necessary. Golden rule: The higher the position in the company, the darker the colors of the clothes.
Smart Casual loosens up the business casual dress code but is still seen as a business outfit! This look calls for a special dexterity: it moves on the borderline between elegant and casual. The challenge is to appear attractive and serious without being overdressed. It is important to have a good instinct to be dressed appropriately. Events for which you can opt for a smart casual business look are, for example: informal business lunches, company parties and, under certain circumstances, private, less official appointments.
With a combination of a finely patterned blouse and a chino, women always lie on the fashionable side without losing any of their seriousness. As an alternative to the fabric trousers, a knee-length pencil skirt with a blazer and a plain, high-quality T-shirt can also be worn. In the winter it may be gladly a turtleneck sweater or Twinset, if possible from high-quality cashmere. A simple, elegant leather belt completes the picture. Instead of pumps, you can wear ballerinas, loafers or lace-up shoes. Always use closed shoes!
The casual look is the most relaxed and thus the most difficult style to achieve amongst casual, professional looks. Keep in mind that the wider the range of free choices you have, the bigger the chances are for you to go wrong. In small, family-run businesses as well as in creative professions, casual work is often a normal office routine. The latter is hardly surprising, as creativity likes to break with norms and conventions.
For example, sneakers are part of the daily business wardrobe of some creative companies. In some other working environments, however, sports shoes are taboo.
In fashionable professions, it is even expected to a certain extent that the clothing represents an emphatically conspicuous component of the appearance. Nevertheless, there are limits to the joy of experimentation.
Women wear casual-look t-shirts or lightly patterned blouses with sophisticated details instead of classic blouses. Dark jeans or plain, knee-covered skirts and flat shoes are also allowed. It is best to always be guided by your superiors and/or colleagues in the office. In principle, you can freely combine blazer, skirt, jeans and blouse, shirt or sweater.
Especially for men, the balancing act between a casual yet representative appearance is not easy. Therefore, for instance, a business trip should be taken head-on with a dark suit. It does not necessarily have to be black, you can also opt for a dark blue or dark grey tone. A lightly patterned tie or a discreetly patterned shirt can loosen up the elegant outfit.
Instead of a shark collar, the shirt may have a button-down collar. A nice polo shirt is also a valid idea. The tie can but does not have to be worn. Instead of knee-high socks, dark socks can complement the outfit. Tennis socks should, however, be reserved for domestic use. The footwear is laced, or dark sneakers or loafers should be chosen.
While the ladies' blouse is the essential component, for the men it would be a shirt.
In business casual, the shirts are usually long-sleeved and do not necessarily have to be combined with a tie, which makes this dress code particularly distinctive for men. You can, therefore, leave your ties hanging in the closet.
Short shirts are rather unusual and should not be given too much consideration. The patterns should always be kept discreet. For instance, light stripes or checked patterns are very suitable. However, if you are unsure, choose a light blue shirt and you’ll always be on the safe side.
For men, a suit is THE choice for the general business outfit, whereby the jacket and suit trousers should be made from the same fabric and have the same color. Although a jacket is expected to be just as popular at Business Casual, it does not have to be the same fabric and color as the suit trousers. A uniform color such as grey and dark blue should be preferred over patterned or colored blazers, which are usually not appropriate. Be careful not to choose a blazer that’s too tight as you should be able to wear it both open and closed. Since casual is what you’re going for, you’ll probably be wearing it open most of the time.
While suit trousers are a must in a consistent business outfit, you can deviate a bit when the motto is “Business Casual”. Men usually wear fabric trousers, such as long wrinkle-free chino pants, or in some companies even plain dark jeans.
Men can wear leather shoes in the usual colors: black or dark brown. In addition, loafers or moccasins in combination with chino trousers or jeans are ideal for business casual wear on warm summer days. These accentuate the casualness of the dress code, thus distinguishing itself from the strict business outfit. A common accessory for men is the leather belt, of which the buckle should always be kept simple.
While a casual business outfit is not something that is always easily achieved, once you get familiar with the working environment you find yourself in, you’ll find that there is a relatively broad spectrum of choices you can opt for. No rules are set in stone and the policies of different companies may vary.
Hopefully, this text will have given you some useful guidelines but in the end, it’s entirely up to you to find your own style. Just keep in mind to always respect the boundaries. As soon as you know where exactly those boundaries lie, you’ll find that you’ll be able to move as freely as you want within them.