Written by Career Coach, Cat Hyland
This post goes out to all the ladies struggling with their business wardrobes these days…I mean seriously—what in the world is business casual?
It seems that men have it pretty easy when it comes to business dress standards. For them, business professional means a suit and business casual means a button down and nice pants.
For women, there seem to be many more options and often times the lines can feel much more blurred between business casual and business professional. If you’re someone who feels anxious over these blurred lines, read on…
Here are a few tips (from the perspective of a fourth year Fisher student) to help you along when you are trying to decide what to wear.
- If you are asked to dress business professional for an event, a pant suit is great. However, I personally don’t really like the way pant suits fit me, so I tend to lean toward “skirt suits” (suits with a pencil skirt instead of pants) or business style dresses with a blazer. This makes me feel more comfortable and confident while still feeling professional.
- If you are asked to dress business casual, feel it out. You can tell when an organization is more on the traditionally business professional side. In these situations, I would lean toward dressing more business professional just to be safe. This might mean a business style skirt and blouse or dress pants and a blouse (a blazer isn’t necessary, but never hurts). However, many organizations these days are becoming more casual in their dress standards. In these situations, it is safe to be a bit more casual. This might mean nice dark pants (not necessarily the pants from your suit, just make sure they are nice fabric and not jeans) and a nice blouse or sweater.
- If you are attending a networking event with multiple companies, lean toward dressing more professional. Obviously these companies will differ in the dress that they expect to see, but no one will ever be disappointed if you are “over-dressed” for a networking event.
- Whether you’re expected to dress business professional or business casual, conservative is always good. Tight & short are words that typically don’t go well with business attire for women. If you’re wearing a dress or nice shirt that does not cover your shoulders entirely, be sure to have a sweater or a blazer to go along with it. Length of dresses and skirts should be appropriate.
- It never hurts to ask what is appropriate! Here is a personal example… During my internship this summer, we were expected to dress business casual. Having the information that I learned throughout my time at Fisher, I assumed that this meant I still needed to wear closed-toe shoes with my outfits. However, it was the middle of summer and I noticed that some people throughout the office wore open-toed shoes. I was dying to wear some of my cute sandals or open-toed heels with some of my business casual dresses and skirts, but didn’t want to make any assumptions that it was appropriate. Instead, I simply asked the intern coordinator what kind of shoes would be appropriate and she confirmed that cute, classy, strappy sandals, or cute open-toed heels were indeed acceptable. This made things much easier and I never had to second guess whether or not I was making a mistake.
Hopefully, this post helps clear things up a bit (especially for underclassmen who are just starting to experience situations where they are expected to dress business casual or professional). Stay tuned for my next post with some suggestions about where to shop for business casual and business professional attire!