Look all you want, but there’s no hard and fast guide to business casual attire. Dress codes often vary—sometimes significantly—between workplaces, making it hard to pin down exactly what you should and shouldn’t wear. However, there are overarching guidelines when it comes to business casual, and both entry level employees and seasoned professionals break several of these rules regularly.
So make sure you’re not committing these five business casual faux pas when you get dressed in the morning!
1. Don’t get careless with denim.
You probably heaved an internal sigh of relief when you heard that jeans are cool in your new office—we’ve all been there. It’s exponentially easier to get dressed in the morning when your jeans are fair game. However, just because you can wear denim, doesn’t mean any style is acceptable.
Neat, clean jeans are just fine—most offices prefer that you stick to dark washes, but again, this varies depending on your company. However, there are some jeans that are a major no-no in any business casual environment. These include ripped or distressed pairs, any crazy washes, loud patterns, and styles that don’t fit professionally. Read: your baggy boyfriend jeans are a no go.
2. Don’t overlook your shoes.
If you’re like us, you probably have a shoe rack full of gorgeous sandals and pumps that you’re dying to show off at work. But again, not everything is fair game in a business casual environment. For instance, you should typically opt for closed-toe shoes. A peep toe isn’t the end of the world, especially in a lax environment, but strappy sandals should stay home, as should flip flops and thong sandals.
Also, reserve sneakers or tennis shoes for the gym. If you have to wear athletic shoes because you walk to work or if you’re wearing rain or snow boots in inclement weather, it’s best to bring a pair of flats to change into once you arrive. Even better! Stash a pair of back-up pumps under your desk so you don’t have to tote them back and forth during the colder months.
3. Don’t overdo it with the animal print.
A good rule of thumb for business casual attire is if you would wear it to a club, it’s probably not a great choice for the office. Case in point: There’s definitely such a thing as too much animal print. A cute leopard clutch or a classy tiger print blouse is fine, but leave the flashy animal print dress and shoes for your weekend plans.
4. Don’t leave the stitches in your skirt.
Many people are blissfully unaware of this cringe worthy offense. If you buy a new pencil skirt or even a new blazer, always check that you’ve removed the stitching from the slit on the back! Most manufacturers put the X-shaped stitch in to make the garments easier to display, but it’s meant to come out before you wear it. All it takes is a quick snip with some scissors, and you’re good to go. There’s nothing more awkward than seeing someone walking around with this stitching in place, as it messes with the garment’s fit and, frankly, just looks silly.
5. Don’t let a dress code kill your style.
If you’re a newcomer to the business casual world, you might simply buy half a dozen boring, workplace appropriate pieces and call it a day. However, flash forward a few years, and you’ll probably be in a major fashion rut because wearing these boring clothes five days a week has killed your style.
This doesn’t have to be the case! There are plenty of cute business casual garments that will keep you looking sharp, comfortable, and express your personal style—you just have to take the time to find them!