Appropriate Business Attire for Both Men and Women (i.e. business casual vs. business formal)
Many businesses these days have more than one dress code, calling for business casual attire on certain occasions and business formal wear on others. These two distinctions are quite different for men and women, which is why it is important to know the requirements for each one. The following guidelines will help you know which pieces you should wear and when.
Business Casual for Men
Business casual dress for men typically involves wearing a pair of dress slacks along with a button-down shirt or sweater. Khakis or corduroy pants may be substitute for dress slacks if the setting is especially informal. A sport coat or blazer may be worn with business casual attire, and is most common in professional settings such as a law firm. Neckties are completely optional, and are typically not worn.
Business Formal for Men
Business formal dress is highly professional, and consists of a matching suit in black, navy blue, gray, or brown. This suit is worn with a traditional dress shirt in white or cream, along with dress socks and shoes that match the color of the suit. Neckties are a must, and should be a solid color or contain only a minimal pattern design. Shirts should always be tucked in, and must present a neatly-ironed appearance when taking a jacket off.
Business Casual for Women
Women have far more options when it comes to business casual dress, as they may choose patterned outfits with features such as ruffles or lace, provided they are not excessive. A good rule of thumb is that clothing should not be too tight or revealing, and should also not be made of “casual” fabrics such as cotton. Knee-high and ankle boots, along with flats, sandals, and higher-heeled shoes are also acceptable. When wearing skirts or dresses, women may choose to wear pantyhose or forego stockings altogether. Some examples of business casual dress for women include:
- A dress that extends to below the knees. Spaghetti strap dresses are fine, so long as the straps are covered with a jacket or shrug.
- A knee-length skirt combined with a sweater or button-down blouse.
- Dress slacks or khakis along with a sweater, polo shirt, tunic, or button-down blouse
Business Formal for Women
Like men, women should wear a matching suit consisting of a blazer and skirt or pants, along with a button-down dress shirt in a solid color. The suit should not be tight fitting, although a suit tailored to a woman’s natural curves is completely acceptable. Skirts should fall at or below the top of the knee, and should contain relatively straight lines (although some pleating is also okay.) Shoes should be closed-toe with a short or no heel, and match the color of the suit. Pantyhose are a must when wearing skirts; knee-high stockings or dress socks should be worn with trousers.
The above information should be used only as guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules. The exact attire that is acceptable will depend upon your organization, title, and a host of other factors.