Categorized | Life

Business Casual

Posted on 22 September 2008

So your many hours of typing cover letters, interviewing, and sending thank-you notes have finally paid off with a job offer. You start work in a few days, and you can almost taste that first paycheck. But what do you wear the first day at your new job?

Although you’ve already met some of your coworkers, you still have a lot of impressions to make, and appearance is key. You’ve found out that your new office has a “business-casual” dress code, but what does that really mean? Unfortunately, there’s no set definition for casual clothing at the office. But with a little research and a few tips from the experts, you’ll be able to dress for success.

Before you head out on a shopping spree, think back to your interview and evaluate what other workers at the office were wearing. Was everyone in khakis or jeans? Were they wearing suits? If you’re unsure, it’s better to go somewhat dressier on the first day; then re-evaluate during your first week.

All Dressed Up

When Laurie Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, took her first job out of college at the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, a skirt or pant suit was the norm. So two years later when she accepted a job with Organic.com, an Internet communications company, she was surprised to find many of her coworkers in cargo pants and tennis shoes.

Dressing business casual might depend on the type of company you work for as well as the kinds of clients you work with. “What’s appropriate for work depends on the corporate culture, but it also changes from occasion to occasion,” says Kim Sobel, a spokeswoman for Banana Republic. You could wear a suit with a cashmere turtleneck one day and khakis and a knit shirt the next day, Sobel notes, depending on whether it’s a routine day in the office or a day when you have a high-profile meeting.

If you do have client meetings, familiarize yourself with your client and his or her company. By dressing comparably to your client, you’ll put the client – and yourself – at ease for the meeting.

Work Wear with Flair

So where’s the happy medium?

Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus department stores suggests that men start with a great suit. It can be used for dressier occasions or dressed down by combining the jacket with a pair of khakis and a knit polo shirt. Or the pants can be paired with a sharp, French-blue shirt.

For women, Sobel recommends stretch wool pants, colored leather blazers and skirts, and sweater coats for a casual workday. “These items are versatile, they can be dressed up or down, and they can be worn into the evening,” she says.

The key to finding the right combination for business-casual wear is having a wardrobe you can mix and match. Find a number of basics; then add a few dressier items and some casual clothing. Also, think of your wardrobe as a long-term investment. “It’s important to buy good clothes from the beginning and to have one great, classic piece (rather than several trendy ones) that will last a long time,” Downing says. “Then get trendy inexpensive handbags or belts to accessorize.”

You Are What You Wear

Casual clothing actually can work to your advantage in the business arena. When you feel more comfortable in your clothes, you project an air of confidence in what you do. “There’s greater freedom to dress for work in a way that’s professional and yet reflects one’s personality,” Sobel says.

Besides saying who you are, your clothes also can reflect the direction you want to be going in the company, Downing says. His advice? “Dress to the next level you want to be promoted to.”

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Sweater Coats says:

    It seems like its almost better to not be too over-the-top. Many offices with more casual dress would be agape at someone entering for their first day in a suit, or even a jacket!

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