Dress to impress: 5 rules for nailing business casual
With fewer than 6 percent of men sporting a necktie to work, business casual has come to dominate today's workplace attire. But don't throw out those pleated skirts too quickly: According to human resources specialist Donna Wyatt, who instructs in the MBA program at University of Phoenix and also works in development for a technology company in Connecticut, there are still definite no-no's when it comes to dressing for the office. Here are some basic rules to help anyone avoid an outfit faux pas:
1. Trust the classics.
When in doubt, "it's always better to dress more on the conservative side until you see what other people are wearing," Wyatt says. As a basic starting point, women can wear dress slacks or a business-length skirt, with a blouse. Men should go with a collared shirt (a polo shirt counts), and some Dockers® or khakis. "The key value in business casual is classic rather than trendy."
2. Don't adorn yourself in letters.
Never wear clothing with logos or words on them unless it's a shirt from your company. "You can really get into trouble if you wear a sports-team logo, for instance, and find out that your supervisor is rooting for the other side," Wyatt explains.
3. Choose attire that's functional rather than trendy.
Wyatt notices a lot of younger employees donning thigh-high boots, tights and tunics. "The tight-tunic-and-boots getup is more of a trendy look, but it's also very revealing," she says. "Even if you don't interact with the public, you're still interacting with one another." Keep in mind that if it's something you would wear to a nightclub, it doesn't belong in your day job.
4. Exercise restraint.
"We used to forbid people from wearing sandals of any kind, but we've loosened up on that in the last few years, because most styles for women are open-toed now," Wyatt says. "So now we say, 'as long as they're presentable,' which is a very broad term." As a rule of thumb, Wyatt says, forgo flip-flops, hiking boots and tennis shoes, and make sure your footwear is neat and clean.
5. Keep it family-friendly.
When it comes to yards of fabric, less is never more in the office. Wyatt has had to send employees home for arriving in skimpy ensembles. "One woman on our staff showed up in something that looked more like lingerie," Wyatt says. "I said, 'Really, you need to put something different on because this is just not public attire.' In the end, Wyatt says, "each company will have its own set of rules."
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