Business Casual Dress Codes – What to Wear and What to Avoid


Many businesses these days have a casual dress code, especially for those non-client facing personnel, but still many people wear clothes that are inappropriate for a work environment and the bosses complain to me (as well as their own peers) about what their employees are wearing.

They will also tell me that they’re not keen on promoting people who don’t understand what is appropriate in the workplace, it makes them think that you are not capable of making good decisions.

So some easy rules to follow for a business casual dress code:

1. If you’d wear it to a nightclub or a party, it’s not appropriate for work.
2. If you’d wear it to clean the house, it’s not appropriate for work.
3. If it shows too much skin, it’s not appropriate for work.
4. If it’s not in good condition, it’s not appropriate for work.

What Not to Wear to the Office


Garments that shouldn’t be worn include anything strapless, anything cropped that shows your stomach, leggings when not under a skirt or dress that comes no shorter than just above the knee. Leggings with a t-shirt are a complete no-no.

The summer months are often much more likely to bring out inappropriate clothing as when it’s cold, it’s easy to stay covered up.   Just remember, skin is considered to be ‘exciting’ the more you show, the more exciting you become, instead you become less sensible, responsible and able to make good decisions in the eyes of your employer.

Business Casual what to wear


Always remember that this is still a place of business, studies have shown that being overly casual in dress ends up creating  more problems with inappropriate behavior in the workplace, the reason the suit is called ‘corporate armor’ is that it does keep people on a more formal footing, making things like inappropriate advances less likely.


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  • This is somewhat off-topic …

    I've always been torn between the roll-up-your-sleeves approach to work, which makes me want to dress very comfortably and casually vs. the straight-back-formalish approach, which makes me want to wear collared shirts and slacks.

    Indeed when there're more meetings, I dress like the latter because people will be looking at me, and when I've a lot of solitary work to do it's jeans and knits.

    What do you think?

    – tall & slim anon

  • and, having seen how horrible everyone looks in what are referred to here as 'golf shirts' (short sleeved polo shirts with a collar, usually in solid colors) and khaki pants, I have to say that another rule is this: If the item is usually worn by men for casual or sport wear, don't wear it, especially if it's being offered to you as uniform and not in women's sizes. This goes double if they get handed out to you for wear in a trade show booth or if you are less than 5'8" tall or if you have a large bust.

  • I know someone who so needs to read this. I have often wondered how do you tell someone 'um you might be a bit too casual'. If I'm a girl also, I can't imagine how a male employer might approach the subject. I guess I can only dress me, so I'll only worry about me.

  • Imogen, it's great to have the limits spelled out like this- very clear and easy to follow as usual!

    What do you think of the sleeveless sheath? e.g
    Quite a few thirty-something middle managers at my work wear this style of LBD, especially now that we are having really hot weather.
    Also, what do you think about footwear? do you feel ballet flats and open styles, e.g.heeled sandals or slingback shoes are appropriate for the office in summer?

  • I can't think of any instance where shorts are office appropriate. I work in an ag. extension and 4-H office, and even here, no one wears shorts or jeans!

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