The term ‘Business Casual’ or ‘Casual Business Dress’ can puzzle anybody at some point in their professional career. Unfortunately it varies by company and by gender. So it’s important to successfully navigate these treacherous waters so you don’t commit a career “faux pas.”  Here are a few tips to help you through the maze:

  • Observe your fellow employees. Look at what your peers are wearing and your boss. This is a good gauge to determine what is appropriate at your company. Be sure to find out when the policy applies. Many companies institute it for the summer or on Fridays only.
  • The suit is not necessary. Many companies will allow casual business dress in the summer. This can provide for a more relaxed environment and a more comfortable employee. It can also be cost efficient one, as you will not have to pay for frequent dry cleaning. As an employer, a comfortable worker will perform better and stay loyal to a company that takes their comfort into consideration.
  • No, you cannot wear jeans. This is usually the first question many new hires ask. Casual business dress entails presentable clothes for business, specifically, business in the corporate world. Khaki and dark colored pants are still the standard so long as the pant cut is nice and tailored.  For women, hemlines should not be too short and tops should not be low cut or revealing.
  • Absolutely no shorts and flip flops. It truly is amazing how many people will ask if they can wear shorts or flip flops. The ‘short’ answer is absolutely not! Casual business dress is not your casual hang out dress. You are going to your place of work, not a softball game or a barbeque.
  • A tie is not overdressing. Many will wonder if it is a negative to overdress. For the most part no but, as is the case with any extreme, an extreme over dress may seem silly. A tie is not part of that; it is always okay to wear a tie. Casual Business dress usually spares the tie for the sake of summer heat. However if an employee is more comfortable wearing a tie than that is fine.
  • Conservative Colors. Conservative colors are the best bet. In terms of function, white is always the best option as it is crisp and neat. White also reflects light so in the summer months it will be the most comfortable of all colors. Reserve neon or other bold attention getting shades for the nightclub. Remember, casual business dress should keep the worker comfortable but preserves the integrity of the work place.

Fortunately for most, employers are willing to allow workers to dress in ‘casual business dress’ for the grueling summer months. Just remember to keep these tips in mind so you don’t make a career impacting mistake.

I would like to thank Patrick Coughlin for his help on preparing this article with me. Patrick recently graduated from Temple University and is a marketing analyst at Consultants 2 Go. Don’t forget, you can email me at with any questions you might have and I’ll be glad to answer them. You can also follow me and my business on Twitter @peggymchale and @consultants2go.