Business Casual: Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Women

Please help me welcome our new guest blogger, executive style consultant Catherine Storing! For her debut column, she’s guiding us through the thorny thickets of “business casual” dressing:

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It’s Friday, and it’s “business casual” at your office. So you take the opportunity to pull your hair back into a ponytail and save 15 minutes on your morning routine, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, many women still misunderstand the meaning of “business casual.” It does not give us permission to wear gym shoes or “comfy pants.” You know that I’m talking about–those yoga/sweatpant hybrids with elastic waistbands and enough spandex to support a small country.

Business casual was meant to relax corporate dressing and give employees additional freedom to express themselves through their clothing. It was meant as an opportunity to replace stuffy suits with chinos and dress shirts. Instead, what we’re seeing is gym-wear and beach attire.

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Just because your office has a business casual dress code, it doesn’t mean you should adhere to it, at least not completely. After all, you can get your fill of jeans and flip-flops on your time off. If you’re looking to get promoted, you need to dress seriously. And you have to dress the part–as if you already have the job you want and have earned.

What exactly does that mean? Here are my top 10 do’s-and-don’ts for women who are negotiating the potential pitfalls of “business casual”:

  1. Do dress up every Monday and whenever clients are visiting in-house.
  2. Do wear dresses whenever possible, and you’ll eliminate the need to find a blouse to wear with your favorite pencil skirt or pants
  3. Don’t even think about pulling on your flips-flops. Ever.
  4. Don’t go for neon colors. Unless your workplace is tr?s hip (aren’t you lucky!), they have no business at your business.
  5. Don’t choose skin-tight clothing. It’s not flattering, and it will only get you unwanted attention from that creepy guy in accounting.
  6. Do leave those white socks stashed back in the gym locker, or, better yet, back in the eighties.
  7. Don’t get me started on tank tops.
  8. Do carry a fashionable purse. It gives you a finished look.
  9. Do wear make-up, but remember that you’re not going to a club.
  10. Most of all, do wear a smile. It will soften your face and make you more approachable.

(To check out Catherine’s executive styling services, click here.)

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